Chocolate Update and Confession

Greg and I recently decided to try to start buying fair trade chocolate, a conviction I blogged about here.  A couple nights ago, Greg asked me if I had read about Nestle partnering with the Fair Labor Association to investigate the use of child slavery in its supply chain.  He really didn’t have to ask:  if it wasn’t featured on the front page of Yahoo! news or my friends’ blogs, then the answer was no.  I hadn’t heard.

After his heads-up, I read several articles about the agreement, and while it seems like good news, it also seems from my “research” that these companies have a history of making promises without backing them up with action.  So we’ll see.

Besides some healthy skepticism, my impromptu investigation of Nestle’s claims led to a couple of different emotions in me:  it made me feel kind of warm and fuzzy about the populist power inherent in capitalism, while also arousing strangely competitive feelings against Great Britain.

Regarding the first emotion, look, I know capitalism has its problems.  That said, there is something uniquely empowering in the ability to affect the decisions of a corporate juggernaut with the use of (a whole lotta people’s) measly little dollars.  It reminds me of the thrill that my kids got at the Science Center the other day when they used a lever and pulley system to lift up a car.  As Jack Sparrow would say, it’s just “a matter of leverage.”  Yes, fair trade chocolate has a long way to go, but just look at how far fair trade coffee has come!  When my hippie husband broached the idea of buying fair trade coffee a few years ago, I couldn’t find it anywhere, and on the rare occasions that I could physically locate the mythical bag, it was outrageously priced.  Now, you can buy fair trade coffee at Wal-mart and Target, and it’s honestly not that much more expensive than regular coffee!  We can do this, guys!  Power to the people!

Secondly, though, must Britain always beat us to the punch on the slavery issue?  I keep thinking about William Wilberforce, whom I conveniently picture as Ioan Gruffudd, and not this guy:

File:William Wilberforce.jpg

Gruffudd’s movie reminded me that Britain voted to abolish slavery in 1833, while the U.S. lagged some thirty years behind (and wasn’t there a war involved or something?  I forget).

And their annoying moral superiority still goes on today, people!

Did you know that Nestle already sells a fair trade Kit Kat bar in Britain?  And it’s not like Kit Kats are some little rinky-dink candy over there:  they are the best-selling chocolate bar in the UK!  And Cadbury also has a fair trade line of chocolate that they sell in Britain.

But do they sell the fair trade Kit Kats in the U.S.?  And for that matter, does Cadbury sell fair trade chocolate in the States?  No, and no.

Why?

I confess that I haven’t fully investigated the disparity, but I can only imagine it’s because they know we don’t care.  We. don’t. care.  Because if we did, we wouldn’t buy them, and then they’d have to sell us something we would buy.  It’s quite simple, when you think about it.  And so now, I’m feeling competitive.  We’re America, dang it!  We are proud of our morality, our Christian heritage…unlike those pagan Europeans!  (Sarcasm.)  Did Bradford call England the “city on a hill”?  No, he called America that.

So…why are we still behind?  

Well….probably because we (read: me) are not so awesome at sticking to buying fair trade chocolate.  Oh, we can do the chocolate chips and the cocoa mix, and we don’t really buy chocolate bars anyway…but we (okay, I!) have two downfalls.  One is M&M’s.  I don’t buy them for myself (for real–I really don’t buy candy just for the heck of it), but I did “need” them for my gingerbread house party and for SANTA bingo with the Y.E.S. kids’ Christmas party.  In retrospect, I could have probably used some substitutes, but I was in a hurry and not thinking creatively.  Really, there’s no excuse, but I’m not as concerned about the errant M&M’s because they were for unique circumstances.  What really bothers me is the brownie mix.

In my house, we always have three or four boxes of brownie mix.  Because of the nature of Greg’s job, we usually have people over to eat about once a week, and brownies are a really quick, easy dessert to throw together.  Plus, they often go on sale, buy-one-get-one free, and there are tons of coupons.  Cheap, simple, delicious.  There’s just one problem.  It recently occurred to me (like, today, when I was unloading my four boxes of Ghiradelli brownies from Publix) that brownie mixes have chocolate in them.  And I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that the chocolate is probably not fair trade.

