Does God care how consumers consume?

Much to my own shame, I have only recently taken in consideration of the origins of what I purchase. Until five years ago, my purchasing routine mirrored a Pavlovian dog of sorts: I felt a need for something, I mindlessly went to the store, I bought the item that fulfilled my need. The bell rang, I salivated, I eventually got food. This is not about being anti-“[anything].” Some make choices based on origin of product for their own reasons (protectionism, etc.). For me, this was a change in thinking. I’m not sure what if any particular incident triggered a change, but the “ringing of the bell” is different today than five years ago. Obviously not all purchases were self indulgent, some are of necessity. However what changed in all purchases, was my approach. I started to consider where they were made and who made them based on their history of worker treatment. I began to ask questions such as: What kind of conditions existed where these items were being manufactured? and Were the workers being treated fairly? Some questions were easy to answer, others required some research, most were answerable. With information comes responsibility. How should one respond to companies or regions of the world that categorically mistreat workers? Should one continue to endorse known injustice by giving dollars to the cause? I found that the choices many times came down to money. Things made in factories that unjustly treat workers are cheaper that in factories that have a livable wage and safe working conditions. Most times there were more expensive items that would fulfill the function. The tough question: is the principle worth the extra money? I would suggest it is. Most times the financial difference is negligible. We, in the west, live in a society that votes everyday with our dollars. It starts with us, one person at a time. When we ask questions and research items, it makes us give pause how we are spending money. As a Christian, it is a way to redeem that part of our life and world through living out our faith. Sometimes, options are not available and this too requires hard questions about need. For example, try to buy an electric ceiling fan that is not made in China or Indonesia or try to buy a consumer grade bicycle that is not made in China for your child. These two items are nearly impossible! It is easy to through up one’s hands and resign to complacency and passivity in our purchases. However, the better choice is to be informed consumers.

Clawson suggests,

We will still need to be consumers, but instead of becoming complicit in injustice, we can promote ethical consumption implies that we will apply our moral values and ethical standards to our consumer habits. We don’t opt out of a necessary system, but we attempt to redeem it as we live by a more consistent ethic.[1]

Informed consumers don’t always get it right. They do however give weightier consideration to their actual needs and choices available to them. As a Christ follower, I believe it forces us to consider the plight of those co-created in the image of God. If someone disrespects that image by doing injustice to it, we should do all in our power to not enable that behavior. For us, in the West, we do it with dollars. If God cares about those he created in his image, and he does, then he cares how we consume.

[1] Julie Clawson. Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices (p. 26). Kindle Edition.



Filed under Community, Ethics, Philosophy, Theology

3 responses to “Does God care how consumers consume?

  1. Thinking like this led Katie and I to only buy Fair Trade coffee from the store. We occasionally but it from the gas station when on the road but never buy anything but Fair Trade from the store.

    When we began doing this we were met with a lot of crazy looks and negative feedback from, you guessed, family. We were even made fun of at times. We believe it was the right decision.

    It’s hard because we want to be able to purchase things and not believe that our purchase is actually supporting unethical treatment of humans. We need a better ethic of material consumption. We need to think Christianly about our purchases.

  2. It has really helped me to stop and consider what I am buying and if I really need it or just want it. I found that many inside Christianity associate this thinking with a certain political position. I don’t think of it that way, although I can see how they get there (I believe wrongly). It seems many times the political association trumps a theological thinking about it. The other thing is that it is hard to do. I certainly don’t think I have arrived in this area, I don’t do it perfectly, but I am more aware today than previous days.

  3. I find that when I try to think more Christianly about everything I do I not only become counter cultural secularlly but also counter cultural within Christianity, which is sad