Friday, February 16, 2018

Fish on Fridays

The fish sandwich is back! ...everywhere! 

You've probably seen this news if you've seen any commercials, received any mailings, had any ads run through your social media, or use any fast food apps. This is the time of year that restaurants are bringing back their "authentic" cod sandwiches, "crispy," "wild-caught" or whatever adjective strikes your fancy. And why?

Because we eat fish on Fridays.

This is another one of those traditional Lenten practices, stemming from a dietary restriction on meat. But that's not really the focus of this post. The focus of this post is cultural influence.

Here's the way this works. Restaurant A has a fish sandwich this time of year because it recognizes the strict adherence of Lent-observing Christians of certain faith traditions to the dietary restrictions of these forty days, which, by the way, includes only 7 Fridays (on which we eat fish). Restaurant B, however, has a fish sandwich because restaurant A has one, and they don't want restaurant A to get all of the profit from strictly-adherent Lent-observing Christians of certain faith traditions, not even for a mere 7 Fridays. Restaurant C has a fish sandwich because it doesn't want restaurants A and B running the whole fish game on Fridays. And so on and so on until every restaurant's fish sandwich is suddenly "back, for a limited time!" 

Because we eat fish on Fridays.

This means that the sacred rhythm of the church's Lenten season has a profound impact upon its commercial markets. Christians, for this season of the year, are driving fast food sales toward fish. If it weren't that big of a market share, if it wasn't that significant of a profit, if it was just a few here and there, none of these restaurants, which do not specialize in fish or generally have much interest in it, would bother. But because it's such a significant portion of the business they could do (not to mention how much Christians not eating cheeseburgers for 40 days cuts into their bottom lines), suddenly everyone is out to establish a reputation as the best fish in town. 

Imagine what would happen if the Christian demographic stepped up to impact the market in other ways. 

Sabbath, for example, is a sacred rhythm of the church. For the longest time in America, everything was closed on Sunday. Even after it wasn't "illegal," it just wasn't worth the cost of operations to open on a day when a majority of persons weren't shopping. What if we did that again? What if Christians decided that on Sundays, we not only Sabbath ourselves, but we let others Sabbath? What if we didn't make use of grocery stores, specialty shops, gas stations, restaurants on Sundays? The loss of business from Christians alone would make businesses reconsider whether it's worth their cost even to open, meaning that thousands upon thousands of persons who are now required to work on Sundays or lose their jobs have a day off, perhaps even to join us at church. (By the way, ask any restaurant server, and you will discover that Sundays are often their busiest, but lowest-paying, days because it's Christians who come in large groups, take up tables for hours at a time, and leave measly tips, if any tips at all.)

Or what if we all decided we were not buying clothing made in foreign factories that do not pay a living wage? Or that we were only going to drink fair trade coffee? Or...the list goes on and on.

The truth is that this is the kind of thing we talk about all the time. We talk about it in good faith, fired up for the difference we could make in the world if these movements would just take hold. But we quickly get discouraged, wondering what difference it really makes. Thinking that we don't have enough sway in the market. Thinking that the world doesn't really listen to Christians, that they don't care what kind of statements we're trying to make. 

Drops in the bucket, really. Isn't it? One tiny little thing that makes a few little ripples, perhaps, but what are we really doing here? And does it even matter? 

So we give up, give in, and go back to business as usual because, well, because that's the way the world works. But if you're one of those Christians who's not satisfied with that, if you're one of those who still burns with a hope that things could be different, if you're one of those who refuses to believe our time is up or that we no longer have a say in this world, or specifically in this market, take heart. 

Because the fish sandwich is back! ...everywhere! 

For no other reason than that we eat fish on Fridays.

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