Responsively Yours: Call to Economic Justice
- Call to Economic Justice : Audio version (MP3, 4.4MB)
- Cover of Response, January 2009 (PDF, 590K)
- Content of Response, January 2009 (PDF, 105K)
- Harriett Jane Olson is deputy general secretary for the Women's Division.
We’ve just been in the season of the year when reruns of “It’s a Wonderful Life” air at odd times of the afternoon and evening. I wasn’t able to watch the entire film last year, but I happened upon fragments several different times. It was a little eerie. Actor Jimmy Stewart was addressing savings and lending. The angel character, Clarence, arranges for Mr. Stewart’s character to see his hometown, Bedford Falls, as it might have been without him — it becomes “Pottersville” in his vision — a town controlled by the local titan of industry.
Today I walked past the bank on the corner, which has changed its colors and its logo yet again. I drove past the stadium and I can’t even remember what to call it, as corporation after corporation invests amazing amounts of money in naming rights, only to experience financial reversals. Potter’s Stadium, anyone?
Neither you nor I may be in a position to fend off the acquisition of a small savings and loan by a larger commercial enterprise, but we might still contribute to the welfare of the people around us if we used the means at our disposal.
One response is the “fair trade” response. We can use our purchasing power to buy items produced in ways that provide fair remuneration for the persons involved in their production. Even though we individually feel pressed by the condition of the economy, we can think critically about where we shop and what we buy. The lowest consumer prices don’t necessarily match the sorts of working conditions that would make us comfortable. Driving to get the best discount doesn’t keep the town business flourishing and increases our carbon footprints, as well. These purchasing and shopping choices add up.
Another way we have personal influence is through our investments. What if all United Methodist Women members screened out investments in companies promoting tobacco or alcohol? Or, alternatively, what if we used our influence as shareholders to attend meetings and engage management in conversations about fair labor practices and preservation of health care coverage for retirees?
To increase our ability to use this leverage effectively, the Women’s Division is a member of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), www.iccr.org. As a member of ICCR, we have well prepared advocates who bring these causes into the board room. This work, of course, is designed to make our investments consistent with the United Methodist Social Principles and the actions of the Women’s Division.
You have ways in your church and community to use purchasing power and shareholder vote to live out the economic justice we desire. Many organizations have some sort of investments. Are the managers of the funds charged to follow the Social Principles in the stocks they choose? There are several state and national United Methodist Foundations you could consult if the members of your United Methodist Women unit do not have this expertise. All of our organizations (from soup kitchens to universities) have purchasing policies and practices that can incorporate principles of economic justice.
And, of course, we communicate our values and our commitments through government. We vote, we write letters, we participate in meetings with legislators and government officials.
John Wesley’s approach to issues like this in his day was deeply affected by his family’s experience while his father was imprisoned for failing to pay his debts, and by his contact with the poor — miners, industrial workers and children at work rather than at school. He spoke strongly about this from two angles:
• Giving and generosity being required of Christian people, and
• The need to reform structures to protect the poor.
Loving Jesus makes a difference in my life and it shows in the choices I make. As United Methodist Women members, we make choices together so that loving Jesus makes a difference in the world.
Harriett Jane Olson
Deputy General Secretary
Date posted : Feb. 19, 2009