Tuesday, November 16, 2004

John Maxwell, Metrosexuals and Sweatshop T-shirts

Last month I attended Catalyst, which can only be described as The Urban Hipster's Church Leadership Conference or John Maxwell and the Metrosexuals, a strange event in which 8000+ Christian leaders below the age of 40 came together in the mecca of coolness Gwinnett County, GA.

For 2 days and about $300 (I had comp tickets to help out some friends with a cool ministry they do), we were able to sit for 8 hours per day while speaker after speaker after speaker after speaker after speaker after speaker after speaker (with music thrown in) instilled wisdom culled from highly successful ministry. Actually, it was not that bad, because I stood outside and talked to friends most of the day.

I realized I am untrained (or out of shape) for the lecture circuit. I cannot sit for that long with 8000 people listening to guy after guy talk (of course no women were on stage- unless a vocalist in a band). My buttocks are out of shape after emergent conversations, house churches and gatherings. I will say that Erwin McManus hit a home run with an excellent talk and Brian McLaren was interviewed by one of the main metrosexuals (I guess they could not completely trust Brian to talk by himself).

I realized that I was no longer cool at the conference (although I had realized that long ago in while walking past the Armani Cafe on Boston's Newbury Street and attending Emergent Conventions). It was a time I wish I had my t-shirt with the simple word post-cool on it. However I realize the irony would be lost in the setting (more on the coolness of new ministry leaders for a different post).... get ready for a really cool segueway (I have learned this skill from Sportscenter and stand up comedy).

Speaking of t-shirts and Catalyst (didn't see that coming, huh), the most impressive feature of the conference (can it be a conference without workshops?) was the t-shirt they gave to each participant. It was quite ugly (but then again, I am post-cool and may not have the proper taste) but it was made by American Apparel, a LA based company which makes high quality shirts while treating workers as important members of the company (they are anti-sweatshop), paying a fair wage and refusing to go off-shore to save money.

I could not believe how thoughtful this was. Sadly, I think this intentionality was lost on most participants. However, this should not be lost on American Christians. As stewards of God's resources, it is our responsibility to spend our money in ways that do not exploit God's earth or God's people. Spending a few extra dollars to make sure people are treated well is a small way each of us can use our money wisely and Christianly.

Just because Wal-Mart (and everyone knows how I feel about Wal-Mart) sells things a few dollars cheaper does not make it a right use of my resources to shop there, knowing how they treat their workers in America and overseas. Knowing how they treat communities they want to move into. If we do not expect Wal-Mart to act more responsibly, we do not help them or their workers. If we continue to support their labor, environmental and community practices because a yellow happy face rolls back the savings, we do injustice to a fully Biblical worldview (of cource we are taught in many churches that saving money and giving to church is the extent of stewardship).

We must expect more of the world leaders in commerce. Just as we have expected more of the Gap, Nike and McDonald's (and things have gotten a little better), we must put our money where our Biblical understanding is and take a stand for justice.

A great resource is at No Sweat, Co-of America's to stop sweatshop labor. They have a PDF resource you can download and read...


Anonymous said...


Are there any stores that don't import clothing, hard goods etc.produced at extremely low costs? Surely a store as large as say, Macy's, purchases goods that are made in other countries for below market wages. Walmart is a common target in such a discussion, but what about others? Michael of TN

james said...

Just saw a short segment on CNBC last night on Wal*Mart, which included a brief discussion with their CEO. Thanks for posting your thoughts on this. It helps to clear my throat a bit.

By the way, to what address do I mail your copy of the Boston Globe, Red Sox WS Edition?

kidpositive said...

alright rick...what's this crap? you asked me to buy you the newspapers for the day after the world series. and now i see you've done some double-duty here. what, you don't trust me? you better pay me back for these papers, buddy, and i'm charging you for the labor of carrying 'em all day long on the subway and train (without bending them, which was a pain). so, you now owe me two dollars. "I want my two dollars!!!"

Alex F said...

I grew up in Gwinnett County, GA. Thought I'd mention it. Was the event at a church called Crossroads by chance? I was sent to a Catalyst Conference once (by GBBA actually), and can totally picture the scene you describe. Good post.

Rick said...

Send my copy to

5908 N. Kenneth Ave
Tampa, FL 33602

regardging the even- it was at the gwinnett Plce.

regarding the question from Mike regarding Walmart...

It is very true that almost no companies are without blame when it comes to slave labor.

However, the anti-sweatshoppers have chosen to go after the big companies 1 at a time because...

1. It takes to much effort to go after all at once.

2. The big ones can change the rules if they change.

3. It works (they have gone after Gap and Mike and seen changes).

Regarding Walmart- they went after them before others because thay are considered the worst (Grade of F).

Hermi said...

What does the term metrosexual mean to you and do you think the image is invading american christian churches?