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April 03, 2009

What would Jesus walk on?

Ecopalm_247 The green movement has hit the second greenest Christian celebration, Palm Sunday, when fronds of green palm branches are waved by children and adults in church services only a few months after all the Christmas (or Chrismon) trees were taken down. This year, in a move that might make the Sleeths happy, a number of churches have gone free-trade with their palm fronds. Spending a few more dollars, they are buying palm fronds through a university project that promises sustainable farming and fair wages.

Gina's post on the Sleeths' book has generated a lot of discussion about the green movement and how (or if) it should intersect with our faith. What do you all think? Is the idea of free trade palms one you'd like to see in your church?

(Image courtesy of UMCOR/Lutheran World Relief)

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Absolutely it's something I want to see in my church. The Bible specifically condemns those who cheat others. In my opinion the tendency of churches to seek out the cheapest deal often ends up cheating others out of the wages they deserve. We wouldn't lock a woman in a basement to make shirts for VBS -- so why would we buy products that might have been made with sweatshop or coercive labor? Why would we buy palm fronds that defraud people of a fair living if we wouldn't pay pittance wages if we ourselves were hiring the palm-gatherers?

Or would we?

In my opinion the church has an obligation and a duty to stand against all injustices... including invisible ones.


I don't think it's that simple. Though I don't in any way favor trade practices that take advantage of people, I keep thinking of what happens to those who depend on those "sweat shop" type jobs after we wealthy Americans start refusing to buy their products. They lose the only job they had and can no longer feed their families. Somehow I just can't see that as "fair trade." At least we can feel good about ourselves.


Kari wrote: "We wouldn't lock a woman in a basement to make shirts for VBS"

(chuckle) Well, my dear, now we know you weren't raised Baptist...


becky, the jobs people are doing at sweatshop wages already DO NOT provide for their families, unless you count malnutrition and dangerous living conditions "provision". I understand your concern but as long as we tell businesses they can use unfair labor practices to make a cheaper bottom line, they will continue to do so. My hope (and many people's hope) is that someday fair trade demand is so high that it becomes the norm, rather than the exception, of ethics in business. When companies see that reforming their act and paying their workers living wages and changing their working conditions means they actually make a higher profit and sell more goods, they will do so. Companies with unethical practices will go out of business and ones that have ethical practices will continue to expand and employ people gainfully. This requires consumers to make choices -- I'm personally willing to have less spending cash if it means I don't have to wonder about the human cost of my possessions.

Actually, LeeQuod, I WAS raised Baptist and my mother made the shirts for VBS one year... if I never see another iron-on transfer in my life it will be too soon. ;)

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