Matthew R. Perry

American Consumerism Turns At Its Worst

In Christmas on November 28, 2008 at 2:27 pm

By now, you may have heard of a 34-year-old Long Island Wal-Mart worker who was killed during the blackest of Black Fridays.

The 34-year-old worker, employed as an overnight stock clerk, tried to hold back the unruly crowds just after the Valley Stream store opened at 5 a.m.

Witnesses said the surging throngs of shoppers knocked the man down. He fell and was stepped on. As he gasped for air, shoppers ran over and around him.

“He was bum-rushed by 200 people,” said Jimmy Overby, 43, a co-worker. “They took the doors off the hinges. He was trampled and killed in front of me. They took me down too…I literally had to fight people off my back.”

The unidentified victim was rushed to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:03 a.m., police said.

This breaks my heart for a number of reasons.

One, a man lost his life. The fleeting nature of our lives is one thing, but to die in this way is agonizingly brutal.

Two, a man lost his life while people were shopping for Christmas presents!! On a day when, like it or not, we honor the birth of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, a man is trampled to death to find toys and products that will eventually wear out or burn out. On a day when we remember the selfless sacrifice of the Son of God gave up His home with His Father in glory to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), the loss of life as a result of the selfishness and callousness of consumers simply trying to get a deal is a low point. This is American consumerism at its worst.

Three, a man lost his life while people were shopping for Christmas presents, and only a few stopped to check on him. The article notes that this man was gasping for air, yet people walked over him and around him.

Four, the way the economy is right now, many toy stores and other department stores are giving Black Friday-like deals and have been for almost a month! This Black Friday business has just turned into a shopping tradition. It’s the thing to do the day after Thanksgiving. If some of these shoppers had been looking in the previous weeks, they would see that getting up at 2 A.M. and working themselves into a consumeristic, frothy frenzy would not be worth it.

Fifth, this should be a wake-up call for America. Some of you are saying, “OK, now. You’re overstating things.” Am I?

  • In a culture whose citizenry simply thinks about their own rights, their own conveniences, their own ends-justifies-the-means mentality, more and more events like this will happen.
  • In a world that embraces Darwin’s survival of the fittest, who believe that this world is all there is, with no God to inform and direct their moral and spiritual center, this is the natural and logical outworking of that worldview.
  • In a world where one is defined not by who he or she is but by what he or she owns, we should not be surprised that this happened.

May God have mercy on us — and may His people not be caught up in the current of the times.

Matthew 1:18-25:

    Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  [19] And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  [20] But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  [21] She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  [22] All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
    [23] “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
        and they shall call his name Immanuel”

    (which means, God with us).  [24] When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,  [25] but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.


  1. I agree that this is a horrific event that underscores our nation’s corruption by consumerism, but some of your conclusions about it are not supportable.

    A lack of belief in God or a belief in Darwinian evolution (biological, not so-called social Darwinism) is hardly an issue. One has to assume that atheists and other non-Christians are less eager to purchase cheap Christmas presents than are Christians. Morality and virtue are not exclusive to Christians nor are they universally present among those who claim to be Christians.

    Much of this problem is due to our having allowed corporations to own and control our culture. They bombard us from infancy with advertising designed to convince us that having stuff is how we prove our worth. Those same corporations control our government almost entirely due in great part to the fact that “Bible-believing Christians” support the Republican conservative politicians who insist that corporations not be regulated or taxed or in any way prohibited from spreading their message of materialism.

  2. I would say that it is supportable or not depending on your worldview. Christians are, in the truest sense of the word, motivated and led by Christ. What you believe comes out in how you live. You contend that the problem begins outwardly and works its way in, thus place blame on corporations and advertising that have indoctrinated.

    My contention is that there is a selfishness and a problem with everyone’s will and desires. While there are some in each camp that seem to show (or not show) particular im/moral traits, the truth is we are informed by some sort of inner guidance. My contention is that the God of the Scriptures best informs us of how we were made, how we are wired, why we do what we do, and the solution to that which destroys us — Jesus Christ.

  3. I don’t disagree with your first conclusion about the end-justifies-the-means mentality, or as I like to see it, the idea that we are entitled to do whatever we like regardless of its effect on others. That is far too prevalent in our society.

    I don’t see how Darwinian evolution factors in. We do inherit our survival instinct and our competitiveness from our animal ancestors, but millions of people have been able to control and direct those instincts and live moral lives without belief in the Christian God.

    The 3rd conclusion, that we define ourselves by what we own, is a direct result of the indoctrination of corporate advertising. While some degree of that has been present in Western society for a long time, it has mushroomed in recent decades because it is the very reason that advertising exists. I even received a post card from my electric utility this week notifying me that I could select an electricity supplier that matched my personality!

    Limiting the solution to the individual level, or viewing the solution as coming from outside the observable world can prevent us from dealing with the very real forces in our society that are exacerbating the problem.

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