Yesterday I wrote on my concern with Chick-fil-A, which has recently been a hot topic in the media. While I do not want to discuss the issue the media is infatuated with, I think it is a real concern how a Christian business understands the intricacies of its supply chain and how it works toward building a kingdom ethic into its product. In the case of Chick-fil-A, as a Christian food purveyor it is their duty to think about the theological, moral and ethical underpinnings of their own business, as well as the businesses they buy from as part of their supply chain. This is similar to a Christian jeweler who must think about where her diamonds are coming from or a Christian clothing retailer who must wonder what the practices are within its supply chain and how its contractors handle the environmental impact of dyes and the waste from garment making.
This is not just a concern for Chick-fil-A; it is a concern about ourselves: our habits, our choices and our ignorance. It’s a concern for my self. I need to hold myself to a higher standard as well, and I need to understand how my habits and choices can impact other people. This is the logic behind Christ’s emphasis on loving our neighbor as ourselves. I am sure that during this recession we all know someone who, of no fault of her own, has been affected by forces beyond her control—losing a job, a home, a retirement account. This may have even happened to you. The point is, we can choose to empathize with those who are affected by forces beyond their control.
This empathy must push us to dispel our ignorance about where our food, clothing and other goods come from. This empathy must influence our habits and choices. Our empathy must push us to put forth some amount of effort: to choose to live in a world where the coffee we drink, the chocolate we eat and the burgers we grill actually have a real life effect on our fellow human beings, our neighbors and all of creation. Our empathy must call us to action.
And that is my chief concern: that we act. I know that we won’t solve all these problems in a day, and that issues like industrial agriculture, conflict minerals, garment sweatshops and the like are all tied up within complex issues of poverty, civil unrest, human trafficking, warfare, political maneuvering, and globalization—issues that will take years to confront. These are issues though, and we need to act. We need to try.
I have thought deeply about these things, and I truly believe that we need to try. We may not be able to find out if the particular shirt we are buying was made in a sweatshop or not, or if that tomato in the farmer’s market was grown in a truly sustainable way. But we can ask, we can seek out, we can try to learn. We can try to make an informed decision, we can try to dispel our ignorance about a particular product and at least understand that we are both part of the problem and part of the solution.
I am writing this on a laptop that probably has a few conflict minerals in it. I just took a break to text my wife on a phone that most definitely has some conflict minerals in it. I am not immune to the problem. But I chose to act. Someday, hopefully soon, when an organization can certify that a cell phone was made conflict-free I will most definitely buy that cell phone. I will chose to act when I can, but in the meantime I am stuck in a situation, like all of us are, of not having any solution to the problem. It’s just there, an evil that we all take part in, a fragment of our lives that indirectly contributes to the evil that will always exist in this fallen world.
Yet in the midst of this broken world, my concern for ourselves is that we choose to act. That is our only choice. To love our neighbor is to act. And that’s all we are called to do.