Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fair Trade Valentines?

How do you plan on showing love to your special someone tomorrow? Flowers? Chocolates? Sugary Sweets? Coffee? Tea? Wine? What if by purchasing these items you were making a statement of love that was bigger than your mate?

Corporate Greed, and modern feudalism creates a system of exploitation that any follower of Christ should be ashamed of each time we sit to eat. Flowers are grown in literal sweatshops in the Andes. Coffee is grown in slave camps in South America, while the slavery of the cocoa, tea, and sugar industry is in Africa. The food chain of our "simple luxuries" is a reminder of one of Solomon's rants from Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes 5:8-11 - If you see the poor oppressed in a district, and justice and rights denied, do not be surprised at such things; for one official is eyed by a higher one, and over them both are others higher still. The increase from the land is taken by all; the king himself profits from the fields.

Whoever loves money never has money enough;
whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.
This too is meaningless.

As goods increase,
so do those who consume them.
And what benefit are they to the owner
except to feast his eyes on them?

The workers of the third world are exploited through 80 hour work weeks, minimal food, subhuman housing, and unclean water all while being told by US corporations and their subsidiaries that they owe more for these "services" than they earned. Tennessee Ford sang about this during the US depression.

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store
As we goto our local store to purchase our holiday wares, we should make no mistake who we are in this equation. We are the rich man, the exploiter. Dante, famously stated there was a special place in hell for those who remained silent in a moral crisis. Although a bit harsh, Dante is right in his emphasis that we are responsible for the oppression, slavery, and injustice our purchasing has. Go back to Solomon's warning, and see that this gift is not a symbol of love, it is simply meaningless lust to gorge our senses!

This valentines day, I would encourage you to make a different choice than the roses, Russell Stovers, or other exploitative products. This holiday demonstrate your love through a holistic decision. A love that shows your feelings to that special someone, but also shows your commitment to the life and justice of the person who labored to make that product. Transfair and Equal Exchange offer ways to connect to companies that support the ethical treatment of their workers. Your commitment to purchasing Fair Trade items is a commitment to "real love" the kind of love Christ spoke about when asked, "Who is My Neighbor?" Purchasing Fair Trade is the responsibility of the people of God.

The Spirit of God calls us to JUSTICE! Will you be the rich man consumed with his wealth, or will you listen to the spirit and practice love!

Isaiah 32:15-17 - Till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high,
and the desert becomes a fertile field,
and the fertile field seems like a forest.
Justice will dwell in the desert
and righteousness live in the fertile field.
The fruit of righteousness will be peace;

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