exploitation

Thoughts on Holy Week: Identifying with Jesus and the Temple Cleansing

A child laborer. Image via gary yim/shutterstock.com

A child laborer. Image via gary yim/shutterstock.com

Among Christians who practice Lent, the Holy Week timeline is a time for reflection on the practices of Jesus in his last days prior to his death. Reflecting on Holy Week can be a spiritual practice to consider the place of those practices in our own lives. According to the Gospel of Mark, Jesus followed his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday by taking time on Monday during that week to publically drive out and speak against temple-based financial exploitation.

The cleansing of the Temple is documented in all four gospels. Three place it during Holy Week. Scholars have written that this event occurred in the area of the Temple known as “Solomon’s Porch,” which was open to Jewish and Gentile worshippers alike. It was a marketplace for the purchase of items needed for worship — pilgrims attending Passover celebration, unfamiliar with Jerusalem, may have purchased sacrificial animals at a higher price than elsewhere in the city. Poorer individuals, unable to afford a lamb, may have purchased overpriced sacrificial doves. Foreign currency, forbidden inside the Temple, could be exchanged, for a fee, for local currency to pay the annual Temple tax.

It has been argued that the High Priest may have received a percentage of the profit from the money changers and merchants, so their removal from the Temple would have caused a financial loss to those in power. It has been argued that the noisy marketplace atmosphere may have been disruptive to the atmosphere of worship. The text is unclear about the exact nature of the sin. However, it is clear that when Jesus saw the market, he became angry and turned over tables, driving out those exploiting the people and publicly calling them “robbers.”

Whatever the exact nature of the financial sin was that was occurring in the Temple at the time, the text in Mark suggests that after this act of clearing the Temple, those in power began to earnestly plot Jesus’ arrest and death. Jesus’ opposition to the money changers was directly related to his arrest and crucifixion later in the same week.

While I would like to identify with Jesus in this story, I realize I am more often in the position of the watching crowd. Or am I the merchant, lining my own pockets with the misfortune of others and making profits or receiving benefits from practices that exploit?

Help End Domestic Slavery, Ratify Convention 189

December 2012 global day of action for ratification of Convention 189, the first global standard to protect domestic workers

North America is home to an estimated 1.5 million trafficked persons alone. Many of these people are domestic workers—an industry with a growing worth of $8 billion in profits every year.

Many domestic workers in the United States are hard working people who enjoy their jobs and have fair working conditions. But the private and unregulated nature of the job does make these workers vulnerable to exploitation and sometimes a destination job for trafficked women.

This is the problem that authorities grapple with: how to regulate a global industry where workers are so open to exploitation and abuse.

Enter Convention 189—a document that creates international law preventing the trafficking and exploitation of domestic workers like Erwiana. This new international law deals with much of the complexity of the problem while still allowing domestic workers to earn a fair living and bargain for their conditions.

National governments have begun to sign on to Convention 189, but the U.S. and other larger countries are lagging behind in its support for tougher global protections for domestic workers.

For many, these new global protections can’t come fast enough. We know that the more countries like the U.S. sign onto Convention 189, the more robust the law will be and the better the protection for domestic workers.

Occasionally our governments need reminding that the plight of some of the most vulnerable must become a priority. Join me in calling on the United States to support global protections for domestic workers by ratifying Convention 189.

A Theology of Labor

Namning and Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock.com

Namning and Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock.com

A theology of labor involves Genesis 2:15 – “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.”

Labor is fundamentally a good thing and a theology of labor includes responsible stewardship of the earth’s resources. The first chapter of Genesis is obsessed with telling us that the world is good. As such, God calls us to labor for it, to responsibly keep and care for it.

Of course, labor often involves hard, back breaking work that doesn’t always feel good. Genesis 3 puts forth an explanation that God cursed the earth because of human sin, making labor much more difficult. Whatever we think about that explanation, the Bible is much more interested in a different curse when it comes to labor — how we humans curse one another.

Like everything in this good world, the goodness of labor can be exploited. The prime biblical example of this comes from Exodus, which describes how the Hebrews were exploited as slaves in Egypt.

They were forced to labor.

On Victoria's Secret: Speaking Up for Our Daughters

Preteen girls, Elena Elisseeva / Shutterstock.com

Preteen girls, Elena Elisseeva / Shutterstock.com

What has made this entire experience special is receiving emails from single dads telling me they are going to use the letter as a jumping off point to have a conversation with their teenage daughters. It’s great when a father can express his feelings and concern to his daughter about the way advertisers are targeting a younger demographic. Receiving millions of hits is great, but empowering a father, giving a voice to a dad who is trying to raise children in the 21st century makes it all worth it.

Through all of this I have been shocked and humbled.

I have been amazed of the outpouring of support for people from all walks of life. Numerous people have contacted me and simply say “thank you for standing up for our children.” One thing that I have learned through this is that we all have the ability to stand up for what we believe in. The problem that many people have expressed to me that they believed no one would listen.

We all have the potential to speak out for what we believe in and for what we want to stand for. While I might be one person, I sent a message; I spoke up for my daughter and every other young girl.

The power of the voice should not be underestimated even if you believe that you might be the only one speaking. Let us ban together to use our voice as a force of change and justice.

Bright Young Things?

Illustration by Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Illustration by Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Few companies are as economically successful from their distortion of the sacredness of feminine sexuality as Victoria’s Secret. This lingerie company is one of the most recognized brands in America. Their advertising campaigns are on most television stations, their stores in most malls, and their Christmas fashion show is heralded by some as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Victoria’s Secret’s models have become the American cultural archetype for feminine beauty and sexual objectification. Their semi-divine “Angels” campaign has partially nude models in high heels and wings stare longingly look into the audience speaking “tell me that you love me,” to the unknown viewer, distorting the image of adult female sexuality and love. 

While this campaign has been damaging enough to the sexual image of women, Victoria’a Secret has gone a step further. Earlier this year, Chief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer of Limited Brands, the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, announced a new marketing demographic: teenage and tween girls. Bugedoerfer stated about younger girls: “They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at Pink.”

This new “Bright Young Things” line is a corporate declaration that young girls should be sexualized for profit. This line of lingerie and undergarments includes underwear prominently labeled with the phrases  “Call Me,” “Wild,” and “Feeling Lucky.” This is not “magic.” This is note cute. I am not going to remain silent as Mr. Burgedoerfer, Limited Brands, and Victoria’s Secret exploit young women’s developing sexual nature for economic gain.

SBC's Richard Land Says Obama, Jackson, Sharpton 'Exploiting' Trayvon Martin's Death

Richard Land. Photo via Getty Images.

Richard Land. Photo via Getty Images.

A top Southern Baptist official has accused President Obama and black civil rights activists of using the Trayvon Martin shooting to foment racial strife and boost the president’s re-election chances.

“Rather than holding rallies on these issues, the civil rights leadership focuses on racially polarizing cases to generate media attention and to mobilize black voter turnout,” Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the denomination’s top public policy official, said on his radio program on Saturday (March 31).

“This is being done to try to gin up the black vote for an African-American president who is in deep, deep, deep trouble for re-election and who knows that he cannot win re-election without getting the 95 percent of blacks who voted for him in 2008 to come back out and show they are going to vote for him again.”

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