Thursday, May 17, 2007

THE ELITE: YOU & ME

I don't tend to think of myself as elitist. I am a college student who works a part time job for little money. I dine "out" only a couple times a month. I don't have a BMW. I don't have a big TV or house.

It's hard to write this list, because I am rich. It hard to list what I don't have, when I have so much. I have clothes. I put on clean clothes in the morning. I have a shower. I have a comfortable house, air conditioning, and carpet. When I am hungry, I eat. I spend my days in a nice office reading books all day - a "student." I own a computer - an expensive laptop. I have three guitars. I have to run on a special machine (treadmill) to keep me from getting fat. I am rich.

Whether I like it or not, I am in the top percentage of people in the world. I am one of the elite, and if you are reading this, so are you. You are sitting somewhere nice indoors with air condition; if you are outdoors, it is by choice. You are using a computer to spend some FREE time perusing the blogs.

You are the elite. I am writing this.... so am I.

But how can we call ourselves Christians, who love our neighbors who are starving, if we are living like this? It's not like we're divorced from a situation a world away. We directly contribute to the problem by buying stuff. Let me explain...

Look right now to see where your shoes are made? your shirt? your cell phone? your computer? Go ahead. Right now. Look.

I would be surprised to find that - at the most - only 1 of those was made in the United States. Most of the stuff we buy is made in other countries. Companies outsource the "labor costs" to other countries because it is better for their bottom line. Not only do these companies not have to pay workers much, they don't have to pay taxes in many cases either. Environmental laws in the US don't apply overseas either. From the company's point of view, outsourcing is a good idea, NAFTA is a good idea.

But with this line of thinking, people are no longer people, instead they are a resource, just like raw materials. The people working in factories are not more important than the machines they operate. But these people go home everyday to cardboard boxes, starving babies, and dying loved ones... because they do not have enough money to survive. Not because they don't work, but because their work does not pay enough. Without taxes, there are not roads, no education, no healthcare of any kind. Companies don't pay these taxes in other countries, and there are none of these things. Couple that with the fact that the workers are overworked and underpaid, and the poverty problem is no mystery.

CLICK HERE FOR POVERTY STATISTICS.

But we shop at big stores. We buy outsourced goods. You are wearing some now. I promise. You are wearing underwear! Yes, underwear, which are only a convenience, probably made by a starving women in China. And we stand and call ourselves Christians. See, we contribute to the problem. It is not just the companies. It's is us as well.

So, as Christians what do we do with that? Is is possible to stop shopping at the chain stores?... stop buying outsourced goods? What do we do? How can we call ourselves Christians, and claim to show and share the LOVE of Christ, if we are helping to harm our neighbors in one of the worst ways possible? We are contributing to their starvation!

There is a story about Marie Antoinette during the French Revolution. Her subjects were starving, and when she was told what was happening, she responded, "If they don't have any bread, then let them eat cake." While this story is probably not historically accurate, it is reflective of Antoinette's disregard and brush-off of the plight of the poor. And while it may appall us, this same situation is occurring today. And every time we buy stuff, we are essentially telling the starving people to, "eat cake."

I own three guitars - the total value of which can pay the RENT for a FAMILY for MORE THAT 6 MONTHS! I use these guitars to LEAD WORSHIP!!!! WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE???!!!!

I don't really have any answers to these questions I've raised... I really don't know what to make of any of this. What are the ethical guidelines for us Christians to follow? Do we live in our world or become sectarian and live without electricity, cars, etc.? I don't know. Do I sell the guitars and lead worship with different, less expensive guitars... made by different starving people in a different country? What do we do?

I'll have think about it more... while I'm on vacation. I leave tomorrow.

Ironic, isn't it?...

2 comments:

MIKE said...

Hey man I found your blog a couple of weeks ago and have been checkin it out. Today's post really hit home. I used to be a manager for for the largest retail chain. I had to leave because I just couldn't subscribe to their business ethics and requirement to treat our associates as "human resources." I see the dilemma in the part that we play in it that perpetuates the situation. Definitely food for thought. Be Blessed!

tunz said...

I too appreciate this post. I work for a sportswear company who outsources work to our factory in China. I have never asked about the treatment of my fellow Chinese co-workers but I can guarantee I make more than they do.