Monday, September 17, 2012

Social Justice and Consumerism

One of the problems with consumerism is we often don't see the stories behind the products that we buy. And with more and more of our products made and sold by multi-national corporations, with much of their manufacturing taking place offshore, those behind-the-scenes stories are becoming less and less visible.

Yet those stories are important. And this year's Social Justice Sunday, taking place on 30 September with the theme Peace in the Marketplace, reminds us that consumerism often contributes to injustices, inequities and suffering.

We need to be reminded of the harsh and unfair conditions that people in Third World countries work under in order to produce our goods. We need to consider the impact that our purchases are having on the environment. And we need to reflect on what consumerism is doing to ourselves, not just in terms of employment practices that maximise profit and leave employees worse off, but also in terms of seeing life through a framework that values individuals over relationships and community, that leaves people feel worthless because they do not earn enough money or own the right things and that leaves almost all of us in a constant state of dissatisfaction because the advertisers keep persuading us there is something else we need to be happy.

Social Justice Sunday also reminds us that, while many people in our society see economic growth and consumerism as desirable, that is not the only possible view. Considering the negative impacts economic growth has on the environment, on people and on communities, maybe it is time we looked for a new over-arching framework, a new way of living in and seeing the world.

The Church must be a prophetic voice in this consumeristic, growth-driven culture. It must be prepared to show how our economic structures are damaging the earth and hurting people. It must be prepared to say there are more important things than profit, growth, money and purchases. It must be prepared to challenge the power of corporations and the way they conduct business. And it must show the world a different way, a way that values relationships, communities, peace and wellbeing, a way that puts people before profits, the earth before purchases.

The bible shows us that God cares about unfair economic structures. Therefore, Christians should care about them too. It is not an excuse to say we didn't know. We must make it our business to know. And if we really do care about seeing God's will done on earth, then once we know, we must do something about it.

The National Council of Churches in Australia has a pamphlet and worship resources on its website ( for Peace in the Marketplace, Social Justice Sunday, 30 September. This wonderful prayer, based on the Beatitudes, comes from those resources.

‘Blessed are you who are poor,
      for yours is the kingdom of God.’

God of the poor,
We hear your voice calling us to the reality of life in our land, in the country and in our cities.
The goodness of your creation has been twisted out of shape by the greed of people.
The land lifts up its voice in mourning, and the poor of the land cry out for justice.
Help us live out your just kingdom here in this part of the earth.

‘Blessed are you who are hungry now,
     for you will be filled.’

God of the hungry,
Our indigenous brothers and sisters still struggle with worse health
and lower life expectancy than the rest of our population;
asylum seekers still wait months and years for settlement in safety;
the elderly, ill and unemployed struggle to live on pensions.
Help us know how to share our resources wisely and generously
so that all may be filled.

‘Blessed are you who weep now,
      for you will laugh.’

God of the desolate,
Young girls are exploited to sell fashion clothes,
while women slave in sweat shops for minimum wages.
Men work long hours at dangerous jobs
and young people turn to drugs and alcohol to cover their hopelessness.
We in the developed world enjoy our luxuries
at the expense of those who struggle to make a living growing them.
Help us protect the humanity of those who produce the goods we use.

‘Blessed are you when people hate you,
     and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you.’

God of the marginal,
Governments appear to favour those with economic power,
instead of investing in education;
megastores drive small businesses to the wall;
people deafened by the strident call to consume
fail to hear the whispers of the homeless and hungry.
Help us to speak fearlessly for those with no voices,
and to remember that your grace is abundant enough for all to share.

‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy,
     for surely your reward is great in heaven.’

God of joy,
We pray that we who follow the way of Christ might live by your grace,
modelling care and integrity in our business transactions,
courage and hope in our politics,
and love and reconciliation in our relationships.

May our lives be evidenced by generosity,
daring to live in hope,
that our life together might point beyond ourselves
to the One in whose image we are made.
In the name of Jesus Christ, who showed us how to live. 

Acknowledgement: These worship resources have been compiled by Rev Dr Meryl Blair for use with the Social Justice Sunday 2012 resource Peace in the Marketplace.

1 comment:

  1. This is my favorite line(s):

    It is not an excuse to say we didn't know. We must make it our business to know.

    That applies across the board.



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