Tag Archives: justice

“It’s a Small World After All” and Stolen Scooters

Mindy never had a chance to see the cute, little red scooter I bought for her to use as her primary mode of transportation. A few nights before Mindy was to come back from Minnesota the little red scooter was stolen from next to the front steps of our new home.
I should have expected something like this would happen, mainly because for the last three years now my main mode of transportation was passed on unwillingly to someone else (my bike the last two years, Mindy’s scooter last week) sometime in the fall. I did not expect it to happen simply because the area that we live in happens to be a more low-income neighborhood.

I can easily see how having something stolen so quickly after having moved into a new neighborhood could strike some hestitation or discouragement in a new resident. It was fairly discouraging for me that this gift for Mindy was never going to be given, and discouraging because we need to reconsider how Mindy is going to get to school. Having something stolen is never a comfortable thing, it feels like a violation of ones personal space, it is often an inconvenience, and it further exhausts ones resources

But I think the over all feeling I get from the stolen scooter is best summed up in the lines of a famous song you might all know from a magical boat ride:

It’s a world of laughter
A world of tears
It’s a world of hopes
And a world of fears
There’s so much that we share
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a small world after all

This might need some explanation. I think the problem often with our choice of location, is that we consistently choose to isolate ourselves from anything and anyone we might consider dangerous. We, regardless of our religious affiliation, choose the safest and most life prolonging routes. If it’s a small world, I’m sure is heck going to do my best to keep myself in the safest part of it. It’s a small world, but in looking out for number one I’m gonna maximize the hopes and laughter, and leave the tears and fears to somebody else. Stolen scooters break that way of thinking.

I can’t help but thinking that I had a part in shaping the life of that person that came by in the middle of the night to take that scooter. I’m convicted with the reality that I have some responsibility in the stealing of that scooter. I know that sounds weird and backwards and wrong, but there is some truth to it I think.

When students in my city aren’t receiving a quality education I have some responsiblity in that. We tend to worry only about our own children and their well being, but as Dr. King once said, “injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.”
A scooter was stolen the other night, someone is being abused, children aren’t receiving a fair education, men are being discriminated against, teens are being hooked on cigarettes, children are working in sweatshops, and the stories continue.

If we, who come from middle and upper class communities, selfishly worry about only the needs and issues that affect us and our surrounding commmunity, we are not doing what we should be doing.

Buying “Ethical” Shoes.

UPDATE: I’ve answered my own question in this post Fair Trade Footwear

As my title might hint at, I’m a follower. I’ve meant to get into that for sometime (today won’t be that day), but here is a part of this following thing.

If I’m really a follower of Christ. If I dare to label myself with that term, then I had best be ready to put it into practice. And, I don’t mean into practice every Sunday, or specifically by reading a Bible, saying a prayer or leaving a tract on a table. What I mean is the idea that everything I do should be considered in light of this belief system. It’s no different then someone who holds to any other belief system. If you are to be real and honest about what your beliefs are, and you truly believe them, then everything you do should be filtered through that.

I think that’s what made it so pressing to me to bring up the issue of Real Estate as we were looking at houses and trying to consider what that means and how we navigate that area as Christians. It’s sad, but I’ve never heard a Bible Study or Sunday sermon about the ethics of Real Estate, yet I know that even in my current church, tons of people are buying houses, or considering buying. I see conversations about these things as essential to our faith, much more then an abstract, feel-good verse reading.

This brings me to the topic at hand: Shoes. My current pair are on their way out. My sandals died about a month ago now, so I’m lacking in the “appropriate to wear to work” category of footwear. What I need is another pair of athletic shoes, just your basic cross-trainers or running shoes. But as with any purchase, I want to consider an ethical approach. It really is a WWJD situation (What Would Jesus Do?).

There is a fair trade running shoe shop, but they charge about $200 for a pair! I find it hard to keep within my values of good stewardship for a purchase like that. Then there is always buying slightly used from Goodwill or eBay, something my mom would highly frown upon. Mom wouldn’t like it because it conflicts with the value of taking care of my body (it’s not my own, it was bought with a price). Then there is always the New Balance route, the hip, cool, stylish, and the closest-big-business-but-still-supposedly-sweatshop-free-or-at-least-trying-to brand of shoe out there (I think Timberland is a close second). That doesn’t sit well with my avoid injustice or even the possibility of injustice if at all possible value.

