Recently at my conservative Christian college the seniors received our first issue of an alumni magazine we will be receiving for years to come. In it, an article titled “Defining Success” included interviews with four Wheaton alum, one of which worked at Wal-Mart and another who worked at Coca-Cola. They both seemed like wonderful, godly and wise people, and I even resonated with much of what they had to say. Many students are appreciative of their work, as we are regular consumers of the products they provide. At the same time, I was struck by the fact that in my (only recent) awakening to social injustice in the world, these two companies are consistently noted as the worst violators of human rights. And so I wonder, what would it take for you and me to begin to question what statement we make with our dollars.
I struggle often with how we as Christians are to live out our faith on a daily basis. I struggle with feeling like we don’t really care enough to make any real changes in our lives. I’m not talking about being a card-carrying, full-time advocate for every cause under the sun; rather I’m wondering how we live our daily lives in a way that promotes the values and causes we believe in. At this point I could throw out some facts about Wal-Mart or Coke, hoping to convince you to boycott them, but this is not the place for that. Rather I’d like to address three responses I have commonly heard regarding human rights and our purchasing choices.
"I’ve never heard any really solid evidence against these companies or others."
Honestly, I think it’s probably because you haven’t been looking. In the past, Wal-Mart has been criticized in Reuters, USA Today, the New York Times and the Associated Press multiple times. There is a wealth of resources to look at that gives concise and reputable information about big companies. A great website to find these news articles concerning Wal-Mart and other companies is www.responsibleshopper.org. The truth is most of us have read at least one article concerning a company’s human rights problems, and we failed to take any action in response to it. You won’t find these issues on the front page, or on the regular nightly news, but as Christians we are called to care about human rights. We must be willing to seek this information; we cannot remain ignorant or apathetic.
"Yeah, but every company is going to have something wrong with it. They are all bad on some level."
Sadly, this might be true, but that doesn’t allow us simply not to address the issue. For the past few years Wal-Mart has stood uncontested in two categories: the top of the Fortune 500 and one of the worst human rights violating companies in the world. Each year Wal-Mart’s human rights violations are exposed, and each year we continue to shop there. We make the statement that we care more about cheap prices than we do about human rights. We send a message each time we spend our money somewhere. What message will you send? I see two healthy options. One, we can search out those companies that are striving for fair trade and concerned about human rights and support them. This will show other consumers and sellers that we care about human rights. Two, when we become aware of a human rights violation by a company, we stop shopping there. If we continue to shop there, we support the human rights violations that are occurring.
"But what I do with my money won’t make a difference."
If you’re hoping to see all human injustice end based on your purchasing decisions, you might be disappointed. But all change must begin somewhere. As a Christian I cannot support injustice. Out of the overflow of Christ love, I care for the well-being of the orphan and the widow. When the company I buy products from regularly does not care for the well-being of the orphan and the widow, I must not participate. What you do with your money makes a statement about what you value, not just in what you purchase, but the labor and ethics that went into making it. We must strive to live our daily lives in a way that promotes the values and causes we believe in.
This is my fear: that many people will read this and do nothing. I beg of you to not let this be the case. I leave you with these words made famous by dc Talk: "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians, who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle."