During the holidays there is the constant push to find the perfect gift. Department stores and product lines inundate us with the message that we must purchase expensive or unique gifts in order to display our love and affection. Commercials love to tell us that the meaning found in all gifts is in its extravagance. As last year’s Canadian Tire commercial unabashedly declared, “Why purchase an ordinary looking sweater when you can purchase a snow-blower?” The lesson was clear, the purchase of a $150 snow blower for my wife would be a more thoughtful, romantic and meaningful gift than a $60 sweater.
Sadly, this is a lie that so many by into. It is a lie upon which the frenzied chaos (and sometimes violence) of Black Friday. Cyber-Monday, and Boxing Day is built upon. Recently, the company Cards Against Humanity attempted to highlight this lie, and expose the manner in which blind consumerism hijacks the true celebration of the holidays. (Click here to read more about their stunt.)
On Black Friday, the company removed all products on their website, making their ‘regular’ products impossible to purchase. The company issued this statement: “To help you experience the ultimate savings on Cards Against Humanity this Black Friday, we’ve removed the game from our store, making it impossible to purchase.” Instead of their regular products, the company promoted, explained, and advertised a new product, aptly named “BullSh*t.” This product was exactly what the name implied- it was a box of bull feces.
What was amazing about this stunt was not simply that Cards Against Humanity attempted to sell, and ship, boxes of dung, or that they tried to convince people to shell out $6 for this product, but was that within 30 minutes of the start of the sale, all 30,000 units of “BullSh*t” were sold.
As you can see in the feature image, the packaging clearly indicated what was inside the box. Throughout the sale, the company made it abundantly clear what was being sold. There was never any guess-work or trickery to the customer. They even posted, in large type, a conversation they had with a perspective buyer. It read.
Are you selling any of your normal products today? No.
Is this actually poop? Yes.
Is it also something that’s not poop? No.
Can I return it when I realize that it’s actually just poop? No.
Is the poop dangerous? No. The poop is sterilized.
Is it legal to mail poop? Only one way to be sure.
Why is the poop only $6? Through the magic of incredible Black Friday super-savings.”
Despite such warnings, statements, and clear indications of what was being advertised, many believed that Cards Against Humanity was actually providing something of greater worth than what was suggested. Apparently, they believed that something advertised as “BullSh*t” must, in fact, be priceless.
Now, obviously, the creators of this stunt intended this to be a statement about the consumerist mentality that drives our celebration of the holidays. They did not, I believe, have any theological lesson in mind. Yet still, I can’t help but see this as a profound illustration for how we approach our spiritual lives, and the manner in that we enter into the celebration of Christmas. This stunt itself is a poignant picture of the constant battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world.
In essence, it uncovers the truth that we are constantly presented with two gifts.
There is the gift, promoted and advertised by the world around us; a gift that, while it may be found in fancy boxes and shiny wrappings is ultimately useless. This gift may go by the name Fame, or Wealth, or Success, but it is but the same vain and empty gift. And the saddest part of it all is that we know this to be true. We know that the gifts of this world will not provide the ultimate soul-deep and life-giving satisfaction we crave; We know the trinkets we purchase will never bring us healing or wholeness. Yet the world is good at advertising, and we have bought into the lie that says ‘there must be something of worth here.’ Although internally recognizing the emptiness of this claim, we pursue these gifts anyway and thus condemn ourselves to spiritual restlessness and frustration.
But there is another gift presented to us. It is a gift that goes to the heart of that which we crave and long for. “For unto us a child is born. Unto us a Son is given” , says the scriptures. The gift of God-with-us stands in complete contrasts to the gifts of the world. This gift is not given out of worldly accomplishment or consumerist systems; it is a true and real gift for it exists entirely in Grace. This gift is not adorned in fancy wrappings. It is not found in the realms of the slick, the powerful, or the grand. This gift is surrounded by dirt; accompanied by animals, and wrapped in humbleness and vulnerability. The Christ Child seems very much like the anti-gift because through Him, God refuses to enter into a system of deserve and merit. The Christ child, given to us in the manger, is grace and love to all who would receive. Against the backdrop of this ultimate gift, how can we not echo Paul’s phrase to the Philippians: ‘all is considered rubbish that I may gain Christ.’ (Interestingly, the Greek word for rubbish is literally the word for feces . . .or BullShi*t!)
There is, of course, one similarity between these gifts. Both the gift of the world, and the gift of the Christ child to us is exactly what they are advertised to be. We cannot hide ourselves under the rhetoric of being ‘tricked’ or ‘not understanding’ for the truth is clear to all who are willing to read the not-so-fine print. One gift is nothing but rubbish. Despite its apparent charm it is, literally, a waste. It is a waste of time, effort, and value, and ultimately this gift only provides a wasting away of internal and spiritual fulfilment.
The other gift is good news. It is great joy. It is salvation and forgiveness. It is life in abundance; life eternal, life with God; It is freedom from burdens and guilts. It is a gift that will never waste away, but remain steadfast and true in all times and in all places.
The prophet Isaiah, long ago, posed an important question to humanity. “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? ” (Isaiah 55:2) Two gifts are presented to us. One gift is a baby, born in a manger; the other is but a box of Bullsh*t. I guess the challenging question for us is, which gift do we chose?