Consumer Ethics

Grace, Magic, and Hard Work

Beyond the typical objections that the Harry Potter books will turn children into Satan-worshipers and encourage them to disrespect authority, one mom complained that she found it inappropriate that at Hogwarts food magically appears on the table at mealtime. Her argument was that she wants her children to have a good work ethic and not to believe that anything in life is free. She wanted her girls to know that preparing meals is hard work and so would therefore be sheltering them from this absurd depiction of people getting something for nothing.

I think at the time I had to restrain myself from asking if she also banned her kids from hearing the story of the feeding on the 5,000 in Sunday school, but it was hard not to think about her objection a few months later as I read The Goblet of Fire and its subplot about house elves. As it revealed, food does not magically appear on the tables at Hogwarts, it is prepared by hardworking elves who in the wizarding world are generally kept as slaves.

Seven Ways Home

IN 1996, I co-founded a tutoring and mentoring ministry for low-income students in partnership with a church in Pasadena, California. My visits to student homes helped me recognize the problem that the high cost of housing posed for children’s long-term success. Without decent, affordable housing in good neighborhoods, multiple families were squeezed into tiny apartments concentrated in one part of town—a situation that could breed gangs, homelessness, crime, and soaring dropout rates. I began to ask myself what the church might be doing to find solutions to this complex issue.

Here are seven viable ways churches and other groups are responding to today’s housing crisis.

1. Financial literacy and foreclosure prevention. With thousands of homeowners losing their houses through foreclosure, one of the biggest priorities is figuring out how to keep folks in their homes. As Alan Mallach, author of A Decent Home, argued this summer in Shelterforce magazine, U.S. housing dollars should focus on helping families to stay in their homes by creating a robust support system to help homeowners with repairs, long-term home improvement planning, good mortgage products, ongoing counseling, and emergency assistance. Mallach also argued for providing more low-income rental units in high-demand cities such as Palo Alto, California, (but not in places like Las Vegas, where vacancy rates are high and rents are low).

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Celebrate 'Buy Nothing Day' with 'Make Something Day'

The day after Thanksgiving, thousands of Americans head for the shopping malls for a ritual known as Black Friday, called such as it's a day when many retailers move from the red (losses) into the black (gains).

Black Friday is "celebrated" nationwide by working off Thanksgiving's meal by shopping. Over a decade ago another celebration was started on the same day: Buy Nothing Day.