26 January 2004

"Are We Being Fair?" Monday January 26 2004

Lately I have been thinking, reading, and praying a lot about how I spend my money. This means not only taking into account if I need or just want something but even when I need it if the money that I am trading with the store and the company it's made by are treating their employees well (at least a livable wage, available health-care, safe and humane work areas) and taking proper steps to curb their products manufacture effects on the environment (water, land, air, eco-system). One getting a great deal price wise often means that someone else is suffering greatly for my relatively small savings. When the purchaser can afford otherwise this is especially wrong. The real tragedy is that, at least in our America with huge chain stores, those workers who suffer because of this system (paid unfairly) are then forced to shop at places who also cause the same fate for others only to perpetuate the cycle.

That is a lot to think about! And it easily can take it's toll on one in two extreme opposite ways. One, you greatly cut down on what you buy - partly a good thing - because you don't have/make the time to search out responsible companies to buy from. Or, two, one adopts the position that the relatively small purchases made wouldn't make much of a dent in the crisis anyway and that those workers in sweat-shop factories do need a job so we are actually helping them. That last one sounds pretty ridiculous right? I heard a minister around Christmas time somewhat justify the consumerism of that season by reasoning that low wage earners needed the work and that we were giving them some kind of gift in our shopping. He likely didn't mean that we should encourage sweat-shop labor but most people don't even think that deep and so the statement made would, to them, apply to all Christmas spending of products from all places. Instead he could have taken the opportunity to really honor Christ (whose birthday it is about) in holiday shopping by supporting organizations/companies operating fairly for all employees along with their surrounding communities and in supporting government policies and officials advocating these practices.

Right. So where am I going with this? I have a hard time often finding products that meet the above mentioned criteria which is why most people just give up on the idea. That is something I understand and sympathize with. But when we do have the products made available to us then I think we have a responsibility to support those and advocate them to others as responsible citizens of the world.

It seems to me that those of us who follow the teachings of the Bible (Christian, Catholic, Jew etc) have an even greater degree of responsibility in these matters. Bringing "The Kingdom of God" to earth hinges greatly on people experiencing freedom both physically, economically and spiritually. How can we want people to have that and still oppress them with our spending habits and our support of unjust trade policies? It's hypocritical.

Coldplay's Chris Martin made a big deal during TV and live performances, magazine articles, and by attending the World Trade Organization (WTO) summit in 2003 about making trade fair (maketradefair.com). Visit their site and give what they have to say a chance. While you are at it, start making a difference by supporting organizations like two I've listed below and talk to others about it. At this point one is hard pressed to send some of their money in the direction of questionable companies (I find it personally unavoidable) and so we should not agonize over that when we do our best but that does mean we need to change. This is not about guilt. It's about knowledge and responsibility that comes with it for what is right, just, and fair whether you back it up ethically or biblically.

American Apparel
- sweatshop Free Clothing Made in Downtown LA

Pura Vida Coffee
Fair Trade Coffee guarantees that coffee farmers/workers get paid at least a livable wage and this organization also supports charity work with Children in Costa Rica. There are also partners with this company who you can find on the site to support by purchasing through their "storefront" [I go through Sojourners].

If you find more organizations that you think are fair please send them my way, shortly I hope to make an accessible list on this site. There are plenty of books from many perspectives on this topic. From the Christian perspective I personally recommend two: HOW MUCH IS ENOUGH? by Arthur Simon and RICH CHRISTIAN IN AN AGE OF HUNGER by Ronald Sider. Any debate, comments, and questions are also welcome. Peace.

email: info@chrisflinchbaugh.com

22 January 2004

"Back" Thursday January 22 2004

Shortly there will be lovely pictures here from my trip to Cincinnati. There will be pictures of Amy & Daniel, new friends Cat & Ryan, the St. Elizabeth's with conference goers, and the warmth of friends at Sunday Night Tea. You'll have to excuse the awful printed-on dates, which are wrong, that ended up scaring my photos because I am apparently technologically inept.

Today I'll be spending much of my day off working with Zach Bailey and Kim Nixon on some recordings for her album which is wrapping up here soon. She writes such good songs and does so very fast.

A verse, a prayer to lift up:
"Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream." (Amos 5:24)

13 January 2004

"Not-Alone Event in Cincy" Tuesday January 13 2004

The Not-Alone: Mayhem event in Cincinnati was amazing. The whole thing was covered in a sense community, one-sightedness towards the Kingdom of God, and a righteous questioning of all coming before. Highlights and pictures soon.

