Globalization

Shopping for Justice

“Lord, to those who hunger, give bread. And to those who have bread, give the hunger for justice.”
—Latin American prayer

I love grocery shopping. The tidy rows of boxes and cans, the perfect mounds of fruit, the wheeling of carts, the checking of lists, the whoosh of the automatic mister that leaves the leafy greens sparkling. I even like the Muzak.

So last summer, to celebrate the grand opening of a Super Giant grocery store in Washington, D.C.’s Columbia Heights neighborhood, I walked five blocks to buy flour for my fiancé’s birthday cake. Behind the renovated Tivoli Square complex, which now houses the Sojourners office, I found a gala underway: red, white, and blue bunting, a live salsa band, and shoppers scrambling for the opening-day sales.

I was impressed by the row of gleaming registers (no more long lines at the dingy Safeway on Columbia Road), the piles of fresh produce (no more wilted lettuce from the tiny SuperSave on Mount Pleasant Street, though it did have homemade tamales and a cashier who knew my name), and an entire aisle of organic options (no more car trips to Glut food co-op in Mount Rainier, Maryland). Also, I’d heard talk in the neighborhood about all the new jobs, and sure enough, there was an army of green-aproned cashiers and stockers.

When we got married, Micah and I moved a mile northeast to the Petworth neighborhood, but we still bike over to the new Giant at least twice a week. So I was surprised last fall by a rambling road-trip conversation on the way home from my parents’ farm in Pennsylvania. The topic was guilt: Does it help or hurt? Should you ignore it or admit it? And what makes you guilty, anyway?

“Shopping at Giant,” I said suddenly. “I feel guilty about shopping at Giant.”

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Sojourners Magazine May 2006
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Peace Cops?

Three years ago the United States invaded Iraq and quickly toppled the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein. The Bush administration justified this act as part of the “war on terrorism,” claiming that the Iraqi government both conspired with al Qaeda, which had attacked the U.S. nearly two years earlier, and posed an imminent threat via weapons of mass destruction. To date, neither of these allegations has been sustained, and the real mastermind behind the terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden, remains at large.

In the aftermath of 9/11, a number of Christian peacemakers raised questions about the appropriateness of a “war” approach to dealing with terrorism. These concerns appear now to be spot-on. Of course, such criticisms of war can be expected from those Christians who seek to follow nonviolently the biblical call to work for justice and peace. But some prominent proponents of Christian nonviolence have considered supporting the specific alternative of a “police” approach to dealing with terrorists. As a Christian ethicist with previous experience in law enforcement, I find this curious—because little prior work has been done to explore what such a model might look like and entail, especially with regard to the use of force.

In the January-February 2002 issue of Sojourners, Jim Wallis labeled the terrorist attacks a “crime against humanity” rather than an act of war and suggested exploring a “global police,” rather than war, as a means of defending innocent lives and preventing future threats. Similarly, Christian theologian Stanley Hauerwas, in a November 2001 interview with Wallis, indicated that he “would certainly like to start envisioning the possibility of that kind of police force,” because such an operation would be a less violent option than war.

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Sojourners Magazine March 2006
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Globalization Must Mean Justice

2005 is a crucial,

2005 is a crucial, defining year; a year of challenge but also a year of opportunity. Five years before, in an historic declaration, every world leader, every major international body, almost every single country signed up to the historic shared task of meeting over 15 years eight Millennium Development Goals—an extraordinary plan to definitively right some of the great wrongs of our time. At the heart of which is a clear commitment to ensuring education for every child, the elimination of avoidable infant and maternal deaths, and the halving of poverty.

Next year is the date that the first target comes due. We know already that the 2005 target that ensures for girls the same opportunities in primary and secondary education as boys is going to be missed. Not only are the vast majority—60 percent of developing countries—unlikely to meet the target but most of these are, on present trends, unlikely to achieve this gender equality for girls even by 2015. This is not good enough; this is not the promise that we made.

At the current rate of progress more than 70 countries will fail to achieve universal primary education by our target date, and in sub-Saharan Africa we will not achieve what we committed to by 2015 until at the earliest 2129. This is not good enough; the promise we made was for 2015, not 2129.

