Monday, August 28, 2006

Where Would Jesus Shop?

It just so happens that I got into a conversation about Wal-Mart this very weekend with some of my oldest and best friends, and it just so happens that there's a raging conversation going on about it at Making Chutney:

I want to stay away from Wal-Mart, but I find it creeping insidiously into my life. I'll go in for kitty litter and come out with curtains, toiletries, DVDs, six cute plastic bowls, and a Tinkerbell t-shirt.


Blogger Mystical Seeker said...

I suppose it is always presumptuous to speak for Jesus when he is dead and can't speak for himself, and what we say that Jesus "would" do is really a reflection of our own values.

My view is to suggest that Jesus spoke out on behalf of the poor and oppressed in his society and resisted what Marcus Borg calls the "domination system" of his time--the oppression of the peasant economy and the repression of the Roman Empire. Since Wal-Mart is one of the most egregious offenders in the prevailing corporate culture of American capitalism, my guess is that he would not one to shop there. In any case, I refuse to shop there myself. :)

Blogger ogre said...

I won't go there. At all. For anything.

I'm trying to teach my kids something of moral values--and consistent values. Shopping at Wal-Mart would violate what I've told them.

Kitty litter? There's just nothing that Wal-Mart carries that I can't find elsewhere. So it costs a little more--maybe (the cheapness of Wal-Mart is more fiction than truth). But even if it does... there's a hideous cost to the community in shipping money into the black hole Wal-Mart represents.

Blogger Chalicechick said...

My guess is Jesus would live in an inner city among the poor.

If the weathly members of the city council decided to appeal to voters by not letting Walmarts move in (the decision of DC, Chicago and many other places,) Jesus wouldn't be able to shop at Walmart.

Other chains don't want their stores broken into and typically won't move into the inner city. Thus Jesus would largely shop at convenience stores that were REALLY screwing the poor, not in some systemic way, but just by charging a dollar a peice for fresh fruit and convenience store prices for everything. And they sell little flowers in test tubes of water, test tubes that can easily be converted into a crack pipe.

Now Jesus, one assumes, only has to pay convenience store prices for one loaf and one fish and he's good.

For the rest of the poor, I don't think Walmart is that bad an alternative.


Blogger Bill Baar said...

My view is to suggest that Jesus spoke out on behalf of the poor and oppressed in his society and resisted what Marcus Borg calls the "domination system" of his time--the oppression of the peasant economy and the repression of the Roman Empire.

He fumbled on slavery for sure. I don't think he boycotted slave made products.

He had no problem using the Roman roads and didn't boycott them either.

I think he would have shopped Walmart.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

So ya'll think Jesus would shop at all?
I guess he probably wouldn't be able to avoid it, but I always picture him as one of those back-to-the-land guys, growing everything he ate and wearing homespun garments. I figure he would walk or bike around (on a donated bike) and eat what was given him, or not at all. And sleep wherever he was invited to lay his head.

Do you think he would even possess money? Certainly not a bank account.

One of the things I tell myself frequently is that true Christians don't have bank accounts, and CERTAINLY not savings accounts! Which is why I think there's maybe like a dozen true Christians in the world today, and most of them are probably Hindu or Jainist or something.

Blogger boyinthebands said...

I've think we've seen to what lengths WWJD thinking can sideline or distort how we ought to live, and particularly live in Christian faith. I know I shall die one day, and perhaps even in a sacrificial act, but I have no pretense that this will save the world. Some things that Jesus did are non-transferable. I would rather ask, "What would Dorcas Do?" At least she needed to get stuff.

That said, I also hate Wal-Mart. Apart from their labor record, and how their practices evicerate small business and US manufacture, the experience was always jarring and the Wal-Mart aesthetic is ugly. The place is an engine for unnecessary consumption, as I well remember when I was broke. Today, I choose not to shop there -- and am still able to manage on a budget, and in the city (though Anacostia is another matter here in DC) -- but once in place in too many communities, people don't have a choice not to shop there because all the other business is dead. And since fair is fair, I'm don't like Home Depot either. I will go into a Target with Hubby, but the only thing I seem to get there -- over the last three trips -- is ibuprofen, taken on site. (Bad knees, you know. I forget to carry some.)

