Came across an article that made me do a lot of thinking about personal responsibility, and what we say when we shop. (Thanks to John Fea again for sharing the article sent to him by one of his readers.) This article claims that many of the primary chocolate supply chains are tainted by slave labor. Some companies know all about the suspicious nature of the origin of the cocoa beans, but choose to either ignore it, or intentionally turn a blind eye. Here is the problem: as a Christian, can I turn a blind eye?
When I was unaware of the supply chain issues with Hershey’s and other large chocolate companies, it was not an issue of conscience for me to buy chocolate as I saw fit. Now, though, I have to pause and consider my choice more carefully. As a Christian, I cannot support the idea of young teens (and preteens) being sold into slavery and forced to work without pay so that I can enjoy cheap chocolate. I also cannot support workers being paid less than a living wage. Sure, this is better than slavery, but it is not ethical. The author, based on the link he provides to a “scorecard” for companies, seems to value the right to unionize. This isn’t really all that important to me, as long as child labor is avoided, fair wages are paid, and the rights of the workers to reasonable conditions are respected.
Now that I know this information, I will think very carefully when we purchase chocolate. I don’t want my money to imply that I support companies with questionable supply chains. If I continue to buy chocolate from companies that refuse to insure fair trade practices, how am I helping the least of these? My purchases say a lot about what is important to me. If I decide that I am willing to ignore supply chain issues to save some money, the companies I support get the message: “Don’t bother insuring fair conditions from your suppliers, because I really don’t care, regardless of what I say.” That’s not the message I want to send.
I would also say that I would hope that voting about this issue with our choices at the grocery store and letting the companies know about it in writing would be enough to inspire changes in some of the big companies, without resorting to legislation. I tend to prefer market forces inspiring change (though conscience/ethics should be enough here), rather than more regulations from the government, forcing federal bureaucracy to enforce it.
Long story short, I think that we as Christians should be careful to use our God-given resources in ways that are consistent with what is important in the Kingdom of God. Some might say that saving money is better stewardship, but if it is done at the expense of the lives, health, and well-being of the disadvantaged, I believe the moral imperative of stewardship is to use our money to support those who are taking better care of the least of these. I hope that we as Christians can stop putting our own bottom line first, and start to stand up for the least in issues like these. Even if it means that we have to work with liberal humanist groups in standing up for the least. We need not endorse their philosophy to join their efforts to add value to every life. What could be more Christian?