Sarah Munroe goes back to Philly for school this week so last night we did dinner and a movie. The other option was to go bowling but there was some of that in the film as well so we got two for one. We saw 21 GRAMS at the Midtown Cinema after enjoying some Mexican food, which Sarah de-greased with a napkin, at El Rodeo. The film was at least as good as it's hype though to some a scene of nudity/sex contained therein might be a put off. I do buy into the idea that vulnerability can be added to characters when together in that kind of situation and in this case it was shot achingly beautifully with great meaning. Does this mean that the plot benefits out-weigh the stored mental images? As a guy, I'm not sure. Feel free to challenge me on any of this if you like. Regardless, the performances from Naomi Watts (in particular and it's not because I think she's gorgeous, Sarah said so too), Sean Penn, and Benicio Del Toro really made this movie happen in a brutal, completely human way.

I had almost forgot to lend Sarah the paperback of YOU SHALL KNOW OUR VELOCITY! when she threw a pinecone(?) at my bedroom window to get me to come back out to make sure she had the right directions to get back to Lititz. Anyway, we had a great time.

Today after working from 9:30am until 11am, I have the day off. Weeeee!

"To be simple is to fix one's eye solely on the simple truth of God at a time when all concepts are being confused, distorted, and turned upside down."
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

07 January 2004

"Failing Simply" Wednesday January 7 2004

One of the things I've resolved to do this year -- as part of living a simpler more rhythmic life -- is to wake up no later than 8 am on work days giving me ample time for morning prayers and the Bible. So far I've made it only once. Going to bed earlier would seem to play a part in this but I have succeeded in that at least half of the days. That's a start I suppose. I do find that when I spend the night before not watching much TV or wasting time various other ways I am much more focused on my morning goals and certainly at greater peace. I know this makes a difference. If nothing else, over the past few months of reading I've learned that each of things I do today affects the next thing I do and the next day I live. To know that and live it with total reliance on God is amazing.

I want to live in the contentment and joy of Christ. Giving up things that steal my time, attention, and money from Him will only take me part of the way but it's a step that at this point I have much to be excited about and thankful for.

This weekend I'm off to Cincinnati for a conference and time with my friends at Vineyard Central. Words and pictures when I return.

reading: Richard J. Foster - FREEDOM OF SIMPLICITY

01 January 2004

New Year's Day

I spent New Year's Eve/New Years with some lovely folks this year first in downtown Harrisburg eating some tasty food with unfortunately loud and busy surroundings. We had planned on staying there in the center of it all to see a cow painted like a strawberry drop at midnight but noone was really excited about it -- even less than we were initially when it we thought it would be the normal strawberry -- so we ventured back to Joel Semke's apartment. There we of course watched the ball drop in New York (less interesting every year) but not before catching some 50's era Nat King Cole songs on PBS including some great back and forth with Sammy Davis Jr doing imitations one of the other. Really nice warm stuff there.

The Coldplay Live 2003 DVD was thrown in after that. These guys really do a number on me. I few days ago I attempted to do some cleaning/arranging in my room while I had it on in the "background." Ha! I'd always end up glancing over... a glance that would last 3 songs likely with my jaw hanging slack. Last night while 1/3 playing a game and 2/3 watching the DVD I remarked that if I can find a girl who can do for me what Coldplay does in the perfect moments they throw in their songs then I will be set. What a silly comparison. I retired before most others to do prayers and read a bit of Acts. This year I am truly excited to have set aside more time for those things. More on that soon....

And morning came. The last one up was I but at 9:30! That's pretty early for New Years isn't it? Leanna made omelets letting each person choose exactly what they wanted in it and selflessly ate last. Even in 2004 I am still a "vanilla" kind of guy I guess, still I had some goat cheese (is that exotic?) in mine along with mozzarella, cheddar, and some ham. A morning like this reminds me some of how community can be. I guess ideally we wouldn't be gathered around a t.v. though as long as it doesn't replace interaction -- which there was plenty of critiquing the redecorating/colors -- then it's fine.

Thank you Joel for letting us hang with you at your place. Thank you Janelle for being the sub-host when Joel had to go, superb! Thank you Lena for your kind heart. Thank you Tiffany for not ever pouncing on me again to wake me up like you did today :). Thank you friends for being there.

Joel has great books in his room.
Note-to-self: borrow some world event books from Joel.

A New Year of wellness to you all.
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