Consuming with care
I (Rebeca) was fifteen years old, a freshman at Dresden High School (Go, Lions!), when my mom gave me the news that began to teach me about consuming with care.
“Get rid of all that Disney stuff.”
I had finally graduated to living in the coveted downstairs bedroom and bathroom of our split-level ranch. The youngest child, I waited through my brother’s and sister’s use of that room until I could finally get off the top floor (where my parents’ bedroom and bathroom were) and move into the more removed (and therefore independent) lowest-level bedroom and bathroom.
I got to work making the place my own.
I decorated the bedroom walls with thick, green striped wallpaper dotted in floral bunches. (Hey, it was the early 90s. That worked back then!) I gleefully adorned the entire bathroom in all things Lion King and Aladdin that, until now, I thought were examples of consuming with care.
On the wall by my sink I hung a curio shelf and carefully placed my figurine collection: Mufasa, Sarabi, Simba, Nala, Pumba, Timon, Zazu, Aladdin, Jasmine, Genie, Rajah, Jafar, Iago, and my sweet little favorite Abu. I framed a poster of The Lion King movie cover and hung it over the toilet (the only large wall space in the room). My soap dispenser and toothbrush holder also served as testaments to my love of those two blockbuster films. I could recite the entire scripts for both (and maybe still can?).
And yet, it all went straight into a big, black, plastic garbage bag that day. Every bit of it. It didn’t matter that I had spent my own money – earned by checking out townsfolk at the local grocery store and shelving books in our town library – on these things. It only mattered that our home not have these items created by a company that didn’t uphold our values.
Evangelical fervor so consumed me that I not only didn’t mind, I happily tossed the items. Only later, when I walked into my barren bathroom, did I feel a twinge of loss.
But I quickly comforted myself with the idea that Jesus smiled on me now – I was consuming with care even after consumption! – and isn’t that better than having Abu’s happy little face greet me each morning?
Welcome to the Southern Baptist Convention’s favorite cultural weapon: the boycott. You’ve probably heard of it. Maybe you’ve even participated in a few during your evangelical life?
The SBC employment of that useless weapon also sent us to Wal-mart instead of K-Mart (the latter was a donor to Planned Parenthood), required us to drink Coke instead of Pepsi (again, the Planned Parenthood donation thing), and more. I could not eat in restaurants that served alcohol, which left me longing for my friends’ freedom to step into the Pizza Hut in our neighboring town (it served beer – on tap, no less!).
Consuming with Care became a badge of honor. Maybe even an idol. Our “We don’t shop there,” mantra came with a tinge of pride or maybe smug satisfaction that we’d figured out the right vendors.
I hated boycotts because they felt judgmental and useless. Yet the idea behind them – support those who agree with you, put your money where your mouth is – is ingrained in me. Granted, a bigger part of the SBC motivation for boycotts is to shut down those who disagree with them, but that’s evangelical life. It is not post-evangelical good living.
making wholesome choices for a good life
My history of adhering to SBC boycotts for the sake of putting my money where my mouth was is probably why, when Charles and I left evangelicalism behind, I held on to the idea that I don’t want to “support” (spend money with) companies and people whose values I find harmful and unhealthy. I want to make wholesome choices to live a good life.
Now, there’s only so far you can take this idea sometimes and I get that.
Still, our post-evangelical value system is based on being kind and loving first and in all things. We care about what we’re doing and whether it is authentically good living. This means we carefully consider the clothes we wear, drinks we consume, food we eat, places we travel, how we get where we’re going, what we find entertaining, what we allow our kids to experience or partake from, and so much more.
But what does that mean?
It means we embrace the effort to make wholesome choices with what we’re consuming. (Note: there is a difference between “wholesome” and “Biblical.” That’s not a distinction made in Southern Baptist and other evangelical faiths, but it is a distinction we nonetheless make. That’s another part of post-evangelical life: learning new lexicon.)
Wholesome Food Choices
In our consuming with care effort, my refrigerator and pantry are no longer stocked with chemicals and foods grown and harvested in ways that rape the earth. I’ve got kiddos. They’re going to give me grandbabies one day (y’all hear me, chitlens?). I’d like for them to live on a planet that is as vibrant and beautiful as the one I’ve enjoyed.
So, Charles and I do our part to make that happen. We buy local when we can and that doesn’t just mean farmer’s markets. We grow our own sometimes. We barter for produce and veggies with nearby friends.
