Thoughts about Black Friday. Has Religion Failed Us?

For a while, a series of posts about how religion has failed has been brewing in my mind.  How religion has failed… oh- how provocative! So I’ll admit, right off the bat, that I don’t think religion can either win or fail.  It (as if it were a thing) is a construct, or a tag we place upon all things done by people in the name of their religious expression. So, people can succeed or fail, but not some construct we use to name things.

That said, isn’t one of the primary purposes of religion as we know it, to teach people a base level of moral behavior? Do unto others as you would have people do unto you… that kind of thing?

And so I’m trying to wrap my head around how two events that transpired on Black Friday could have happened.   The first, being the Walmart employee who was trampled to death by a stampede of christmas shoppers at 5AM on November 28th. A story about it can be found in the Huffington Post and the Daily News: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/12/02/walmart-stampede-worker-d_n_147733.html.

When the madness ended, 34-year-old Jdimytai Damour was dead and four shoppers, including a woman eight months pregnant, were injured.

A set of video stills captured the events and if it doesn’t sound horrific enough, the images are really bothering.

Witness Kimberly Cribbs said shoppers acted like “savages.”

The second incident seems to me less horrific- mostly because there were fewer people involved, but in reality it is every bit as incomprehensible, and troubling. At a Toys R Us store in Palm DEsert CA, two men shot and killed each other. This from the CBS New web site:

“Some people got into a fight,” said Splain, who spoke with some of the customers. “One of the guys here thought it was over a toy, but it got louder and louder and then there were gunshots.” 

Other news reports suggest that this was a personal dispute between two groups of people, and was not a fight over a toy, but that is sketchy at this point. One account says that two women starting arguing, and this erupted into the one man pulling his gun, and then followed by the other.In the phone call to 911, it sounds as if one of the guys is slumped over, dead- over the cash register.  If this dispute started in one of the aisles, and ended at the cash register- how is that? 

Both stories demonstrate some of our worst as a culture.  Both highlight a lack of respect for life, and a placement on personal gain or need above all else.  Both reverberate with an insensitivity to others.  Imagine the children who were in the Toys R Us at the time of the shootings?  I was only a few yards away from a shooting when I was a 15.  It was terrifying.

So were none of these people even in a church?  Did they never hear a sermon or a Sunday School class about loving others? Or does religion fail to get these messages through to people in ways that matter? It is easier to comprehend the shootings… but the stampede? I can not even begin to get it. I can not find a way to put myself in the shoes or the mindset of anyone involved in that event.

And what seems even more troubling is the lack of coverage it has received, and the lack of discussion it has generated.  It is almost as if “we” as a culture are not sure what to do with it- what to say, s let’s just quietly let it pass by. A blogger on The Point asks what causes people to lose their decency? But even most blog accounts are just a rehash of the news-like facts. The Kvetcher blames this on sales reps who use advertising to lure people into the store with advertised unbelievably low prices. I guess everyone is looking for the bad guy.  Except isn’t the bad guy all of us collectively as a culture? and where did the messages come from that we bought into so easily, and why were these the prevailing messages?  Why were we not more inundated with messages about respect for others, and that sort of thing?