*Exhale*

Now, that will require a lifestyle change.  (Seriously, we love brownies that much!)

I often have to reorient my gaze to the big picture (CHILD SLAVERY!), and remind myself that I really am committed to being more responsible with my measly dollars.  But now, you gotta help me out.  It would be so great if I had some good, quick, easy, cheap, non-chocolate-laden dessert ideas to replace my brownies.  I need the kind of thing that most guests would like and that I could throw together easily when we are having people over.  In fact, that’s going to be my ending question:

Do you know any desserts that fit my criteria?  This is important, people (and I’m only sort of joking)!

I will leave you with this for inspiration (I couldn’t find any clips like I wanted, so I had to go with the preview.  And full disclosure:  I may have a penchant for cheesiness):

“If there is a bad taste in your mouth, you spit it out.”

I agree completely.

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22 responses to this post.

  1. The Wilberforce story (and our own) is yet another example of why the “dead white Christian guys” are a lot cooler than our modern hippies get taught. We love us some multi-culti frou-frou, up to the point of tolerating and even embracing cultures that stone gays, mutilate women, force abortions and sterilizations, et cetera, ad nauseam.

    Want to REALLY feel the pinch of trying to live your social conscience out? Try to avoid doing business with China (you know, the ones with child sweatshops, religious persecution, the one-child policy, the laogai labor camps… and really cheap electronics). I really despise this century.

    Reply

    • Yes, I went through an anti-China phase a few years ago when there were so many toy recalls. I marched myself up to Wal-mart to see what toys were NOT made in China….AND…the answer was zero. At least in Wal-mart. Shocked by that, I started looking at the regular products, and the ONLY thing I could find that was made in America was Scotch tape. I have been a proud buyer of Scotch tape ever since:).

      With the China thing, it was overwhelming because it seemed truly impossible to buy ANYTHING that was not from China. At least chocolate and coffee are manageable and possible. Trust me, I WOULD like to stop buying things from China…but I’ve got to take it one step at a time:).

      By the way, I’ve got a bone to pick with you. You allude in your comment about modern hippies getting taught so much bad stuff about the “dead white Christian guys.” Well. I just finished the book, “Who is my Enemy,” by Lee Camp (a pacifist, and one of Bible professors at Lipscomb). He shared a LOT of stories that I had never heard, even with my “horrible, liberal” history background. If even half of his stories are true…mmm. My blood was boiling reading about your man, Teddy’s, “glorious” war in the Philippines, and I was tempted to type out those couple paragraphs, send them to you, and ask if it was true. Regardless, I will say this for my education: it sure didn’t tell me any of that…or about the specific tales of the Puritans and Pequot Indians…or about the fire bombing of cities in WW2…or about the stuff that happened in the Philippines. Anyway, hopefully a book review will be forthcoming, but I did want to mention that I think your consternation over the state of history education might be slightly misguided. Right now, I’m more annoyed that I HAVEN’T heard those stories, even as a history minor at Lipscomb!

      Reply

      • Really? Hadn’t heard them? Haven’t you read that big thick Howard Zinn tome on your shelf? He’s got all of them, and more–and his is the best-selling history survey in the USA.

        The Philippine Insurrection is one of the tricky ones. We took the Phillipines from Spain as part of the Spanish-American War. And we didn’t really want to keep them. McKinley agonized over it. But the trick was that if we just left them to themselves, they would have simply been snatched up by the Germans or other colonial powers whose intentions were far less benevolent. However, the Filipino rebels had different ideas, and we wound up fighting them for YEARS, allegedly for their own good. Admittedly, this was all colored by a paternalistic view of non-western peoples straight out of Kipling that we find embarassing today (although Kipling was more than a little bit right). Still, what would the preferable alternative be? Likewise, I think everybody knows about the firebombing of Dresden (and others). But in the end, were we not fighting a WAR against HITLER? When somebody comes up with a way to fight a total war nicely, I’m all ears.