We’re working on more detailed articles about our livestock, dairy, vegetable, fruit, bread, and other grocery choices. Keep coming back to see those!
Wholesome Clothing Choices
Wholesome choices also means that the clothes on my body were sewn by hands that were properly rewarded for the effort. This particular area is a longer process for me, though. (The entire post-evangelical life is a process!)
My closet doesn’t fully reflect this value yet because I don’t buy a lot of new clothes.
I don’t buy a lot of new clothes because I’d rather spend money on books, wine, chocolate and experiences. Also, attesting to proof of the previous sentence, I’m a curvy woman and buying clothes is rarely a pleasurable experience.
Probably a full two-thirds of my clothes are more than seven years old. I still have t-shirts from high school (graduated 1996) and college (finished undergrad in 2000)! My favorite (and only) pair of black pumps has been carrying me around for 14 years and I re-heeled them at my local cobbler last year with a hope of getting another 14 years out of them. As I type this, I’m wearing a t-shirt my father-in-law got me for Christmas 11 or 12 years back.
Whenever I do need a new clothing item, though, I try hard now to find something that is made with natural fibers (hello, comfy cotton and silk!) by skilled hands that are paid a fair wage for their labor. It usually costs more than I can afford and nearly always costs more than synthetic clothes made in foreign sweat shops, but I can feel good about what I’m bringing into my closet and putting on my body, so I don’t mind the trade-off of shopping less.
I’m not going to throw out what I’ve already spent money consuming, of course. This isn’t about making a statement or embodying a granola image. It’s about authentically making thoughtful, considered choices for my future purchases. When the three-year-old house socks on my feet right now wear out, I’ll find another pair that conform to the values I’ve described herein. But I’m not going to toss them today just because I bought them from a place of ignorance and aren’t sure who made them and how. Does that make sense?
Wholesome Cleaning Agents
Consuming products in a wholesome fashion also impacts our selection of cleaning agents. We no longer slather ourselves in lotions, shampoos, conditioners, make-up and more that are also filled with cancer-causing agents. We don’t wash chemicals down our drains that, in turn, hurt the animals and waterways that surround us.
We live on an island in South Florida now. We can directly see the impact of human behavior and choices on the environment around us. (Red tide. Blue-green algae. Trash sometimes floating offshore even though we live in a high-end, touristy place.)
Plastics are not our friend. We avoid them when we can, and recycle them when we can’t. Shampoo, conditioner, soap, shaving cream, makeup, hair products, surface cleaners, clothes detergent, dish detergent – we think about it all. We read labels. We look up companies. We ask questions. And, yes, we’ll be sharing about our choices here on Freevangelic. You can skip all the hours we’re spending on homework and just read what we’ve found! Lucky you. (And if you’ve already done some homework on this or are a maker of products we should consider, get in touch!)
Questions to Help Make Wholesome Consumption Choices
Our entertainment choices, transportation choices – everything we are consuming now goes through the value questions that guide our family. Are the people who made this being paid fairly for their labor? Did the creation of this item hurt the earth unnecessarily? Does my use of this lead to harm of other people? Animals? Plants? Can I find an alternative that doesn’t cause the harm? If not, do I really need this item or experience? When I do decide to purchase, do I really need that much of it or can I leave some behind for someone else?
As I’ve said before, we are only in our third year of post-evangelical life. We’ve only begun to write about our experiences on this, so there isn’t much on the blog yet. It’s coming, though! (I’m working on an article about growing a citronella plant and making citronella spray to naturally combat the insects that call our island home, too.)
Why wasn’t this approach to wholesome living a part of our evangelical life? I wondered that, too, and wrote about it here. Basically, the Bible (and, therefore, evangelical doctrine) puts mankind in dominion over creation. The world is here to serve humans, it says. The book, The Lost Gospel of the Earth by Tom Hayden and a conversation with our old friend Kristine McGuire (who was also evangelical and is now a Green Witch) opened our eyes to other perspectives.
When we left evangelical faith and opened ourselves to the process of seeing what is true, we realized that the earth is here for humans to live in, on and alongside. All living things deserve care, kindness, and respect (even mosquitoes, though I have no problem making sure they live somewhere other than where I’m sitting and respecting them from afar).
We aren’t masters of our domain, lords with dominion over all. We’re living beings on a rock filled with other living beings. We got some respect for that fact and started living accordingly.
If you want to do the same, you’ve found a place with valuable information. Click around. Read. Ask questions. Share your own wisdom. Get in touch.
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