Friday, February 29, 2008

Business as Usual?

I'm currently listening to Wayne Grudem's 5-part series which is so graciously available for free download through Sovereign Grace Ministries' store. Too often, we don't talk about money as the very spiritual thing (as Ryan Fullerton reminds) that it is a holy way, then are suprised that people do unholy things with it...that doesn't make sense! I really found Grudem's session on investment helpful. As my Dad pointed out, we do have to live in the world, and in some ways the mere fact of our being here advances the causes of sin. Everything's so connected: when I buy one thing, my money goes to the company, which may support other less wholesome things, etc. I guess that means we should work even HARDER to advance causes of the Kingdom?

Anyway, as I said I'm really appreciating the talks, but have several nagging questions which I fear Mr. Grudem doesn't address at all. So much of our consumerism --our "good business" as he calls it-- in the States is driven by an impoverishing of other nations. There is a short flash video online that is a helpful starting point. Taken with a grain of salt (there's no need to sound like a snarky liberal nor to over-simplify facts) there is ample food for thought for the Christian...

There are two main problems I as a Christian see with our modus operandus today:
1) harmful stewardship: irresponsible impoverishing of the earth's natural resources-- the dumping of un-biodegradable substances (such as plastic) into natural areas, like the seas, is harmful pollution, not merely a stride forward in human comfort and convenience-- it's absolutely contrary to everything God does in caring for and creating His creation.
2) lack of neighbor-love --when we dump our trash or impoverish the lands of the "Third World," we actually harm those living nearby. We also take advantage of them when our companies fail to provide good working environments or provide a living wage, or when we buy from companies which fail in these areas. There is nothing holy in laziness or selfishness... and often that's what makes us into a nation of consumers.

These questions of neighbor love, and of responsible stewardship/care for Creation pop up that aren't addressed if all we look at is the end product in American hands. Sure, a piece of plastic may seem convenient (helpful), cheap and good use of creativity, but is it really? Something which is so "cheap" here in the US is really soooo expensive, and someone has to pay it. At times the hidden costs are shocking: the "Made in ___" products we buy so cheaply (ex. electronics) are, at times, assembled by imprisoned Christians in horrible conditions, or the ones we buy expensively (ex. gems) are, all too often, obtained at the cost of children's or other innocent lives (watch Blood Diamond if you need convincing).

- What about all the by-products of its production, including fuel and energy used to ship it?
- Where will it go when I'm done with it? (most plastics ARENT bio-degradeable) How will we increase the earth's productivity (which Grudem reminds us is good) if we're polluting it?
- Where did it come from (is it a resource that is too limited to consume so much of it? did we retrieve it responsibly or recklessly?) For these last 2 questions, we have to remember that spoiling land isn't loving to the people who have to live on or around it...
- What about the ones who assembled it-- how were they treated? Reading biographies of some members of the persecuted church, and how they were forced to assemble electronics for sale in the West, under horrible conditions in prison camps, I realize why China can sell stuff so cheaply...

What are your thoughts? I'm trying to make sense of this all myself, and would be interested in you all's perspective as those devoted to God's Word and His Smile.

--The Szrama Mama

[Side Note: We have some friends who run a food co-op here in Louisville, and they have some very strong opinions about being Christians and consumers-- ecological responsibility, neighbor-love, etc. They take it a little further than I'm comfortable taking it without binding someone's conscience where Scripture doesn't, but still, they make you think.]

1 comment:

Jeannette said...

I appreciate all the points you make in this post...there is much to consider. I have become more convicted about my consumerism since I've been working at the rescue mission. I see the massive amounts of cast-offs we receive each week (about 3000 lbs), much more than we can use for our clients. We send what we can't use across state to another mission, and some of what they can't use is shipped overseas to third-world countries...perhaps another form of dumping? Thanks for sharing.