        BTW–lest you think I’m just making excuses, I’m not. But play fair. We excuse FDR’s interning of Japanese-Americans, MLK’s numerous infidelities, etc. on the grounds of all the greater good they accomplished.

        Back to the chocolate for a minute–scotch tape is made by 3M, and I think they are actually decent. But it’s amazing how interconnected the business world is. Many years ago (15+), I was part of a small investment club with some guys from church (a minister, and elder, and 3 deacons). We fancied ourselves smart investors and were going to beat the market. (We wound up netting about 6 bucks capital gain over 2 years.) One of my early picks for a company to buy was “Fortune Brands,” who was the parent company of the DayTimer planner, which I like. They also made acco staples and foot-joy golf shoes. All was good until we discovered they also owned Crown Royal liquors. Much like RJ Reynolds owning Nabisco and Philip Morris owning Kraft, it’s a tangled web. At the end of the day, I think we get a lot of what I call the “Prius Effect.” We’ll pay $15k more for an electric car (maybe more than that considering all the subsidies) to feel “green.” Then we’ll plug it into an outlet that creates electricity by burning coal… but since we cannot see the power plant from where we live, we feel good about ourselves in blissful ignorance. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try, but it does illustrate the very-Biblical principle that the heart is far more important than the rules.

        Reply

        • Posted by Greg on December 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm

          I don’t intend to speak for Kim, but I know I’m not that interested in boycotting companies. It doesn’t really do any good, for the reasons you state above. I think being strategic in what you buy and don’t buy is more about making a tiny ripple in the markets to make more ethical products also more profitable. It’s not an us vs. them mentality where I want to punish the bad guys for their bad behavior. Instead, it is more of a boycott on products themselves. If Philip Morris makes macaroni and cheese and makes cigarettes, I have no problem paying them for macaroni even though they’re also making money off cigarettes. In fact, if enough people buy macaroni and cheese and fewer people buy cigarettes, they are more likely to invest more money making macaroni and cheese better and less money in making cigarettes addictive and appealing to a new generation of smokers. It may be cynical of me, but I know that big companies are going to end up with my money no matter what – that’s what they do. But I would like to think that at least my money is more likely going to go to them when they act responsibly than when they don’t.

          Reply

  2. Oh Kim, this is something I have only in the past week or so come to terms with, which I know puts me a little behind, to say the least. We don’t care – you are right! I recently saw a horrifying news story about child slaves mining for gold. I thought if I could just share it and let the people know, then everyone would stop buying gold! I mean truly, that was the only outcome I could see. I figured no one knew about it, so everyone would be so thankful that I shared and then we could all stop buying gold – or at least find out where our gold comes from. Well, hardly anyone even acknowledged it. And that was really when it hit me that no one cares. I lump myself into that because I have turned a blind eye to many problems – some of which seem too big and others that I just don’t want to know about. It’s amazing at how quickly our convictions begin to numb when it creates a change or a surrender. I have to constantly reorient my gaze toward the problem and the “mission”. Sometimes I try and picture (insert child that I know and love) laboring for no payment so that I can get some coffee, and that certainly helps put things in perspective.
    Anyway…your blogs are amazingly timed up with my inner dialogue. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

    And…as far as brownies go, I found this: http://www.simplyorganic.com/products.php?ct=sobaking&cn=Cocoa+Brownie+Mix
    it’s available at Whole Foods – and they have coupons!
    And….maybe you could make brownie mix in bulk with fair trade cocoa? Then pull it out when need be? I need to figure out some solutions to my “problems” too. 🙂

    Reply

    • I completely get where you are coming from, Ivy. And the only thing worse than feeling like no one else cares is realizing the little extent that you care yourself (I’m talking to myself here). I mean, really: brownies? I’m going to put brownies before children? REALLY?? I admit, it hurts my pride to be honest about such struggles, but I share them because I know for a fact that, unfortunately, I am not alone.

