Tag Archives: fair trade

Five Reasons I celebrate Halloween

trick or treat jesus

Jesus doesn’t want pencils or Smarties either.

1. It is fun. Candy. Decorations. Costumes.  What’s not to love?   Why do we search for eggs on Easter?  Why do we watch fireworks on the Fourth of July?  Why do we hang stockings on Christmas?  It’s fun.  It is a day to celebrate with friends, family, and neighbors.  Kids love to play pretend.  They love to dress up as superheroes, cartoon characters, magical creatures, and yes – even monsters.  Today I picked up my daughter from school, and you know what I saw?  Elsas.  So many Elsas.  And storm troopers, clowns, ninjas, jesters, Harry Potters, minecraft guys, princesses, and batmen.  More than this though, I saw smiles.  I saw kids running and playing and laughing.  I saw Dads holding little hands, asking “did you have fun?” and an exuberant, “Yes” in response.  I saw teachers giving hugs and kids sharing candy.  Halloween is fun, and in a world that is full of plenty of real-life monsters, a little bit of fun is a good thing.

2. It builds community. On my block, Halloween is a great community building experience.  All the families come out and enjoy the evening together.  We bring food.  We have bonfires.  The kids play, the adults talk.  We get to know each other.  The neighborhood I live in now is the first place I’ve lived since where I grew up that I know the names of everyone on my block.  A big reason for that is that the neighborhood embraces Halloween.

Secret Reason #6 - Strangely warmed pumpkins. I carved this bad boy by hand at youth group.

Secret Reason #6 – Strangely warmed pumpkins. I carved this bad boy by hand at youth group.

3. It is a chance to mock death and evil, not celebrate it.  OK, so now I’ll get a little deeper. At every graveside service I have ever officiated, I have read these words, “Death has been swallowed up in victory.  Where, o death, is your victory? Where, o death, is your sting? But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  I could make the argument that Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve, is an important Christian holiday.  It comes on the eve of winter, when death is impending.  Yet it is only through this death that we have a harvest.  It is “when a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  Death is something that is universally feared.  Halloween is a chance to look straight into that death and laugh.  It is on the brink of death, just as we enter the valley, that we can stand in the assurance that we shall fear no evil.

4. Reverse Trick or Treating. In years past, we have used Halloween as a chance to raise awareness about fair trade chocolate.  If you want to be upset about Halloween, then be upset about the part of it that really matters.  Get upset that it is the most popular season for buying chocolate, and that most of the chocolate bought on Halloween is made by child slaves.  I’ve written a lot about Fair Trade Chocolate. Every Halloween, I try to use it as a chance to teach people about the value of fair trade chocolate.  We glue little chocolates from Equal Exchange to postcards explaining some bullet-points about the chocolate market, and hand them out to people as we go trick or treating.  It is a small thing, but it is a way to connect a fun event to a real issue. and hopefully, some people learn something along the way.

Download this and use it as a quarter of a piece of paper. Print it on card stock, glue a piece of Equal Exchange candy to it, and you are ready to spread some justice this Halloween. Put some stuff about your church on the other side, and you're doing evangelism too.

Download this and use it as a quarter of a piece of paper. Print it on card stock, glue a piece of Equal Exchange candy to it, and you are ready to spread some justice this Halloween. Put some stuff about your church on the other side, and you’re doing evangelism too.

5. Jesus said, “Lighten up.”  Ok, so he might not have said that, but stay with me for a second.  In the Old Testament, God and the prophets tells the people over and over again to “fear the Lord.”  Most modern readers of these texts bristle at the idea of a fearful God.  They, and I count myself among them, remind people that biblical fear is more about reverence.  “Revere and respect the Lord,” is fine translation.  Now, jump ahead to Jesus, who went around saying “fear not” or “don’t be afraid,” a lot.  If we look at the OT understanding of fear as reverence, is it possible that Jesus was saying, “Be irreverent.”  In other words, “lighten up,” or “have a sense of humor.”  So, maybe this is a stretch.  I don’t have time to do the proper word study, but I do believe that Jesus appreciated life.  He wants us to have it abundantly, and sometimes that means having a great time with friends, family, and even strangers.  So, Happy Halloween everybody.