Because inexpensive cures are not funded, 2 million die unnecessarily each year from tuberculosis, 1 million die painfully from malaria—curable diseases—40 million are suffering from HIV/AIDS, and, tragically, on current forecasts sub-Saharan Africa will achieve our target for reducing child mortality not by 2015 but by 2165. This is not good enough; the promise we made was for 2015, not 2165.

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Sojourners Magazine July 2004
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Pray Globally, Act Locally

Feature - Vinoth

Neither technology nor global capitalism is the world’s savior. It is only God in Christ who is the redeemer of the world.

This redemption was prefigured and typified in the liberation of ancient Israel from slavery in Egypt and their settlement in the land of promise. The covenant law enshrines strict controls on economic debt, rates of interest, and the measures creditors can take to recover their loans (Deuteronomy 15:1-10; 24:6-22). In the Jubilee legislation of Leviticus 25, after every seven sabbatical years all slaves were to be released, the debts of the poor cancelled, and the land left fallow and returned to the original distribution among families and clans.

It is surely significant that the Levitical Jubilee was to be proclaimed in Israel on the Day of Atonement. Forgiveness for the nation implied not only her restoration to covenant relationship with God but also the restoration to the community of all who had been estranged. The righting of relationships in the whole community was inseparable from the experience of forgiveness from God.

Sensitivity to the burden of debt no doubt reflected the experience of Israel as a people in Egypt prior to their liberation by Yahweh. In a time of severe famine, all those living in Egypt came to Joseph, saying: "Buy us and our land in exchange for food, and we with our land will be in bondage to Pharaoh" (Genesis 47:18-19). Debt enslaves, and the enslavement is bequeathed to future generations.

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Sojourners Magazine May 2004
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Worldwide, Inc.

Globalization, like every other historical process in a fallen world, shares in both the goodness of human creation and the distortion of creation by sin and evil. Its benefits and threats are equally real and are intertwined in a complex variety of ways. For every benevolent aspect of globalization, there is a malevolent side that threatens to overwhelm the good. It is thus a Janus-faced entity, a paradoxical phenomenon that reflects the paradoxical nature of the human condition.

In the utopian vision of globalization, transnational corporations are led by rootless investors who can move freely and effortlessly around the world to maximize their profits. Kenichi Ohmae, an oft-quoted advocate of this view, writes, "in a borderless economy, the nation-focused maps we typically use to make sense of economic activity are woefully misleading. We must...face up at last to the awkward and uncomfortable truth: The old cartography no longer works. It has become no more than an illusion."

Similarly Robert Reich, Clinton's former labor secretary, wrote of the "coming irrelevance of corporate nationality" and counseled that "as corporations of all nations are transformed into global webs, the important question - from the standpoint of national wealth - is not which citizen owns what, but which citizens learn how to do what, so that they are capable of adding more value to the world economy and therefore increasing their own potential worth."

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Sojourners Magazine April 2004
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False Gods and the Power of Love

When Walter Wink was writing Engaging the Powers, the practical magnum opus of his book series on the biblical concept of principalities and powers, he stumbled over economics. One long chapter turned into two and then was withdrawn altogether over doubts that he'd sufficiently treated the mushrooming complexity of the commercial powers. Ironically, nowhere is the "domination system" that Wink identified in his series more prominent or pertinent than in corporate globalization.

Globalization, broadly, is a moving theological target: a historic configuration of economic, technological, political, corporate, ideological, cultural, even religious powers in processes of competition and collusion, whose outcome is far from certain. "And don't speak too soon," Bob Dylan once sang, "for the wheel's still in spin." Still, we best look this thing biblically and theologically in the face.

