A review of Everyday Justice

October 8, 2009

Every decision we make is an ethical decision, which forces us to
choose whether we will act out of love or end up denying the image of
God in others.” This quotation sums up CCblogger Julie Clawson’s new book Everyday Justice.
Whether it’s the coffee we drink, the chocolate or cheeseburger we eat
or the clothes on our back, our everyday choices affect the lives of
people living near and far from us. Because we often can’t see the
consequences of our choices, we don’t pay much attention to them.

Books like this one tend to get under our skin and make us feel uncomfortable, especially when they bring to mind texts like Matthew 25, which calls on us to attend to the needs of the “least of these.” But like the rich young ruler of this week’s gospel lesson, we find it difficult to let go of the things that give pleasure to our lives.

There
are alternatives out there—though yes, they may be more expensive and
inconvenient. Clawson suggests taking it slow at first: make just a few
changes here and there. Start with CFL light bulbs. Choose fair trade
coffee, and maybe combine some shopping trips to save gas. Clawson calls
this “ethical consumption,” the decision to apply “our moral values and
ethical standards to our consumer habits.” We can start this process by
becoming more aware of the situation, and this book is a good place to
start. Its stories and information can help us make better decisions,
and each chapter ends with a list of resources.

Why should we
care about these things? The answer should be simple for Christians:
because God does. As we hear this challenging word, Clawson offers some
words of grace. First, don’t panic. Do, what you can, because even small
changes, when taken together with the changes made by others, can make a
big difference. Second, she encourages us not to try this alone but
instead do it as a community. It is “within the strength and support of
these relationships [the Holy Spirit and our communities of faith] that
we serve.”