Battle of the Gods Over Gun Violence
A Steady Hand for Theological Schools
5 days ago
We are baptist followers of the Prince of Peace building community and spreading the gospel of peace and justice.
I am a regular Kroger shopper at the 1802 NorthPointe Dr. store in Durham, NC. I like your store brands and your selection of produce. I use the Kroger Plus card and tolerate the self-checkout system.
Twenty-four years ago when my first child was born, we spent the last few evenings waiting for the onset of labor by walking in the Kroger store near downtown Grand Prairie, Texas, including the night before he was born. So I am a fan of Kroger stores.
One of the favorite foods in our family is the tomato. At Kroger, I buy heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, tomatoes on the vine, locally grown tomatoes, and more. We keep them stocked for sandwiches, salads, and snacks.
As a Christian and a conscientious consumer, I want to be reassured that the workers who pick the tomatoes sold in your stores are paid fair wages and have decent working conditions. I therefore ask The Kroger Company to partner with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to guarantee that tomato growers are compensated and treated fairly.
I believe everyone is created in the image of God and deserves to be treated with dignity. Yet Florida's tomato pickers currently have to harvest more than 2.5 tons of tomatoes to earn minimum wage for a 10-hour workday. Some pickers have even been held in modern-day slavery rings. I encourage The Kroger Company to work with CIW in confronting and overcoming such horrible exploitation.
Getting this issue resolved to make life more just for tomato pickers has been slow. Targeting Mt. Olive Pickles to help the cucumber pickers was more focused. But tomatoes are not distributed with a national brand. Only the grocery stores and restaurants have the national influence that can change the way tomato pickers are treated.
I have so far participated in boycotts of Taco Bell, McDonald's, and Burger King in the process of getting them to insure that they buy tomatoes from sellers who have paid the pickers a fair wage. I have returned to each chain to buy food in response to their partnership with CIW.
I would rather not boycott Kroger, but this issue is very important to our family. I hate paying premium prices at Whole Foods for products that are not any better than those at Kroger, but I will do it. I hate shopping at the crowded, lower quality Food Lion stores, but I will do it if your much larger national chain will not do your part for the tomato pickers to have a better life.
Please don't make me do this. I know that you have worked with unions for workers in the past, and I hope you will recommit yourself to giving workers a voice and a chance.
Yum Brands, McDonald's, Burger King, Whole Foods, Subway, and Bon Appetit are already partnering with the CIW to improve wages and to uphold a code of conduct for fair working conditions, including zero tolerance for any form of modern slavery. I urge The Kroger Company to do the same.
With occasional discipline, I have been reading a few verses from Isaiah to start my workday, starting from the beginning of the book. I have been struck by the way that economic oppression was the key target of Isaiah's message.
Of course, I had seen this sort of theme in Isaiah before, especially from chapter 58. But through most of my life as a scripture reader, I was not inclined to notice the centrality of themes of economic justice. The stories in the narrative sections of the Old Testament, the Former Prophets, emphasize the temple worship and sins of idolatry, and few readers are skilled in linking prophetic texts to the quick summaries of history included in Samuel and Kings.
A careful reader might notice at times that the Former Prophets take a position against relying on violence for power and against abusing the common people. Yet even the stories of Solomon, Rehoboam, and Jeroboam tend to shift attention away from the rise of slave labor and princely wealth and toward the relation of the king to the temple.
Modern readers are not inclined to think of economic injustice when we think of idolatry. We are too schooled in the marketplace model of faith, wherein there is a competition for members among various enterprises hawking religion. In this model, we quantify success by numbers of converts added to lists, and we diminish the fruition of conversion in moral formation and community transformation.
But this look at Isaiah is reminding me that if we are true worshipers of the Lord, then we must learn to recognize the economic injustices that offend our God. Toward that purpose, let me make note of a few examples in my reading thus far. I make no claim to be comprehensive. In the coming days I will post comments on the following texts: Isaiah 1:12-18; Isaiah 2:7-9, 18, 20-21; Isaiah 3:12b-15; Isaiah 3:18-24; Isaiah 5:8-10; Isaiah 5:20-23; Isaiah 8:1-4; and Isaiah 10:1-2. All selections are from the NRSV.
What did you do for me when I was sick, grieving, buried under the rubble, naked, hungry?
Well, Lord, I condemned you in the national press, of course.