      Reading through the Bible last year, I saw a huge theme in the prophets. Throughout their writings, it was clear that the Israelites were punished for basically two reasons: idolatry, and the oppression of the poor. There were also mentions of immorality, but those were the two biggies. Amos, especially, has some choice words for women who oppress the poor, calling them “cows of Bashan,” and referencing their calls to their husbands to “Bring us some drinks!” (Amos 4:1). Could I substitute “bring me some chocolate”? That certainly oppresses the poor! There is another reference that is lodged into my memory of the people lounging on couches and eating choice food (Amos 6:4), which I think can be applicable to us Americans today.

      I appreciate your encouragement. Just knowing that there is someone else out there who does care about making ethical purchases is very reassuring!

      Reply

      • Posted by Ivy on December 28, 2011 at 9:44 am

        I completely agree Kim. Realizing that I don’t care – especially literal minutes after thinking about how much I did care, is very humbling and frustrating to say the least. My flesh is so weak!
        Sean Boehrig and his wife are in town and came over last night The conversation made it’s way to fair trade chocolate (I was not ranting – he brought it up!) and I thought he made a good point. He and his wife have been living in Swaziland and he made some interesting observations/points coming from being immersed in the African culture. Nicole mentioned that the Africans often say that America “has a conscience” and wants to fix everything. Then Sean added that we don’t need to FIX things, we need to stop things at the root. Basically Americans (I am generalizing) want to give $$ to the child slaves, orphanages, etc when we need to just stop buying the chocolate or the coffee that puts the child in those situations. We’re just putting a band-aid on the wound that we’ve (generalizing, again) created. I know you and many others have probably known this all along, but it was somewhat of a revelation to me, as all of this is brand new in my life. I still have so much to learn. They also mentioned (once again, from the point of view of living in Africa) that it’s not the big organizations that are helping – it’s the smaller, grass roots, people-to-people, relationship driven organizations. This was an encouragement to me because I so often feel like me trying help is pointless and ineffective. I feel very small all of the time.
        Anyway…I just had to share that with someone because I thought it was interesting and encouraging.

        Reply

  3. (Note: I didn’t did go back and read your original chocolate post (though I think I saw most of it when you first put it up), so forgive me if I bring up something you already addressed.)

    I definitely agree that people don’t care, and even when they “know” they still don’t care. I admit I have trouble “caring” too. It really isn’t until these things make a personal difference to people that they will rise up to do something about it. Personally I think, like with stuff made in China, it is impossible (or at least prohibitively hard) to boycott these things enough to cause the ones “in charge” to do something. It may make a big difference to your personal conscience (which, of course, is important), but especially in a country as big as the U.S. it would take getting A LOT of people on board to really affect the situation. If I had to guess, it is different in England/the U.K. because the population is significantly smaller. (Also, they are probably full of more post-Christian, “hippie” 🙂 /humanist-type people who care about human rights but are not so big on God or religion–although I would have to research those things more to say for sure.) So, I would say that, as far as what you buy, it really is a conscience issue (which matters), but (at least in the U.S.) to change the situation you would have to do more than just boycott things.

    I have a friend who is really big into Invisible Children. I don’t know the ins and outs of this organization, but the things I have seen about it so far are good. I’m sure there are other, similar organizations as well that are actually going where the children are and are really trying to do something (or things like Red Thread & its parent organization that rescue women from sex slavery and probably help to prevent the conception of more children that would be in bad situations). Micro-loans are something else maybe to look into to try to help the parents of the children. Of course, if someone feels particularly convicted about the lives of the individual children, adoption could be an option. Basically, my stance is trying to focus more on the root problems and not as much on the end of the chain. There ARE things people can do, and there are already people/organizations who are doing things that can use your support.

    Side-note: I really wish there was a good way to export the Nicaraguan coffee from here. I am a witness to the fact that (at least from what I see) it is picked and prepared by grown men who willing do it because they get paid. And it is really awesome coffee. It is coffee season right now, actually, and there is noticeably more money flowing around town. I don’t know about the chocolate, but I know it grows here too. I am SO thankful that–at least as far as I know right now–children in Nicaragua are not being kidnapped and exploited like they are in other places. (The children do have a lot of problems, but they are of a different kind.) I do know there are sweatshops here, though.