Listen to a great podcast about the Church and Halloween

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Sweet Justice: Consider Reverse Trick or Treating this Halloween

To shop the Equal Exchange chocolate store, click on the picture above.

Justice can be sweet.  Especially when it is mixed with sugar and milk.  Halloween is approaching fast, and it’s not too late to make your Halloween a just one.  Order fair trade chocolate minis today from Equal Exchange, and you can still get them in time for Halloween.

Our church ordered a case of them.  We are going to use a hot glue gun to paste them to postcards to teach people about the benefits of fair trade chocolate.  My daughter, and other kids from our Sunday school, are really excited about the chance to give people chocolate back when they go trick or treating.  The concept known as Reverse Trick or Treating is designed to help spread awareness about the problem of child labor in chocolate production.

Halloween is about chocolate and kids.  Unfortunately for most kids, chocolate is not a source of joy.  Cocoa farms in West Africa and Central America are often worked by child slaves.  Children are treated as little more than cheap, replaceable labor.  The working conditions are often dangerous and they are paid very little.  By keeping labor costs down, the big cocoa farms are able to sell their beans to companies like Hershey’s, Nestle, and Mars at lower rates.

Part of the reason your Hershey chocolate bar still costs less than a dollar is that the child picking the cocoa for that bar is a slave.  That is a real and hard-to-swallow fact.  But we can do something.  Some progress has been made in the last ten years, when this problem came to light.  In February 2012, Hershey’s took an important step in reducing the production of slave chocolate, but they could do more.  Nestle has launched a new initiative to map its entire supply line, making it the first major chocolate producer to do so.

Things like Reverse Trick or Treating help spread awareness of a problem that most people are blind to.  Expose light on the problems of the chocolate industry, and we might make more of an impact.  And remember, if it’s too late for Halloween this year; Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Easter are just around the corner.  Chocolate is sweet.  Just Chocolate is sweeter.

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Trunk or Treat

This is the new, more honest, Fair Trade logo. According to a local store owner I talked to, the old logo has loosened their standards for what is deemed “Fair Trade.”

Halloween is supposed to be scary.  Chocolate shouldn’t be.

It is Halloween season again, and soon kids across the country will be going from house to house in search of treats.  There will be scary decorations and fun costumes.  Some will watch scary movies.  Some will go to haunted houses.  It is fun to be scared – especially in a safe way.

On Friday night at my church, we will be hosting a Trunk or Treat.  It is meant to be a community outreach.  Kids have been invited to come and trick or treat in our church parking lot.  We have many volunteers that will come to give out candy.  There will be games and crafts as well.  I’ll be brewing hot chocolate and coffee.  We also plan on having brochures to give to parents about our church’s children ministries.  We’re hoping that many kids come and have a great time.

I’m pretty sure that not one of those kids will have spent the day working in hot tropical fields, wielding machetes and being exposed to harmful pesticides.  I think it’s a safe bet that none of the children getting their chocolate treats were sold into work camps by their parents, desperate to provide for siblings that are starving.

Unfortunately, such an existance is common place in West Africa, where the majority of the world’s exported cocoa beans are grown.  Equal Exchange is one group that is making a difference in the world by fighting poverty at its root.  By bringing the products of small farms to consumers in the United States, Equal Exchange has been able to empower people to maintain economic stability.  Their Interfaith Store  is a way for churches and individuals to buy products that they can trust – and feel good about.

We will set up a special table to tell people about Fair Trade chocolate.  I’ve bought a bunch of chocolate bars for people to sample.  The coffee and hot chocolate is Equal Exchange brand.  I bought all the chocolate and coffee and a great little store in Davenport called SIS International Shop.  Most big towns (Peoria, Champaign, Bloomington, Davenport, Moline and several in Chicago area) have a shop like the SIS International Shop.  It might be too late for this Halloween, but Christmas is coming.  Search for a Fair Trade shop in your area.  Ten Thousand Villages is another great resource.  Here is their store locator, but click on the “listing for all shops in the US” don’t use the locator by Zip Code or State.

