The Inconvenience of True Religion

Ever have a nagging thought that lurks in the corners of your mind, and Just. Won’t. Go. Away?

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27)

It’s a familiar passage, and one of my favorites. When Pastor Roger preached on it last Sunday, the following conversation happened.

Pastor Roger: (paraphrased) Orphans and widows represent those who are most vulnerable and needy in our society. It’s evident that they are very important to God. Proverbs lists dire consequences for those who oppress the orphans.

Me: (in my head) Well, at least I don’t oppress them. Maybe I don’t help them too much either, but I’m just neutral.”

Nagging Thought: Who makes your clothes?

Me: Who, me? What clothes? Huh?

Nagging Thought: Who makes them?!

Me: I haven’t ever really thought about it much.

Nagging Thought: But you’ve heard things…you’ve heard of child slavery, sweatshops, and forced labor, and you’ve also heard that that’s the reason companies can afford to make clothes so cheap.

Me: Ok…Yes. I have heard rumors of such things. But what does this have to do with me?

Nagging Thought: You love cute cheap clothes. Are your cheap clothes made on the backs of those most vulnerable in society today?

Me: I don’t think I want to know.

Nagging Thought: Are you participating in the exploitation of women and children by mindlessly buying cute cheap clothes?

Me: Everyone else buys cheap clothes! Besides, I don’t have a ton of clothes. And it’s important to be frugal. And how could I even know if my clothes were made by slaves? I’m done talking about this.

Nagging Thought: Ok, but I’m not going to go away.

And it didn’t.

According to this article, clothes not made in the US, Canada, or European countries have a strong chance of being made through slave labor. And this informative page says “Serious concerns are often raised about exploitative working conditions in the factories that make cheap clothes for the high street. Child workers, alongside exploited adults, can be subjected to violence and abuse such as forced overtime, as well as cramped and unhygienic surroundings, bad food, and very poor pay. The low cost of clothes on the high street means that less and less money goes to the people who actually make them.”

 Behind the Barcode from Free2Work on Vimeo.

Am I participating in the exploitation of children when I shop at stores that oppress them? Because Biblically, that’s a big deal. 

I think we will be held accountable for what we do with what we know. And honestly, that makes me scared to research the issue, because I like me some cheap clothes! And more than anything, I don’t like to be inconvenienced. I don’t think any of us do. So it’s easier not knowing. But laziness and complacency don’t really sound like true religion, do they?

And there’s also the nagging doubt that what I do doesn’t make any bit of difference, since I’m only one person. But I read this quote the other day that sums it up well,

“If God is really at the center of things and God’s good future is the most certain reality, then the truly realistic course of action is to buck the dominant consequentialist ethic of our age- which says that we should act only if our action will most likely bring about good consequences- and simply, because we are people who embody the virtue of hope, do the right thing…Our vocation is not contingent on results or the state of the planet. Our calling simply depends on our identity as God’s response-able human image-bearers.”

I need to do more research, but if the answer is what I think it is, it could mean the way I shop will be forever changed.

Have you ever been afraid of knowing too much, and being faced with a choice? Because that’s where I’m at, folks.