    As for dessert ideas, you can buy local (or semi-local) fruit, like peaches, and put them in a pie or a parfait (yogurt/pudding, cool whip, and cut up fruit is pretty quick and easy, though, admittedly, not as tasty as brownies). Maybe try a graham cracker crust with vanilla (or some other non-chocolate) ice cream, cool whip, and fruit. Or cake. If you really want strait-out-of-the-box simplicity, I recommend Funfetti Cupcakes. Or (out of the tube) sugar cookies/snicker-doodles.

    Hmmm, okay, I think I have to go eat something sugary now. 🙂

    Reply

    • Becky, I understand much of where you are coming from, and I thought all of those suggestions toward focusing on root causes were good. Also, I have to say that hearing all the different “objections” to avoiding products made by slave labor (others, as well as my own) have led me to some fascinating psychoanalysis. You add to that because you are very honest in your feelings, and say the things that others might be too proud to admit.

      For example, you freely admit the difficulty in caring. Most objectors don’t couch it like that, although in my mind, when one’s love for Hershey’s is greater than one’s desire to do anything in one’s power to end child slavery, the root problem is a caring problem. And I completely relate to that. It is with no small degree of horror that I note my reluctance to give up brownie mix. I rationalize it as being in the name of hospitality, but really, it’s in the name of convenience.

      I’ll take it a step further–as you did–and say that we have a hard time caring for people we don’t know or see. It’s funny how your perspective on the big picture changes when you have names, faces, and friendships involved. My whole view of the immigration issue is colored by my illegal immigrant friends, who were brought here as children and raised here thinking that they were citizens. I can guarantee you that if I did not know them, I would feel differently about the issue. To me, that’s also one of the biggest reasons for churches to provide short-term missions for their congregants. The jury is still out on the actual good those missions do directly to the people they are trying to help, but they sure help transform American Christians’ minds and help them to understand what poverty means. While that reasoning may seem selfish (“the trips are good for the people taking them, so who cares about their direct effectiveness”), the transformed mindset of a wealthy person will certainly lead to good coming to the world’s poor. My main point is that I’ve realized that we severely lack compassion for people we don’t see or know. The more different they are from us, the less natural compassion we have. What chance, then, does an unknown African child have at arousing the compassion of a White American? It’s really sad, when you think about it. I like Ivy’s practice of imagining children she DOES know being put in that position. I’ve done things like that, and it’s helpful.

      The second observation I’ve made (and again, it’s one that I have seen in myself on different issues) is that people object to sacrificing a small amount of comfort for a small amount of good as being…well…too small. They suggest that to be effective, we need to boycott even more (Chinese goods, for example) or to get involved in deeper levels (such as your helpful suggestions). Here’s the kicker, though. As one who has done that myself in the past, I am going to guess that those making the helpful suggestions are not taking those greater steps themselves. And so somehow, the idea of there being better things to do has perversely allowed them to do nothing. Does that make sense? (Well, I’ll answer that: NO. The practice doesn’t make rational sense. My question was really, “Am I explaining myself in a way that makes sense?”:)).

      Really, that second observation loops back into the first one. Those “better” ways of helping people, ironically, become a excuse for those not caring enough to make simple sacrifices. Am I being unfair? I am looking into my own soul for much of this analysis and just being honest about my underlying motivations in the past (and heck–in the present, as well!). If there ARE other, altruistically-minded reasons for knowingly buying chocolate that could be made by child slaves, I would be genuinely interested in hearing them.

      Like you mentioned though, for me, it truly is an issue of conscience. Even if it is absolutely proven that this is an ineffective strategy to end child slavery in the cocoa industry (which I don’t believe it is), I still don’t think I could ever in good conscience buy chocolate that is not fair trade certified, now that I know about the practices involved. So in that sense, practicality has become irrelevant to me, and I can understand completely if not everybody feels that way. I know that you take your faith very seriously and that you have proven yourself willing to make immense lifestyle changes in the name of spreading God’s kingdom to others, which makes you a great person to share these controversial thoughts with. Thanks again for being honest, and for your helpful suggestions.

