Editor’s Corner: #OptOutside

Amy Forbus Editor, Arkansas United Methodist

Amy Forbus
Editor, Arkansas United Methodist

Think ahead for a moment, to the end of this month. Specifically, to the day after Thanksgiving: Black Friday, a revered financial holy day that ensures many businesses finish the year “in the black.”

I remember shopping on Black Friday once in the mid-1990s. I dashed into a store as it opened at 7 a.m. to get a particular leather jacket that I knew would have a lower price tag on that day. I finished my retail pursuit by 7:10 (and I still wear that jacket).

I know some people who thoroughly enjoy the Black Friday shopping experience. I know others who make the best of it, having come to depend on its sales to obtain gifts that they normally couldn’t afford to buy. And every year, I pray none of them wind up on www.blackfridaydeathcount.com.

This year, there’s a new development: Outdoor recreation retailer REI has announced that it will close on Black Friday. Instead of following industry expectations, they’re giving employees a paid day off and encouraging them to spend time outdoors. They’ve introduced the social media hashtag #OptOutside to promote the occasion.

Quite the way to buck a trend that seems to take more and more of workers’ time with their families every year, as stores require working Thanksgiving Day to prepare for Friday’s avalanche of shoppers—or even to welcome early birds who can’t wait until midnight.

In its News & Ideas daily email, Duke Divinity School linked to Micah Solomon’s Forbes.com commentary on REI’s announcement. “Customers today strive to align their purchases with their values (at least where they can afford to do so),” he writes. “They are fans of ‘attached meaning’: getting something more (a social good) along with their purchase, in addition to the good or service received.”

Our household has bought exactly two things from REI, ever. That was eight or nine years ago. But I think the company’s strategy is working on me, and my buying habits may make a turn in their direction. (Granted, we don’t have even an REI store in Arkansas, but there’s always online shopping.)

I find REI’s decision refreshing. It could make the company a leader in our culture—and can serve as a positive example for the church.

What if the church were to #OptOutside a little more often?

Outside of the consumerism that has us overindulging at cash registers and cultivating a “what’s in it for me?” approach to religion.

Outside of our comfortable circle of Christian insiders.

And yes, outside of our buildings, too.

“We believe that being outside makes our lives better,” writes Jerry Stritzke, REI’s president and CEO.

What if, one day soon, the Body of Christ can say the same?

To reach me, send an email to aforbus@arumc.org.