Reverse Trick or Treating

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Take up something for Lent

I’ve been reading a lot on facebook today about people giving something up for Lent.  Several have said their FB “goodbye,” because they will be giving up facebook.  Thousands (millions?) will be giving up chocolate, french fries, cofee, swearing, late-night snacks, food during the day, or somesuch other thing.

They will do it in the name of fasting.  The idea of giving up something for Lent has taken on a certain cultural cache.  It is a strange phenomon in our culture of overindulgence.  On the surface, I see it as a good thing.  Self-denial, even of menial or luxuriant things, is a much overlooked virtue.  So I applaud all of those that, in the name of God or their faith, are trying to give up something for Lent.

I just want to add a word of caution.  Don’t let your giving something up for Lent replace an actual relationship with the living God.  And don’t let your sense of piety over giving up something for Lent keep you from taking a hard look at what God really wants us to be doing.

This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.  (Isaiah 58:6-7, The Message)

Just be careful.  It is great to do something for God.  It is great to remember the sacrifice that Christ made for us.  Just do it for the right reasons.  Don’t get caught up in the cultural trend of giving something up without also trying to take something up.  We give things up to make room to take things up.  Give up something that is getting in the way of your relationship with God.  Give something up that is getting in the way of the Kingdom.

Give up chocolate.  Give up chocolate that is made on the backs of the working poor.  Give up choclate that enslaves children and puts them in dangerous working conditions. Give up Hershey.  And take up Fair-Trade chocolate.

Give up facebook.  And take up a pen and piece of paper and a stamp, and write a note to a teacher, a friend, a loved one, someone sick, or someone lonely.

Give up TV.  And take up conversations.  Take up stronger relationships.  Take up the Bible.  Take up prayer.

Give up oppression.  Give up resentment.  Give up fear.  And take up justice.  Take up reconciliation.  Take up love.

Mark your forehead with ashes – not to take up shame and guilt.  Mark your forehead with ashes – and take up your inheritance as a child of God.  Take up your task to do the work of Christ.  Mark the start of your journey to the cross, so that when you get to Easter, you can look back and know that this Lent, you did something with God.  Then sing “Hallelujah, The Kingdom has come.”

If you liked this post, you might find the podcast “Pulpit Fiction” interesting.  Go to the Pulpit Fiction homepage for commentaries on the Biblical text throughout Lent – and every week of the year.

40 Notes in 40 Days – An old-fashioned exercise for a digital age.

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Justice tastes good

Halloween is supposed to be scary.  Chocolate isn’t.

This Halloween you may be giving away a lot of chocolate to boys and girls dressed up as princesses, vampires, monsters, fairies, and superheroes.  It is one of the most fun nights of the year for kids, and this year it falls on a Sunday.  In my town, there is a big bonfire in the city park where the VFW has a hot dog roast and a costume contest.  It is one of those classic nights that makes living in a small town so much fun.  There will be 70-100 kids and their parents.  I’m pretty sure that not one of them will have spent the day working in hot tropical fields, wielding machetes and being exposed to harmful pesticides.  I think it’s a safe bet that none of the children getting their chocolate treats were sold into work camps by their parents, desperate to provide for siblings that are starving.

Unfortunately, such an existance is common place in West Africa, where the majority of the world’s exported cocoa beans are grown.  Equal Exchange is one group that is making a difference in the world by fighting poverty at its root.  By bringing the products of small farms to consumers in the United States, Equal Exchange has been able to empower people to maintain economic stability.  Their Interfaith Store  is a way for churches and individuals to buy products that they can trust – and feel good about.

While big corporations like Hershery continue to “lag behind their competitors” in making improvements in the labor practices of cocoa farms, Equal Exchange provides an alternative for those that want to make sure that the chocolate they give to smiling faces on Halloween was not made by children across the ocean.

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