Blogger Mystical Seeker said...

I figure he would walk or bike around (on a donated bike) and eat what was given him, or not at all. And sleep wherever he was invited to lay his head.

Do you think he would even possess money? Certainly not a bank account.

Excellent points. That is exactly what Dominic Crossan essentially said in his book "Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography". Crossan argues that not just Jesus, but his followers, probably did not carry money, they lived itinerant lives, practiced what Crossan calls "open commensality". Again, this was all part of his nonviolent resistence to the political and economic oppression of the time. Wal-Mart is certainly one of the most evil examples of what is wrong with our economic system, and the most obvious and egregious offender in the modern-day domination system, but in a sense it is worth considering that Wal-Mart is just a symptom of a deeper problem. My guess is that Jesus, ever the radical, would certainly have responded to Wal-Mart in a radical way, and probably would have nonviolently resisted not just Wal-Mart everything that it epitomizes in modern society.

Blogger Bill Baar said...

WWJD has never had much appeal for me...

I think it's because I'm with C.S.Lewis's Liar, Lunatic, or Lord understanding of him.

I did listen to these folks on Moody Bible Radio..

I'd rather have Jesus mean and wild then a variation on Mr. Rogers or anti-Walmart activist.

Blogger Paul Wilczynski said...

I totally understand and empathize with those who won't shop at Wal-Mart for various ethical reasons.

The only problem I have with the anti-Wal-Mart "movement" is that the store allows those with lower incomes (and everyone else, for that matter) to get much more value for the dollars they have. Isn't that a Good Thing? Would the poor be better off if they had to pay higher prices?

No matter how we feel about them for other reasons, we can't forget that.

Blogger Mystical Seeker said...

Wal-Mart is hardly the only corporate abuser out there. I think that liberals tend to focus on Wal-Mart at the expense of a more critical analysis of our entire economic and political system. Would Jesus, the radical opponent of the domination system of his day, be parroting the talking points of modern-day big businesses like Wal-Mart, or the ideology of the rich and powerful in general? I doubt it. Would Jesus say it is okay for a company to oppress its workers in the fashion that Wal-Mart does in order to offer lower prices, or would he instead ask the question of what is wrong with a societal framework that even proposes such a Faustian bargain? But what is it about our market-driven and profit-driven economic system that makes it possible for a company like Wal-Mart to succeed at what it does? That is the bigger question, in my view.

Scholars like Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg have argued that Jesus was a champion of social justice in his day, and that he challenged the society he lived in at the most fundamental level. Jesus was no Mr. Rogers--he was a radical and a troublemaker, and he got executed by the governing empire of his day. We now live in a new Empire, which uses its powerful military muscle to engage in aggressive and bloody adventures, much as the Empire in Jesus's day did. And we live in an Empire which is tightly coupled with the interests of powerful economic forces, just as it was in Jesus's day. Wal-Mart simply represents the tip of the iceberg of the modern domination system.

In my view, religion needs to be coupled with a demand for social justice. This was part of the religious tradition that Jesus inherited--the great Jewish prophets cried out for social justice (Isaiah, Amos, and others.) Jesus followed in that tradition. A religion that does not seek social justice is, in my view, a hollow faith.

Blogger SC Universalist said...

I always figured that Jesus would live on donations - and wouldnt shop himself. I dunno what Jesus would say about Wal-mart, but I suspect something more along the lines of what was said about Caesar's money. I agree that I doubt Jesus would have much to do with our culture of conspicous consumption.

Steven R (currently consuming way too many 1800s books -and who is looking forward to the Jubilee when all debts are forgiven)

Blogger Chelle said...


I shop at Wal-Mart and I am not ashamed that I do. For some things, Wal-Mart is the only place in town. And I'm not talking about basic stuff that can be found in other places.

But as the number of specialty shops (i.e. fabric and craft stores) goes down and the closest one to you is miles and miles away, Wal-Mart has become a way for those of us who want to continue our specialty passions to not spend all our money driving to the those specialty stores or paying out of the wazoo in shipping costs. I sew and crochet and can give you stories about trying to find a particular yarn or something for an outfit I'm trying to make.

I hope Jesus would understand. In fact I think he would. If he could understand what the woman at the well had gone, and was still going, through, he gets me too.


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