So, what’s a guy to do?

My response concerning high gas prices

This was my response to my friend Gustave’s letter about high gas prices:

my dear and wonderful friend. Let me start by saying I am quite naive to the large ramifications you’ve talked about here. I completely agree with you on everything you shared here.

Just so we get some clarifications on all this here is the basic jist of what happened:
I wrote off-handedly once about enjoying the fact that High gas prices has created a much greater interest and demand for fuel efficient cars, more people out biking to work, and more efforts in mass transit. In other words, I said I see a lot of benefits in the gas prices being high. I also feel like high gas prices reflect the actual cost of the use of that gas (as in damage to the environment, etc). I didn’t in any way imply that I like high gas prices, I like big powerful countries getting rich, I don’t care about the effects on the poor.

Again, I completely agree with everything that you said about the negative effects of high gas prices. I realize it hurts the poor and I think that sucks too. I also feel like really low gas prices aren’t going to help solve many problems either, they seem to create a slew of other problems. By the way, weren’t we in Micro-Econ together? Lower gas prices just means more people buying it, which means those companies and countries are still making a lot. I say we take out the CEO’s and others and we could offer some dirt cheap gas that way.

Seriously though, what are some solutions and problems solving techniques? Let’s commission city council to get public transit started in our area. How do we organize car pooling groups in the poor areas we live in? Could the government ration gas some those dimwits with their Hummers can’t drive them more then two blocks, but the neighbor can make it to and from work? How about promoting scooters more in poorer neighborhoods, those should solve the problem big time. This is the way I think; I like the big picture but I’m all about the practical.
I’ve filled up more then my fair share of guys gas cans and tanks in the past couple months (sure hope they were actually for their car).
Could churches offer free fill ups, gas cards, etc. in the neighborhoods they are a part of? Shouldn’t we be preaching all the stuff you shared from the pulpit?
Mostly what I’m saying is I hear you loud and clear, now what are we going to do about it?!

Let’s get a move on!


The Yanomamo: not just a biculturalism case study

When I learned about the Yanomamo a few years back it was in an academic setting. We read a whole book on them and discussed their culture as a way to better understand society and people. Unfortunately, their current state of affairs and our role in that was not part of the conversation.


For a Yanomani, her land is much more than the soil she treads.
Help us to prevent her from being evicted from her land at www.survival.es.

I want to write a book

One of my goals since High School was that I wanted to write a book before I finished college. I think I saw the popularity of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and thought, “I can write something like that” (not content, but quality).
My College Diploma came in the mail last summer officially calling an end to my college days and permanently marking that goal is “Incomplete.” If sulked in the defeat enough, and now it’s time for me to get up and try again. I want to write a book.
I think the longest papers I’ve ever written were 13 pages each (one in high school, one in college). The idea of writing something that qualifies as a “book” is intimidating to me. At the same time, blogging has helped me to see that it is very possible. My guess is if I just took everything that I have currently written on this blog it would make a decent sized book. If I can learn how to remain focused and have a clear goal in mind I think I can accomplish this.

A few things I would ask:

  1. Please give me a lot of feedback on my writing, I appreciate people’s thoughts and encouragement.
  2. If you have any advice or guides on how to go about this I’d love to hear it.
  3. I’m wondering if self-publishing or finding a publisher is the way to go, any ideas?

Derek Webb: a voice in the wilderness

Bits of Lyrics from his most recent album, Mockingbird:

From A King & A Kingdom

there are two great lies that i’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
and that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican
and if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him

From A New Law

don’t teach me about moderation and liberty
i prefer a shot of grape juice

don’t teach me about loving my enemies

don’t teach me how to listen to the Spirit
just give me a new law

From Rich Young Ruler

poverty is so hard to see
when it’s only on your tv and twenty miles across town
where we’re all living so good
that we moved out of Jesus’ neighborhood

From My Enemies Are Men Like Me

peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication
it’s like telling someone murder is wrong
and then showing them by way of execution

From Love is Not Against The Law:

are we defending life
when we just pick and choose
lives acceptable to lose
and which ones to defend

‘cause you cannot choose your friends
but you choose your enemies
and what if they were one
one and the same

And for some real good insight into Derek’s views as well as Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God Knows What) check out their conversation here.

