Oppressing the Oppressed

I just wrote a lengthy blog about the need to end modern-day slavery and how I’ve recently been convicted about how I am the one oppressing the oppressed…..when I accidentally closed the tab I was working on and lost it all.

So this is my re-write, which won’t possibly have as much passion as the first. Just trust me, I was passionate.

This past Sunday as we are working our way through Ecclesiastes, we came across this passage:

Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun.
(Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 ESV)

I’m not sure what he said exactly that hit me but at some point he called us all out for pretending not to know that we are perpetuating modern day slavery and doing nothing about it, claiming not to know about it.

At least for me, that’s true.

I will google any and every fact mid-conversation (was Cameron Diaz really pregnant during the filming of What to Expect When You’re Expecting?) but I act like there is no way I can know if the products I am using were made in sweat shops or with slave labor. The truth is, I don’t want to know. I don’t want to give up my precious gadgets and clothes and cosmetics. So I turn a blind eye and look away.

First, I know modern-day slavery and sex trafficking is trendy to talk about right now. I’m well aware I’m jumping on a band wagon, but honestly it’s one I should have jumped on a long time ago. It’s a trend in our culture that reflects the heart of God, His unique care for the needy, the oppressed, and the least and one that values and gives dignity to human life, which I wholeheartedly affirm because they have been created in the image of God. And by God’s grace, it’s gotten my attention.

And for those of you who are worried about me going down the social gospel route, don’t worry. I’m not.

So today, I went to the IJM (International Justice Mission) website to see what I could do. I got more than I bargained for. You see,  I’m all for justice and fighting injustice. I voted yes on Prop 35 in the election a few weeks ago, I’ve written a letter to supermarket CEOs asking them to only sell slave-free tomatoes, I’ve written my senators asking them to support anti-slavery bills, but none of those things cost me anything. They were easy to do and I was glad to join in the fight to end slavery, so long as I didn’t have to actually sacrifice. That sentence makes me wince to look at, but it’s true.

So when I went to the IJM website today and found a link that said “Find Out How Many Slaves Work For You” I took the test. What I found out is there are 40 slaves working for me so I can live the way I want to. One of the biggest ways I oppress the oppressed? My cosmetics. Now I’m not sure what this will mean for me in the future and I’m just beginning to think through this, but I started doing some research on what I can do to stop supporting slavery, to stop causing it, to stop enslaving people for my own selfish gain.

Here’s what I found:

  1. Fair Trade USA is a website that has a list of partners that you can search by category and find what companies are certified Fair Trade.
  2. I researched some of my favorite companies (particularly for cosmetics, like Bare Escentuals) to see if they are Fair Trade. They are not. So you can go to this website, Chain Store Reactionand search for your favorite companies and send them a letter asking that they join the fight to eradicate slavery and human trafficking. There are a number of companies who have responded to these letters and instituted changes and commitments to end slavery (including Michael Kors! That’s a win for everybody).
  3. I also researched similar brands that are Fair Trade. While Bare Escentuals does not have any Fair Trade products, The Body Shop, Aveda,  Avon and Nu Skin all do. I’ll be switching my cosmetics and toiletries lines.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten. I started researching Fair Trade cell phones, although it looks like there is no way to get an entirely slave free cell phone so far. But that’s where our responsibility to speak up as consumers comes in.

I know usually I would read a post like this and think, “Oh get off your high horse, that stuff is expensive and I can’t afford it.” You’re right. I’m on a high horse right now. I’m trusting that Christ has forgiven my callousness and cold heartedness, my oppression of others and enslavement to my desires, but at the same time I want to follow Him and live out the Gospel in as many ways in my life as I can this side of heaven. To fight for the good of others and show them honor at my expense, well that’s the very heart of the gospel right there. And that stuff is expensive, but I can buy less of it. I will have to. But like anything else, tithing, giving to those in need, even saving for retirement, you’ve got to make it a non-negotiable in your budget, adjust accordingly, and trust God to provide.