Friday, February 10, 2006

The Dangers of Social Conscience

Curse you NPR... The more I listen to NPR, the more I feel convicted to change my stewardship habits. I'm talking about stewardship beyond just giving money to my church, which is something that I've already been feeling challenged to increase.

I've already switched over to Fair Trade coffee, especially because Pastor Amy orders it and sells it at cost, so I can just pick it up at church. Well, the other day I heard a report on NPR about the lawsuit being made against three major chocolate manufacturers, because they buy large quantities of cocoa beans from countries where child slavery is widely used on farms. According to Global Exchange, 40% of the world's cocoa beans come from the Ivory Coast, where an estimated 109,000 children were working on cocoa farms in 2003. These children are exposed to abuse, long hours, and harmful pesticides, among other dangers. In 2002, studies found an estimated 284,000 children working on cocoa farms in Western Africa. To avoid legislation, the chocolate industry agreed to voluntarily deal with the problem by the end of 2005, but they have only established a few pilot programs at the moment. Fair Trade chocolate sales are on the rise, though, and while a few members of Congress are still pushing for better legislation, it may send a message to the chocolate industries if more people switch over. I'm gonna make the jump.... its not that much of a sacrifice anyway.

And then there's Walmart. I have been avoiding the whole social issue of Walmart, becuase... well.. its on my way home and I can get everything there. Then I heard a report about how Walmart held Vlassic to a contract where Vlassic was only making 1 cent for every gallon jar of pickles sold. Walmart basically said, "if you don't like it, you can take your bat and ball and go home, and we'll play with Mount Olive's bat and ball." After hearing that, I was in Walmart and went to visit the Black and Decker food processor that I've been eyeing because it is ridiculously inexpensive. I started to wonder.... is unethically cheap? Would I be helping to drive Black and Decker out of business if I bought it? The jury is still out on that one.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"We are the future and the ammunition"


We were told that we are all special and unique. We were told that our feelings would lead us to the truth. We were told that God loves us. We were told that Jesus died for us and wants a personal relationship with us. We were raised on stories about 60's and 70's; about Civil Rights and Women's Lib and Anti-War protests. Every February we were shown footage of Martin Luther King Jr.

But when I was a teenager and my friends encountered God, they didn't find comfort and acceptance in churches. They felt uncomfortable and out of place and.... bored. They were told to change their clothes and take out their piercings and remove their hats. They were met with hymns that they didn't recognize and words they didn't understand. They followed their feelings out the church doors and never came back.

We were told that we could make a difference in the world, but when we were old enough to vote, we didn't see anyone worth voting for. There was no voice crying out in the wilderness that I could follow, only voices that I could put up with. Instead of being inspired, I felt powerless, voiceless. Few of today's politicians seem trustworthy, and many of today's religious figures are mixed up in self-interest, or materialism, or popular morality, or scandal. "Faith" in today's culture has become a campaign asset, not a personal journey.

Many people my age are lost in apathy and mediocrity, because after being told we were special and deserved the best, we were told to be realistic and take what we can get. There is a strong movement of people who want change, who want to break out of the box, but there is no one to lead us. Right now the internet is a chaotic mass of voices who are trying to speak up, but each one drowns out another. Something new has got to emerge out of this, but I don't know where to look.

At least in my community there is change happening. This new worship service we are starting is full of possibility. We can create a new door for all of the people who have felt put off by the church. We can give them ways to reach out and serve their community. We can give them concrete opportunities to change the world. Tonight, in the middle of a very good church meeting, we were clarifying why we are creating a new service- a valid question. But I suddenly got mad. I was frustrated that so few people share the sense of urgency I feel. I was angry for the friends I have lost because they drifted away in search of things that they may never find. Things the Church could have shown them.

I don't blame my churches. I love my churches. But I think that it is too easy for us to get so comfortable passing the peace in the next pew, that we forget that right outside our church doors people are hungry, hurting and lost. It is too easy for us to feel overwhelmed and powerless in a world with so many people in need.

Who are we to keep God's grace to ourselves? Who are we to sit and do nothing to change the world, waiting for other people to do it? We are starting small, but this could be the start of something big.

"Fumbling his confidence
And wondering why the world has passed him by
Hoping that he's bent for more than arguments
And failed attempts to fly, fly

We want more than this world's got to offer
We want more than this world's got to offer
We want more than the wars of our fathers
And everything inside screams for second life, yeah"