50 Facts that should Change the world.

This seems to be book review weekend for me.

50 Facts That Should Change the World is one of the best “social awareness raising” compilations that I have seen in a long time. Jessica Williams does an amazing job of writing concise and thorough chapters on important issues you might not know about. Each article contains a ton of notes that you can reference if your interested in learning more about the issue, and there are usually practical tips on how you can get involved in making a difference in that issue.

What issues might you not have heard about:

  • There are 47 more that will challenge you and convict you. I would highly recommend picking this book up from your library or bookstore and commiting to read one chapter a day or a week. It’ll be well worth your time and I don’t think you will ever be the same.

    I’ve wanted for quite a while, to help put together a book similar to this. I’m still working on it and gathering interested writers. The final product would be somewhat similar to what Williams has put together except that there would be more personal accounts and an appeal to taking action that is directed specifically to Christians. Ideally we would create pamphlets about the different issues and encourage churches to put them at their information tables. If your interested in this project please email me.

    Christianity Today Review of 50 Facts…

    50 Facts Video

Still Seperate, Still Unequal: The Shame of the Nation

In the summer of 2003, in preparation for working in the public school system, I read the book Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol. To say that the book changed my view of the public school system would be an understatement. Initially it shocked me that inequalities like this still existed even 30+ years after the Brown Ruling and that I had not heard about these recent (copyright 1990) inequalities. He opened my eyes to this injustice and made me forever an advocate of just public schools. In 1990 Kozol wrote revealing decrepit schools, out of date textbooks, segregated schools, and basically little of the change we thought had come from Brown vs. Board of Education on May 17, 1954.
Kozol has recently published a new book that gives a current account of the public school system, and the picture is not pretty. The Shame of the Nation, with a subtitle that speaks volumes: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America.
The stories, first-hand accounts from children in our education system, are moving and impacting. You must hear their stories. But, Kozol also writes deep and challenging words that challenge the way we discuss what is occuring in our school system. This paragraph took me a few reads to take in but it’s statement is intense:

“Perhaps most damaging to any serious effort to address racial segregation openly is the refusal of most of the major arbiters of culture in our northern cities to confront or even clearly name an obvious reality they would have castigated with a passionate determination in another section of the nation fifty years before—and which, moreover, they still castigate today in retrospective writings that assign it to a comfortably distant and allegedly concluded era of the past. There is, indeed, a seemingly agreed-upon convention in much of the media today not even to use an accurate descriptor like “racial segregation” in a narrative description of a segregated school. Linguistic sweeteners, semantic somersaults, and surrogate vocabularies are repeatedly employed. Schools in which as few as 3 or 4 percent of students may be white or Southeast Asian or of Middle Eastern origin, for instance—and where every other child in the building is black or Hispanic—are referred to as “diverse.” Visitors to schools like these discover quickly the eviscerated meaning of the word, which is no longer a proper adjective but a euphemism for a plainer word that has apparently become unspeakable.”

To get more of a taste of Kozol before you go and check this book out of the library you can read Still Seperate, Still Unequal an article pulled from the first chapter of the book.

Fair Trade Interview with Eric Odier-Fink of The Justice Clothing Company

I had the wonderful opportunity this morning of interviewing Eric Odier-Fink of The Justice Clothing Company. Eric graciously gave me a bit of his time to answer some questions about Justice Clothing, Sweatshops, Unions and Fair Trade.

or Download the Podcast Here.

Show Notes:

00:24 Why did you start The Justice Clothing Company?

  • “It really started out of Frustration.”
  • The idea for the Justice Clothing Company was born around 1996 when we met and, among other things, began shopping together. (from the website)

  • “The US is predominately sweatshop in it’s apperal production.”
  • 1998- Received Catalogs from Union companies (King Louie clothing, Nemisis and Windjammers)
  • “Is there Anywhere in the United States for me to buy your gear?”
  • “These where companies that where absolutely clean.”

