JC Penney…the Christian Man


If you received the advertisement shown above from JC Penney, it proves quite obviously that the company has changed their marketing strategy by use of a lesbian couple for Mother’s Day advertising and a real-life homosexual couple for advertising on Father’s Day. Many voices, including mine, have joined in a chorus of opposition to this recent shift.

That the company would make a hard shift left from its historic business model is disappointing, but the history of the company’s founder reveals a heart-breaking decline. Who was JC Penney? What did he believe? Would he approve? James Cash Penney: born near Hamilton, Missouri (pop. 1,535) 16 Sept.1875, “J. C. ” worked at a mercantile store before moving to Wyoming to open his own store in 1902. When he retired in 1946, more than 1,600 J.C. Penney stores were in business. He died in 1971.

James Cash Penney’s first venture as a retail proprietor – a butcher shop in Longmont, Colo. – opened in 1899 and failed almost immediately, after he refused to bribe an important local hotel chef with a weekly bottle of bourbon. “I lost everything I had,” said Penney, “but I learned never to compromise.”

The story of James Cash Penney is an amazing story…Penney’s early upbringing was unusual. At age 8 he was buying his own clothes and earning his own money for his needs. He was taught scrupulous honesty by his minister father. James Cash Penney said at the end of his career, “What I done, given the times and circumstances, anyone could have done. I haven’t any special attainments.” But the boy who was baptized “Cash”, by living the Golden Rule, became a leader of refined gold.

As he started out in business, his business was going poorly, and he had a physical collapse. He was up in a little sanitarium, rebuilding his health, and walking down one of those corridors in that little health rehabilitation center, he heard someone playing hymns on the organ. J.C. Penney walked in there, bowed down and said, ‘Lord, I’m giving my life to You.’

He had opened his first store, Golden Rule Store, in the mining town of Kemmerer, Wyoming in 1902…his stores changing names to the J. C. Penney Co., Inc in 1913. He became convinced (internally “convicted”) that, even in debt and poverty, he should begin returning a tithe to God — he did, and J.C. Penney department stores have sprung up all over America.

Penney’s unwavering faith in the copybook maxims of his youth roused skepticism in a mercenary age, but his credo underlay his success. At his death in 1971, Penney, 95, left a 1,660-store empire that he built without compromising the stiff principles he had absorbed from three generations of Baptist preacher ancestors. He neither smoked nor drank, and for years demanded the same abstemious conduct from his employees. “I believe in adherence to the Golden Rule, faith in God and the country,” he often said. “I would rather be known as a Christian than a merchant.” (http://www.theeffectivetruth.info/testjcp.html).

Would he go along with the shift or lead the chorus in crying out against it? The answer seems obvious.


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