Earlier this summer, God showed me Is. 58:3-14. Specifically, vs. 6-7, "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?" And then I looked at its companion passage in the New Testament, Matthew 25:34-40. (whatever you have done for the least of these you do for Me passage)
In an earlier blog I said that I would like to live my life according to these guidelines, and I am currently making some plans about how I might better minister to the hungry and needy in our area. However, I have been desperately praying about the first part of that passage in Isaiah...the part about loosing the chains of injustice. I feel very ignorant about how to make strides against injustice in our world. I know that in my classroom as I educate those children, I am making small strides against injustice. In my career I have had the opportunity to minister to many children who are in very unjust situations. However, I have felt strangely compelled this summer that God is asking me for more.
Yesterday Shawn came home from a conference about social media with a broken heart. I was confused. Facebook and Twitter? Why are you sad? He said that a speaker shared with them some staggering statistics about slavery around the world. Slavery is currently at an all time high in our world. Children are being held in abhorable conditions for many reasons: the sex slave industry is booming, and many children are used for labor to keep up with the demands for certain products. The specific product Shawn shared statistics with me about was chocolate.
Whoa! Wait a minute. I am a slave to chocolate (pun intended). I love chocolate. I crave chocolate. I need chocolate to make it through a hard day. When Shawn brings me chocolate, I feel especially loved. I love hot chocolate, candy bars, chocolate cake, brownies, ding dongs, chocolate milkshakes, hershey kisses, etc. I can resist almost any sweet product on a diet, except chocolate. Don't make me go without my chocolate, or I am one bitchy woman.
But children are being exploited to fulfill my hunger. In a video that Shawn shared with me, a young boy said that he wants the American to know that when we eat chocolate we are eating his flesh. He is beaten for my desire. He is held captive so that I can pour chocolate gravy onto my biscuits.
Most chocolate is grown by paid labor, but because there currently is no regulation of the industry, slave grown crops are mixed into the freely grown crops. There is no way to prevent buying slave grown chocolate unless you give up chocolate completely. Hmmmm........
I will confess that I give very little consideration to where my stuff comes from. It simply arrives at the store, and I buy it if I want it. I am a greedy American. I have not worried about how my greed affects others around the world. I have not considered that there are children who are enslaved to meet my desires and that they may die in servitude because I am unconscious about my choices. I have heard of free trade coffee, but I will confess that I do not make the effort to make sure that I only consume free trade coffee.
My children heard their Dad discussing this issue last night. So this morning as I lifted weights they came and sat at the picnic table in the playroom to talk to me about it. They were absolutely broken hearted about the issue and wanted to talk about ways our family could change our lifestyle to live more responsibly. I went after my Bible and shared Is. 58 with them. They are smarter than me. James said, "Isn't that like that verse in the New Testament about the least of these." I talked to them about feeling inadequate in my knowledge about how to loose the chains of injustice and praying that God would reveal a way for our family to make a difference. We had a very incredible conversation about injustice and their concern for people who are mistreated.
My son raised this question, "Mom, I saw a show on Discovery about diamond mining in Africa and the horrible conditions involved, and I have really been bothered that you choose to wear diamonds when people are dying to get them." (Months he has worried about this, but would not bring up something he saw as a contradiction to my faith.)
Grace said, "Mom, we can't keep buying chocolate. It was not wrong before we knew about the slavery, but now it would be wrong to keep buying it since we know it involves slavery - especially child slavery."
James, "Mom, what else do we buy that causes people around the world to be in the 'chains of injustice'?"
Grace, "How do we find that out?"
My children broke my heart. At 34, I have never considered James's question. It has been posed to me many times by a variety of sources, and I have always blown it off. After all, this is the 21st century. How bad could it be? It is the companies' responsibility to make sure that their goods are purchased/made with integrity. It is not my responsibility, and I am not guilty. However, looking at that passage in Isaiah and having this conversation with my children has dramatically refocused my thinking. My home is only one household. If we avoid purchasing items that cause people to be mistreated will it really make a difference? Probably not. We do not have huge purchase power. However, I will not be guilty of taking advantage of the poor if I can help it. I do not have a wide base of knowledge about what products are "okay" and which are not. It will take research, but I will be joining others in the fight against the "chains of injustice." Be watching for more information soon. I don't know what this journey will involve for my family or how it may change us. But to the best of my ability I want to seek to live out my faith with my wallet.
So I can still eat the chocolate that I've already purchased, right?