To the bewilderment of our churches and communities, urban neighborhoods are being altered beneath our feet—by globalization, above all by its corporate form. Family farms, campos, and swaths of countryside are being seized and decimated. Local cultures and political economies are being strip-mined, pre-empted, or in some cases flat-out destroyed. Creation is being assaulted and despoiled. Even the terrorism that so exercises the American consciousness is a fact of globalization. Its emblem, the 9-11 tower collapse, was reputedly set in motion by an expansive religious and ideological network that turned the vehicles of global transport against the central symbols of worldwide economic and military power.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 2003
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Devastating Effects

Thank you for publishing Richard Parker's "From Conquistadors to Corporations" (May-June 2002). It is the finest piece I have read on the roots of the growing inequality among the world's nations. As a student of the effects of the Cold War on developing nations and author of articles on East Timor, Zaire and Angola, Mozambique, and Cuba, I especially appreciated Parker's inclusion of U.S. responsibility for the devastating effects on so many poor countries. Parker's contribution is just one more reason why I have found Sojourners among my most important reading for the past 25 years.

Warren R. Van Tongeren
Jenison, Michigan

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2002
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Swinging Back

Kadd Stephens, 24, longs for "a world free from violence." An anarchist from Washington, D.C., Stephens numbers himself among an increasingly visible group of anti-corporate-globalization activists whose dreams of world peace coexist—critics say illogically—with strategies of violent resistance.

The upswing of anarchist sentiment within the anti-corporate-globalization movement has nonviolent religious activists uneasy. While supporting the aims of the movement—whose concerns range from animal rights to corporate reform and environmentally responsible trade—persons of faith are questioning the assumption of the new anarchists that peaceful ends justify violent means. Some feel the movement has been "hijacked by street tactics," says Robert Collier, who has covered international trade policy for the San Francisco Chronicle.

In criticizing violent activists, however, religious and other nonviolent protesters are coming under fire for their refusal to welcome a "diversity of tactics." Many perceive themselves in a no-win situation. If they embrace the anti-corporate-globalization movement without qualifiers, they compromise their nonviolent commitments; but if they take a stand against violent protests, they risk splintering a transnational coalition for economic, social, and environmental justice.

In response to this dilemma, some nonviolent activists are taking a closer look at the militant new face of activism, hoping to educate themselves and the public about the costs of a pro-violence stance. What motivates some anarchists' rejection of nonviolence in favor of what critics see as little more than random acts of vandalism?

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2002
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Globalization and the Social Gospel

Many thanks for Richard Parker's insightful telling of the story of globalization, "From Conquistadors to Corporations" (May-June 2002). His broadly historical perspective on our present situation is much needed.

I was troubled, however, to read that the story ends with a call to return to the Social Gospel era in which great "confidence" led Americans to associate "Christian moral teachings with scientific advance and social and political reform." In the wake of Thomas Kuhn et al., I would have hoped that the "confidence" that associates scientific progress with Christian ethics could be recognized as the hubris that it is. Let us look to 33 A.D. and boldly confess Jesus' way of humility that ushered in the only true political reform that this world has ever known—the Kingdom of God among us. As we look ahead, we ought to carefully consider how the Kingdom is manifested through our life together as resident aliens in the kingdoms of this world.

Jonathan Hartgrove
St. Davids, Pennsylvania

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2002
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White Overalls, Black Blocs

Anarchism: A political theory holding all forms of governmental authority to be unnecessary and undesirable and advocating a society based on voluntary cooperation and free association of individuals and groups.

Black Bloc: A collection of anarchists that organize together for a particular protest action. Their goals are to give an anarchist critique of issues and to provide solidarity in the face of what they consider repressive police action. Black is the color of anarchism.

White Overalls: A movement of disenfranchised European youth organized against the economics of neo-liberalism. They wear white overalls as a symbol of the invisibility of most of the world's work force and other protective apparel, like foam rubber armor, to ward off police batons.

Battle for Seattle: The first modern major American protest against the effects of economic policies of the non-democratic World Trade Organization. More than 50,000 people took to the streets of Seattle in November 1999 to oppose the WTO. While predominantly peaceful, violence broke out as anarchist groups destroyed storefront property and clashed with police.

Anti-Corporate-Globalization Movement: An international movement against international trade and development that benefits corporations and leaves the world's poor at a worsening economic disadvantage. The movement's primary targets are the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2002
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