In our small group, we’ve been doing 2 Kings and this week was the story of Jehu. He’s a pretty interesting guy, complete with maniacal driving skills (see 9:20) but what’s clear is how zealous he is for God. He’s the instrument through which God fulfills Elijah’s prophecy that Ahab’s family will be destroyed. He finishes off the wicked queen Jezebel and he ruthlessly rids Israel of the prophets of Baal. So he looks pretty good. Except for one thing: even though he destroys Baal worship, he leaves Jeroboam’s golden calves. For a guy who has so single-mindedly pursued God’s ways, it seems out of character. He hatched an elaborate plot to get rid of Baal, so why does he stop there?
One of the suggestions our group came up with was that the golden calves had been around for generations by the time you get to Jehu, entrenched in that culture, part of the furniture, if you like. It may be that Jehu doesn’t do anything about them because he doesn’t even see them as a problem: they’re a massive blind spot.
That got us asking about our blind spots. I was saying how shocked I was when I discovered the conditions behind diamond mining. I never would have got a diamond in my engagement ring had I known! And my ignorance is not an excuse! Similarly, we decreased out meat consumption after we heard that (to grossly simplify) it contributes to the Middle East food crisis. We’ve also switched to fair trade chocolate. But what about other products?
My friend Stacey showed me her copy of the guide to ethical supermarket shopping. I’d seen it before but always been completely overwhelmed, so I hadn’t used it. However, she had it in a handy-dandy little booklet that was much more accessible. I knew about Nestle and Arthur already hates Unilever’s advertising (e.g. Lynx – but they also own Dove!) but new to me were the unethical actions of Johnson & Johnson, ALDI, 3M strips and Sara Lee, to name a few. The good thing about the guide is that it doesn’t just tell you who to boycott (at first it seems like everyone!) but also who meets certain ethical standards.
I’m feeling a bit nervous about using it, to tell the truth.
- Firstly, the more ethical companies tend to be the more expensive ones and, living off Centrelink, I feel like we don’t have money to waste! And yet, the fact that I can even consider what sort of chocolate I’ll buy probably testifies otherwise.
- Second, I feel like I don’t heaps understand a lot of the issues or economics in play. I don’t want to be a well-meaning-but-still-totally-destructive westerner, though that’s probably inevitable.
- Third, I don’t want to become a holier-than-thou crusader whose legalism makes her irrelevant.
- Fourth, I feel like it’s just a very small step. I haven’t got so far as getting a ceres box or joining the local co-op.
But I’m also horrified by the idea I might be like Jehu: zealous for God in a few ways but with huge blind spots. And yet, systemic sin means that my shopping contributes to irresponsible stewardship of the earth, oppression of the poor or contribution to military regimes, whether I know it or not. So I think I’ll change my supermarket shopping from going for the cheapest products and check with the ethical supermarket guide first.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.