      Reply

  4. wow. lots of food for thought.

    personally, i’d love to just stop buying stuff. not easy, but worth a try. and buy used when possible. and only buy when you need it. because really, in my mind, if you are going to *pick* chocolate, then you’d better doggone look at everything else too. a blog i was reading recently had a great recipe for chocolate-covered coffee beans…and she went on and on about the fair trade beans…obviously oblivious to the chocolate stuff. so i educated her with a few links. 🙂

    once it’s in front of us, i feel like we should do our best to use the info we have to make the right choices. that said, let me share some good recipes!

    go to this website…easy dessert recipes without chocolate…http://www.bakeorbreak.com…don’t look at today’s, it’s brownies…:)

    also, yes, becky’s idea of a mountain pie is SO easy…i made one quick one night with apples and pears (fresh, just peeled and cut), and then looked up a crumble topping on the net using butter/oatmeal/brown sugar/etc…baked, super-yum! (if you want my topping, i can send it to you).

    check out pillbury’s website, i bet they have some nonchocolate easy recipes too-

    Reply

    • Ann, thanks for all the suggestions. And I completely agree with you that chocolate should be the first step to a better purchasing ethic in general. But it IS a first step. As I’ve noted before, I grow weary of the objection that if you can’t do it ALL, then what’s the point of doing just ONE thing. One of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa goes something like, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one.” David Platt puts it more negatively and harshly in Radical when he says something like, “The logic of ‘If we can’t do everything, then we shouldn’t do anything,’ is straight from hell.'” I’ve only read that book once, over a year ago, and I don’t have it with me, so that quote is probably mangled. It’s the “logic being straight from hell” part that has stuck with me. Thus, I tend to see challenging someone who has cut out chocolate that they had better cut out every other bad thing as being wrong-headed. Why not celebrate the small efforts at a first step, and then encourage other steps? Or if one feels that strongly about the need for a consistent purchasing ethic, why not take the first steps toward such an ethic oneself? I know that you are doing that, and I appreciate it immensely. I am more responding to the general argument against “picking” chocolate as opposed to all the other areas.

      Thanks for the website!

      Reply

      • Okay, I just reread your comment and saw that you started your critique of “picking” chocolate with a helpful concept that you are implementing in your own life. I like the idea of stopping purchasing in general unless needed. That seems very biblical to me.

        It also means that in my response, I addressed an argument that you weren’t actually making. Sorry about that!

        Reply

  5. oh, becky, we got some direct trade nicaraguan coffee for christmas from mt pleasant presbyterian church!! they went down there in 2003 and have set up a coffee direct trade…go to

    http://www.their-buckscoffee.com/links.html

    very neat! maybe WE could do this here through summerville???

    Reply

  6. Larry, the comments section won’t let me reply to your latest post, but I wanted to let you know that I didn’t get through the second chapter of Zinn’s book:). Also, how is it that between the two of us, I am the objectivist??:) (Apparently, that’s not a word?) I DON’T excuse FDR’s internment camps, and I DON’T excuse MLK’s infidelities, and I DON’T think that either actions played at all into the “greater good they accomplished.” And it’s interesting to me that you went there in answer to my concerns. Maybe it’s a side effect of generally eschewing the political arena, but I feel the need to clarify that I don’t have a “team”…unless the kingdom of God can be considered a “team.” In his book, Dr. Camp made some really salient points about moral equivalence, which he made clear that he was arguing AGAINST. The idea of justifying our actions by pointing to the atrocities/downfalls of the “other side,” whether it is the “other” country, religion, or political party, it seems to me, is an insidious form of relativism…and this is from someone who doesn’t mind a healthy dose of relativism in her thoughts! Instead of judging our actions based on whether they are justified by the evils of others, or even simply by whether they are not as bad as our adversaries, why don’t we judge them on the basis of what is RIGHT? And by “right,” I don’t mean practical; I mean in accordance with the teachings of Christ?

