Black Friday: A call to 'Stop Shopping' heeded this year

Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping declared victory over greedy consumerism this Black Friday. For years this self-styled street preacher has been trying to get would-be shoppers to celebrate "Buy Nothing Day" the day after Thanksgiving instead of marching to the malls. This year, he says, the idea seems to be catching on.

Rev. Billy reported to a crowed gathered in Manhattan's Union Square that he turned up at Macy's flagship store on 34th Street early this morning and found far fewer eager shoppers than in years past. Every year he and the Stop Shopping Choir sing at Americans to "Start to Stop Shopping." That's an acknowledgment that we all shop too much and face a perpetual battle against greed and materialism. Rev. Billy dresses like a preacher and treats shopping as just one more sin that is tempting but to be avoided.

Rev. Billy is no fool and knows it's the recession and not his ragtag choir that is persuading us to stop shopping. But it is the end of an era--an era of being told shopping is patriotic, an era of false prosperity and an era of ignoring overwhelming personal and government debt. All to buy things we want, but don't really need.Rev. Billy definitely has a lefty, anti-corporate political bent. He wants us to stop shopping at big box stores and turn to struggling local businesses. He's against consumerism--or at least the modern form of consumerism that aims to get the absolute most for the lowest possible price, regardless of what may mean for the workers who make or sell the product. He wants people to celebrate Christmas by talking with their families and people they love--not buying them something from the mall.

His crowds tend to be light-hearted, not dogmatic. After the singing a few joked "Oh, that was great, wanna go to Barnes and Noble now?"

Really his message is not that far from basic personal finance advice. Rev. Billy asks people to question their need to go to Starbucks. The charismatic financial guru David Bach does the same thing. Bach tells us to forgo that latte and pay off your debts instead. His Latte Factor is another way of reminding us to pass up the temptations for fancy coffee (or other consumer goods). Of course Bach wants us to save for retirement and to buy a house and Rev. Billy doesn't really care about those things.

It doesn't matter really whether the would-be shoppers are listening to Rev. Billy, David Bach or just the evening news with the grim economic numbers. We are starting to stop shopping. And--since we are a nation of debtors--that's not such a bad thing.
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