Monday, December 2, 2013

Origin-al Christmas

Friends and family,
You may get some strange gifts from the Funnells this Christmas, but it is for a good reason. In order to explain, imagine Sarah and I in a Meijer toy aisle, looking at an eye-catching board game. While Sarah appreciated the cute design on the box,  I flipped it over and searched for what I knew would be there: “Made in China”. As cute as the game was, I was not pleased with it because I knew the smiling face of whoever will receive that game this year is made possible by a blank, lifeless face somewhere in Guangzhou operating a printing press or assembling the pieces. I’m not comfortable giving gifts that reinforce a way of doing things where one Has because another Has Not. Sarah and I left that Meijer (without toys) having decided not to give any gifts this year that we weren't sure were produced way I’d be comfortable watching. Surely, endless rows of tables surrounded by Chinese (Indonesian, Bangladeshi, Vietnamese…) men and women without opportunities to improve their situation, making far too little, and under a political regime that denies their right to hear the truth of Jesus would not be comfortable for me to watch. Sarah and I have chosen not to support that this year.

We’re not posting this because we want to be smug, but because of Romans 12:9- “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” I’d argue that love which pleases one while contributing to the suffering of another is not the most genuine. Isn’t the abuse of workers to produce luxury items for the wealthy evil, which we should abhor? We want our love to be the most genuine we can, so we are choosing only to give gifts we know and approve the origin of. Plastic toys from China, where preaching the true gospel is illegal: No. Wooden toys made by Ned: Yes! Kitchen tools from Vietnam, where the average factory worker makes $150 per month: No. Maple syrup from the local farmer’s market: Yes! A golden necklace, made with gold mined by Malian children using poisonous mercury: No. A cross necklace made by rescued Thai sex workers that supports their families: Yes! Cute and inexpensive garments sewn in Jordan, where immigrant seamstresses are regularly raped by their bosses: No. Gently-used clothes from a thrift store that don’t create demand in those factories: Yes! An electronic gadget made by factory workers in China whose dormitories are surrounded by nets to discourage suicide: No. A honorary gift from the World Vision catalog which benefits someone with great need: Yes!

This year, we will choose what is genuinely loving, not what is convenient. We’re not ashamed to post this although we know that it will make some uncomfortable- we know that the danger, pain, and abuse that others suffer when we choose to support their oppressors is more important. Let your love be genuine- not only for the recipients of your gifts as well as the people who made the gift. Will you consider making some, or all of your Christmas this year Origin-al? Consider the origin of your gift and whether it is fit for the holiday that bears Christ’s name. You may worry that if you make only this one change, you could be called a hypocrite- but how much more if you have heard the truth and do not change at all? Choose love, not comfort.