    Please know that I am not talking as someone who has all the answers. Rather, I am speaking as someone trying to work through these things myself. I share so many of your beliefs in regard to history, but they live in constant and ever-increasing tension with my understanding of the Bible. Expressing that tension is a way of working it out for myself. In talking to you, I am talking to myself.

    Reply

    • You’re no objectivist–that’s the word coined by Ayn Rand for her own brand of Godless libertarianism on steroids. And when I said, “we,” I mean, “we Americans,” not anything about political sides. I picked FDR and MLK because they are widely recognized as heroes, not because of any political affinity (indeed, MLK was a Republican, so I guess I was inadvertently bipartisan).

      One of these days (maybe soon?) I intend to write a piece called “mitigating the suck.” The gist of the rough draft in my head goes like this: ever since the Fall, human nature/the world have sucked. Ugly word, but I’m thinking Calvinist-style total depravity here. And it’s always going to suck, and there’s nothing we can do about it in a macro sense; it’s a feature, not a bug.. As the people/kingdom of God, we are called on to mitigate the suck as much as possible, even knowing in advance that it won’t work… because that’s what we see the Father (and the Son) do.

      The article I posted on the other comment made a neat reference to the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem (today is the Feast of the Holy innocents) and how God “allowed” that to happen. I know that’s nowhere near parallel with the Filipino insurrection or the firebombing of Dresden. And I certainly don’t see God talking about acceptable casualties or breaking eggs in order to make omelets. But there’s something there that’s hard to pinpoint. I think all of us would agree that it would be some sort of OK to lie about the Jews in our basement if the SS were at the door. I’m still noodling it. “Be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect” is an odd command in a world this broken. In a hurry and brain too addled right now to work it out.

      Reply

      • Can’t wait to read your post–sounds like a good one. My favorite line of your response is this: “‘Be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect’ is an odd command in a world this broken.” That’s the rub, isn’t it? How do we square reality with Jesus’ words? I haven’t worked it all out, either (obviously), but I’m beginning to think the answer is, maybe they don’t square. Maybe Jesus’ words paint an alternative reality. I’ve got a post I’m mentally working on myself. I’m still waiting for it to come together. But when you see the title, you’ll know:).

        Reply

        • I know that the “simple” answer is to fall back on, “for man this is impossible, but nothing is impossible with God.” But parroting the proper verses doesn’t change the fact that, even on my best “filled with the Spirit” days, I fall way short of perfection. And we see Paul having the same problems, so it’s not just me! The whole concept of being “in but not of” is difficult. And I almost feel a little like Ecclesiastes about the whole thing… it’s vanity, and at the end of the day, all we can do is fear God and keep his commandments. (And then we get to asking, “so what does THAT look like?”)

          BTW–don’t get too excited looking forward to my post. On Monday the chariot turns back into a pumpkin and I go back to work, plus track season starts. Not sure how many deep thoughts will be flowing between then and May 5th.

          Reply

  7. Ivy, I found Sean’s comment about “root causes” fascinating. The idea that getting involved in organizations that directly help the slaves is simply treating a symptom, while changing our purchases actually gets closer to treating the root cause…well, that goes against what I usually hear. And yet it makes a lot of sense! Like Ann said, there is so much to think about, and I’m thankful to everyone for adding to the discussion!

    (Also, as a youth minister’s wife, I have to note how cool it is that you, Sean, and Becky are all old SCOC youth-groupers. It’s cool to have you all in this conversation. Somewhere, Mike Eppes is smiling, and he doesn’t know why:)).