03:15 Working with Union Companies

  • “We only work with Union Companies”
  • Tried to work with Non-Union (ended well before they began selling their gear).
  • Ben and Jerry’s as a Non-Union example
  • Non-Union companies weren’t willing to meet their conditions

06:30 Talking about American Apparel

  • Discussed working with American-Apparel (It didn’t work out, and it was clearly for the best)
  • American-Apperal’s Ugly Union busting Article
  • AA’s Sexist ads and Sexual Harrasment
  • American Apparel makes clothes, Justice Clothing sells clothes (that union companies make).

11:00 The importance of Unions

  • “Unions are the only thing responsible for prosperity in the United States.”
  • “Unions bring together workers who, individually, don’t really have any power.”
  • “The only power a worker has, is to stop the work that they do.”
  • Eric tells the story of his grandfather being almost “worked to death.”
  • Why Unions improve companies and the quality of products.

14:45 Justice Clothing becoming a Cooperative

  • No longer “Employer, employees.”
  • Expanding to others outside the business
  • A few “not really for the radio” details about the Co-op.

18:15 Dealing with your overwhelming closet full of sweatshop clothing

22:45 What’s your take on Thrift Stores

  • Usually fronts for organizations that feed and cloth people
  • It’s Recycling!
  • It’s not contributing to the sweatshop industry
  • The Balance is that people need to work and somethings will need to be bought new, That’s where Justice Clothing comes in.

26:00 Why pay more Money for fair trade clothing?

  • Sustainable economies
  • Why Not to Contribute to Walmart (articles 1, 2)

29:45 An appeal to people of Faith

  • “Buying sweatshop stuff is against my religion”
  • “You know your buying stuff that is moral”

* Want to Read some more about this? Eric Suggests:

one I will point out is a magazine-size booklet published by the Progressive Jewish Alliance called “No Schvitz”– it’s a great primer on the history and current situation with sweatshops, with a focus on Jewish involvement (on all sides).

The trouble with Real Estate

As a gift over the holidays, Mindy and I received the book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad. It had been recommended to me before and I had browsed the first chapter but hadn’t picked it up.
I’m currently a good chunk of the way through it and it brought up an interesting financial issue that I have. In the book Robert Kiyosaki will give examples of was that he made money. The two primary ways have been small stocks and Real Estate. I’ve read my fair share of money making and finance books and a lot of them, as well as plenty of people say there is money to be made in Real Estate.
You look at the ideas, me being somewhat of an entrepuneur, and your mind start whirling through all the possiblities and the idea of being able to make a ton of money quite quickly through buying and selling real estate (I know some of you are surprised by me talking like this). When I think only about the financial side of the real estate business, it’s quite tempting to try and jump in. And that’s when I step back and think about some of the social implications.
I’ll start with a typical example. Pick up your average ‘Make millions in Real Estate’ book and one of it’s tips will be to go to the bankruptcy office, or look for foreclosure notices, those are places to get houses for dirt cheap. Never have I seen in ANY book or tape or information anything that addresses the needs or situation of the person that is bankrupt or foreclosing. If anything it might mention that they’ll be glad to have the money, but I highly doubt they are glad to lose their house. “Your misfortune is my fortune,” that’s basically what it is, and that just doesn’t sound right to me.
The other major problem with real estate that I see is the power it has to push people around, particularly poor people. Gentrification is somewhat of a buzzword, but it’s happening and it’s frustrating and sad. Pick any major city and what’s happening is people with low incomes, but people who had a stable home, are being pushed out of their residence and left to move somewhere else. Now that the city has become popular again, those with money are forcing (I’ll explain in another post) out those without money. This includes housing projects (Cabrini Green of Chicago is now condos). This troubles me.

I like the idea of buying a house some day. I like the idea of living in community with people in a place that we own. I worry that my purchasing and profiting will be at the expense of others. There is oppression in the way we do real estate and I want to have no part of it. I only hope I can find out a way that is possible.