Thursday, March 27, 2008

Walmart or not?

I was recently part of a coversation. It was around a table - the kind of place where Jeus often talked about the ways of the kindom. The topic of talk was the cost of running a family, and I found it more than a bit frustrating. There wasn't anything wrong with the conversation, and yet I sensed that it was fundamentally flawed as a follower of Jesus. The basic conversation embodied the cost of buying groceries and consumer goods at places such as Walmart or elsewhere. Walmart seemed to win the day as more stuff can be purchased at this chain of life sucking stores than most anywhere else on earth. There was brief discussion that perhaps other local stores treat their people better, perhaps pay better, but... But 'we don't really know', and 'who has the time for that stuff anyway?' Here is where I simply sighed internally and held my stomach so my intestines wouldn't explode. Do we really care simply for ourselves and how much stuff we can buy with our dollars? IF this is the case, the command to love our neighbor doesn't really extend to our purses and wallets. If this is the case, we are nearly as selfish as my two year old daughter who has little time for things beyond her world where she rules as queen. That may seem like an unfair analogy, but. Our purchases fund things. They fund our way of life. They also fund fairness and goodness when we purchase fairly traded items. They fund quite the opposite when we allow ourselves to buy things with only our own bottom line at stake. It seems followers of Jesus in such a rich place as America need to take a stand - need to begin to believe that the things they purchase really do have an impact beyond our own localized families. Maybe we can begin to pray "Your kingdom come on earth as it is in the heavens" and really believe it is more than 'simply about me.'


Anonymous said...

Walmart means many families can not only be fed, but also clothed for much less than otherwise and better as well.
Ronald Davidson

Randy said...

Ronald -- You are right that we can get more for less money.

For a very small percentage of our people, this is probably really important.

For most of us, it simply means that we can get 'more' for less money. We get more 'stuff,' but we sell our souls to: junk products, groceries filled with unhealthy preservatives, slave labor in places like China.

It also means we support a company that has a terrible record of treating employees fairly, avoids giving employess health insurance, and ultimately means people can't make a living wage at this place.

While I submit that Walmart isn't the only place guilty of this, I believe we've sold our souls to 'stuff.' Walmart has learned best how to encourage us to bow to the Stuff-Mart.

I would suggest that people with real needs could do better at the local food banks, faithful churches, second hand stores, and generous neighbors and family.

America would again be a better place if we believed in these groups and peoples rather than the closest Walmart.

Randy said...

To add to my previous comment: It's not that I really expect America to change since our economy is driven by spending and desiring stuff.

It's that I expect followers of Jesus to live differently. I expect them to live into a different kind of story.

Anonymous said...

I find some of the language you use to be a bit over the top. I haven't 'sold my soul' to Walmart, I just shop there every one in awhile. I certainly don't believe in it.
As for slave labor in China, I think China's problems lie a lot deeper than Walmart.
I'm not sure I see how this has the direct connection you seem to imply: that being a follower of Jesus means I automatically shouldn't shop at Walmart, or that, if I do, I have sold my soul.
As for the food banks, churches, etc, there are shame issues involved in going to such places for help and being able to shop for your own family with money you've earned, letting kids pick out their clothes, etc is very motivating and satisfying emotionally. It's not always about 'stuff'... I think that's just an over-generalization.
I think you're making an interesting point, but it seems buried by flowery and, what feels like, mellow-dramatic language.

Randy said...

I appreciate the dialogue. Perhaps sometimes I use 'over the top' language, but.

I find the conversation about how we spend our money nearly non-existant within much of the Christian community, and I ask why?

Walmart and slave labor? Sure,they are just one company using it, but we need to face the fact that they are using it. We encourage it everytime we buy things at Walmart.

There isn't another large retailer in America that takes such advantage of its suppliers. My family owns a large business, and I factually know of hundreds of contracts that Walmart has not honored. The result has been more than a few honest businesses going bankrupt. The only think that matters to this corporation is the bottom line. The ONLY thing.

While other corporations don't have much soul either, I think it fair to state that they are void of any sort of soul.

If we are to be serious about following Jesus, it's high time we realize that Walmart dollars do improvish people around the world.

I guess I would rather be guilty of melodramatic language than lots of other things.