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  8. Kim, I totally agree that many people end up doing nothing when they discount the effectiveness of the “small” thing in favor of the “big” thing (which they don’t do). And if you have enough knowledge about a situation to warrant doing SOMETHING, then it is worth at least doing the “small” thing. (Of course, “bigness” and “smallness” are relative, and different solutions are more suited for different people in different situations.) I just don’t want people to discount the “big” things because they seem too “out there.” If it is worth doing the “small” thing, then it is probably worth having someone do the “big” thing too. Especially when someone is already doing the “big” thing, it is easier to have more of an impact than ONLY doing the “small” thing. And I just have to plug here from personal experience that regular people can do “big” things too. (“Big” here meaning “so out of your comfort zone to the point of being insane.”) 🙂 I also know from personal experience now that, in order for other people to do “big” things, it is absolutely necessary for other people to help them, whether with money, prayer, or by spreading awareness. (Just to clarify, I’m not trying to get help for myself here; I’m saying if you want to help kids in the chocolate situation, there is more you can do than ONLY not buying certain kinds of chocolate, and that doesn’t mean you actually have to move to Africa to do it.)

    Yeah, I think this just proves that Mike’s youth group really WAS a cult. (Just kidding.) 🙂 Seriously, though, I thought it was interesting when I realized that our Nicaragua team had taken on John 10:10 (the “abundant life” verse) as something on which we based our mission, remembering that Mike had repeated that verse to us over and over again… and his church even has a name derived from that verse.

    Ann, I went to the link and I had not seen this group yet. I’m curious to know how long they have been in Nicaragua and how successful they have been so far. If they have found something that works, I’d be interested to know what it is. I also wonder how they are getting the coffee to the states. So, can you go to a location in Mt. Pleasant and buy it then? That’s very interesting.

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  9. Well I had some thoughts but my small brain just about exploded reading all these intelligent sounding arguments so I forgot what they were ….

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  10. I think one reason that we as Americans struggle to care is because for most of us (dare I say at the very least most people who comment here) are people who, unless they purposefully place themselves outside their comfort zone, can keep themselves away from having to really experience true need. Most of us are middle class or better Americans, and middle class or better Americans really dont mingle much with those who arent.

    Take for instance trying to teach my children about children who are less fortunate than them ..they want to to know where they are? Truth is, we dont come across too many truly needy kids in our middle class life. Unless we make the attempt to move outside our circles, to expose ourselves to poverty, to reach out to those “less fortunate” then they are simply out of sight out of mind.

    We get to the point at times when my kids believe me about there being kids that dont have clothes, food, parents or Christmas but then I take them to a bin in the church building, a box at Walmart or some other non-personal place for them to “share” what they have. I dont think they believe me.

    So, where are the poor people? It may sound flippant but really…if we want to reach out to those people then we need make personal connections ..one on one. While i of course support the efforts of buying fair trade chocolate I think it doesnt take total hold because we dont SEE the problem. While we could use our imaginations and place our own children in those places, we have no real context for what we are trying to imagine…yet there IS so much need here, right in front of us if we make the attempt to see it.

    Seeing it, knowing kids are abused for the sake of chocolate and jeans that fit right …it requires us taking our eyes from the shiny packages to seeing the darkness behind it all. We dont get it. And, since it doesnt really directly affect us as a society we are uninterested in “fixing it”.

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    • I definitely agree, Courtney, that it is so much harder to care for the people we can’t see. I think that for the younger generations, technology is helping us to “see” people who are oceans away, thus greatly expanding our definition of “neighbor.” The internet, combined with smart phones and the like, are helping people to transmit information (their “vision”) around the world much more easily, which allows us to “see” the plights of poor people around the globe. And it’s only going to get easier, I think. How long, for example, until we will be able to Skype with the Compassion children we sponsor?

      And while I’m in complete agreement that ideally, personal relationships are the way to go, the reality is that I’m unable to form personal relationships with so much of the global poor. And yet, I still believe that as a Christian, I am to help those within my ability. Because of technology and my wealth, it is well within my ability to help some of the earth’s most vulnerable citizens. Ideally, I should help in a way that points them directly to God, but at the very least, I should not be knowingly complicit in their enslavement.

      Thinking of the natural difficulty of helping those we cannot see, I have to tip my hat to those from earlier generations who sacrificed to help people around the world. We are certainly not the first generation to care for the global poor, but we are perhaps the first who don’t have an excuse NOT to…

      Reply

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