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...