Friday, December 25, 2009

What Would Jesus Buy?

movie poster, What Would Jesus Buy?

When Reverend Billy tells us to "stop shopping," he's just trying to get our attention; he really wants to be more conscious about our shopping.

Having just watched his movie, What Would Jesus Buy, I can't really recommend it - even though I'm all in favor of his general message. But there were certainly some memorable portions.

You can hear the Stop Shopping Gospel Choir going caroling - singing this to the tune of Joy to the World:
All boys and girls!
The time has come!
Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice!
Don't let the chain stores fool you,
We've come around to school you.
You don't need all that junk.
You don't need all that junk.
We don't, we don't need so much junk.
You can also see Billy buying a sweater - made in America - from a small independent store that's lost a lot of customers to Wal-Mart.

And you can hear Charles Kernaghan, director of the National Labor Committee, say:
How do workers live in Bangladesh, who are making Wal-Mart shirts - and they're getting paid 13 cents to 17 cents and hour? Well, those workers live in utter misery. Those wages translate into not being able to brush your teeth. They get up in the morning and brush their teeth with their finger, using ashes from the fire, because they can't afford a toothbrush.

And there's a certain decency to the American people. When they stand face to face with a 13-year-old kid and that kid tells them she works seven days a week, and every other day they're working until 3 a.m. - they keep them on a 19 1/2 hour shift - she got 7 cents an hour to sew clothing for Wal-Mart. And when we were walking away from her she just blurted out "I feel like I'm dying - I'm so sick and exhausted."
What Reverend Billy is really trying to do is educate us to make better shopping choices - in how much we buy, and what we buy, and where we buy it. (See the resource guide on the What Would Jesus Buy web site.) Maybe we can all be better consumers in the coming year. That would make Reverend Billy very happy.

[Thanks to The Thoughtful Consumer for getting me to finally see this movie - which I borrowed from my local library system. No need to buy it!]


Cynthia Friedlob said...

Glad you saw the movie! I agree that it won't knock Citizen Kane off any lists of "best films," but it is a spirited little documentary and Reverend Billy is quite a character. Very cool that you were able to find it at your library.

Tamar Hammer said...

Interesting post! I'll go search for the movie in our LOCAL library.

You might find these movies interesting (I enjoyed them):

American Dreamz
Fast Food Nation

Anonymous said...

What a stupid quote. Why do workers in Bangladesh work for 13, 17 cents an hour? BECAUSE IT'S MORE THAN THEY MAKE DOING ANYTHING ELSE. Foreign jobs don't "exploit" them--they drastically improve their lives. Children work because otherwise their families would starve. And families move to the cities to work in the factories because...(drumroll, please)...the opportunities are much better than in the countryside. Want to make a difference? The buy MORE foreign-made goods and donate to educational charities. Infrastructure, trade, and education are the only way for working conditions to improve.

And, really, do you believe an anti-globalism, pro-organized labor shill when he earnestly assures you how miserable these people are? Why not try talking to more impartial observers and travelers?

Cynthia Friedlob said...

Anonymous makes an interesting point that pennies earned in exploitative labor situations are often seen as better than nothing by the impoverished workers of some countries. I mentioned this issue in a blog post a couple of years ago. You can read it here:
Connections: Fair Trade Jewelry

I don't agree that buying more foreign-made goods is the best way to help improve working conditions in other countries because any additional profit would probably end up in the pockets of other people higher on the "chain of command" (and doesn't Wal-Mart make huge profits already?). I do believe that donating to appropriate charities would make a difference.

Also, I'm not inclined to see Reverend Billy as "an anti-globalism, pro-organized labor shill." Rather, I think he's just a man who's appalled by the excesses of our consumer culture and he's trying to make decisions that make sense to him. For all we know, he donates to the very charities we support, too.

It's a complicated issue that can't be dismissed easily.

Jeri Dansky said...

Cynthia, I agree - it's a complicated issue. And we may not all agree on what the best purchasing choices are.

[And I believe Anonymous may have been referring to Charles Kernaghan as the "anti-globalism, pro-organized labor shill" rather than Reverend Billy.]

Tamar, if you see WWJB, I'd love to see another comment with your reactions!

Cynthia Friedlob said...

Oh, of course, you're right. I just re-read your post and see that Charles Kernaghan's quote was the target of the complaint in the comment by Anonymous. Ah, this is the danger of a too-hasty response: misinterpretation. Thanks for clarifying.