jeannie and i are trying to make some changes in our lives. part of this is simplifying: we’re been seriously consider selling our nice suburban home and moving into the city. we’d have to give up almost half our square footage to do this; but we want to live in a neighborhood, not a homogeneous gated community. and we don’t want our kids growing up with our beautiful house as normative.
but much of what we’re changing or wanting to change is in response to our growing theological understanding of the kingdom of god. we want out faith to be expressed not only in the words we say and how we treat people we know, but in how we treat god’s creation, and how we treat people we don’t know. some time ago, jeannie started only buying organic food. that was primarily a health choice. but it’s a lifestyle choice as well — a care-for-god’s-creation choice. we’re pretty sure our next car will be a hyrbrid, once my mini lease runs up in 18 mos. we pay a bit extra for environmentally-friendly dish and laundry soap.
we drink a lot of coffee, and have recently decided it’s just irresponsible for us as followers of jesus to buy anything but fair-trade coffee. i realize that to some, this sounds ridiculously petty, even trendy. that’s not it for us. it really boils down to this: how can we say we love our neighbor when we aren’t willing to pay an extra buck for fair trade coffee now that it is so easily and constantly available.
but here’s one that’s starting to bug us: how do we be responsible when buying clothes?
again, many would be quick to dismiss this question or label us new-day hippie radicals, or worse, l i b e r a l s. just last week i read comments on my blog by people who were claiming that christians shouldn’t buy american girl dolls because the company that makes them gives a bunch of money to a foundation that helps girls, and a small portion of those funds go to things those christians don’t want their money going to (pro-lesbian organizations, for example — they say; i have not actually looked into this). while i might or might not agree with their conclusion about buying an american girl doll, i strongly support the notion of making purchasing decisions that are in congruence with the life and teachings of jesus. so i ask: how can someone raise a question like that about american girl dolls, but buy clothes made by sweatshop employees who are treated horribly and paid worse? does not buying clothes that, by their very purchase, support oppression of “the least of these” contradict the life and teachings of jesus?
but here’s the rub: it’s almost impossible to tell what clothes are really made in conditions that treat their employees with fairness. at best, we have the word of the seller (like: target), saying they don’t use sweat-shop suppliers. but, i’m sorry, that’s not good enough.
food has an “organic” standard. coffee has a “fair trade” standard. companies are working toward lowering their “carbon footprint”. even the publishing world is rushing to embrace (tricky and costly as it is) “green publishing” (the publishing company that owns zondervan — our parent company — has just launched a massive campaign called “harpergreen” to move aggressively in this direction).
i would love to see a “fair trade clothing” standard. i would love to see a neutral non-profit rise up that would become knowledgeable about the industry, then set some reasonable standards. create a “fair trade clothing” logo, and allow clothing makers to include it on their tags if they meet the criteria. this organization would need to have knowledgeable staff who travel to producers around the world to spot-check their compliance. and they’d need to make sure there’s a randomness to which field agent visits which factory, to prevent corruption.
jeannie and i would pay a bit more for clothes that we knew had a “fair trade clothing” stamp of approval.