“Shop Like You Mean It” read the ads for a nearby mall every “Holiday Season.”  The obvious question is: Mean what?  The ad agency probably wants us to get into the spirit of the season of wasteful expenditure and conspicuous consumption, but, if we interpreted their ungrammatical sentence not according to the intention but according to the words themselves, we might derive a useful lesson.  Since most Christians are going to do some Christmas shopping this year, how can they make their spending spree significant?

I can think of many ways.  The first and most obvious decision to make is to shop, wherever possible, at stores owned by other Christians or, at least, by families or companies who do not subsidize the campaign to take the Christ out of Christmas, out of schools, and out of our lives.  Jesus kicked the moneychangers out of the temple.  Why can’t we, at least, refrain from going to the malls, chain stores, and websites where they have reset up shop?

How do you spot the anti-Christian stores?  That is not too hard.  They are the ones open on Sunday.  They would be open on Christmas Day itself (as some Walgreens are), if they thought they would get enough business.  I once argued with my father, an ex-Catholic atheist, that Jewish merchants had a right to open their stores on Sunday.  The old man surprised me by pointing out that, not only did those store owners gain an unfair advantage over non-Jewish competitors, they forced Christians to violate the Sabbath—and their consciences.  Although there are many Blue Laws I do not agree with, I am happy to see them observed.  A local camera store (Camera Craft) won my loyalty when they put up a sign saying they were sorry if their Sunday closing caused any inconvenience, but they wished to keep the Sabbath holy.

The stores that open on Sunday are also the stores in which the clerks say “Happy Holidays,” and, when you tell them you find the phrase anti-Christian and offensive, they wearily explain it is “store policy.”  I politely explain that it is my policy not to shop in any store that has an anti-Christian policy.

With corporate stores, the question is pretty easy.  Why buy Christmas presents from corporations that advertise pornography, force Christian employees to work on the Sabbath, or give money to Planned Parenthood, NOW, People for the American Way, the ACLU, or the Southern Poverty Law Center?  How can you tell which corporations do not do any of the above?  The truth is that so many of them are funding anti-Christian campaigns that you would do best not to spend your money on any national company that does not advertise its commitments.

I asked Kathy Coll (prolifepac.com) about where to find detailed information on corporations that support Planned Parenthood, and she told me to go to Life Decisions International, which puts out a long list of antilife companies—including Bank of America, Adobe, Kenneth Cole, Unilever (which owns Calvin Klein) and Gannett.  Life Decisions International can be contacted at fightpp.org.  The American Family Association (afa.net) has information on a number of companies, including Procter and Gamble, which they accuse of promoting the homosexual agenda.

A more difficult trick is to locate national companies that are not aggressively anti-Christian.  Several people I know do business with Sierra Trading Post (sierratradingpost.com), which advertises itself as adhering to a Christian business ethic, and Hobby Lobby posts signs proclaiming its Sunday-closing policy.  Hobby Lobby also supports organizations that translate and distribute Bibles and places offensively Christian ads all around the country with such phrases as “Come to the manger this Christmas, Come to life eternal.”

My own preference has always been to shop with people I have come to know and trust.  I have already mentioned Camera Craft in Rockford, and I always try to give presents of secondhand books from the local bookshops or an Irish gift from the Tin Whistle or a gift pack of Italian food from an Italian grocery like DiTullio’s.  At Christmas, we send cheese from Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern, (1023 16th Avenue, Monroe, WI 53566, (608) 325-6157).  Although Baumgartner’s does sell imported cheese, it is famous (in Monroe, at least) for having the best American-made cheese in these United States.  Although they are not set up especially for mail-order business, they have always been courteous and efficient, and everyone who has received a present of their cheese has expressed delight and asked how to order it for himself.

If you like pistachios, the best we have tasted in a long time come from Eagle Ranch in Alamogordo, New Mexico (eagleranchpistachios.com).  It is a family-run operation, but I do not know what, if any, is their policy on charitable giving.

With a little patience and time, anyone can do some meaningful shopping for Christmas presents.  Avoid the chains (and the malls, if you can).  Don’t patronize the enemies of your Faith.  But more important than the boycotts is to adopt a positive strategy of supporting the hometown merchants and manufacturers who give your neighbors jobs.  The Estwing company in Rockford (estwing.com), as I only recently discovered, makes perhaps the best hammers (one-piece forged steel) and grip tools in America, and we have begun giving Estwing hammers as a practical (and beautiful) gift.  Every American town has something to export, if only some local food products and recipes.  Better a hammer or bag of pecans than the master collection of Cohen brothers films I am afraid I will receive some day.  There’s one for the chipper. 

Money is not important in itself, but every dollar we earn represents an increment of time that we have worked, and every dollar we spend expresses our vision of the world as it ought to be.  Much of our spending must inevitably be neutral: An obsession with saving the environment, opposing racism, or even buying American is a sign of an unsteady mind.  There are more important things to do with our lives, and, if going to Kroger’s or eating—ugh—at McDonald’s is now and then convenient, do not waste time on repentance.  On the other hand, if conservative Christians began using their buying power prudently, by shopping locally instead of globally, they would brighten the corners where they are.