Wal-Mart Bashing at Church?


#1

My daughter came home from last night’s Catholic youth group, and I was a little dismayed to hear that the focus of of the session was watching a movie in opposition to the Wal-Mart chain. This troubles me for two main reasons. First, it seems that a church youth group’s focus should be directed to the worship of Christ as opposed to any political indoctrination. Second, the issue the movie highlighted is more complicated and inter-connected than the film would have the viewers believe. Some have suggested this particular film is quite deceptive in its attempt to get everyone onboard the anti-Wal-Mart train.

A magazine called *National Review (representing conservative Catholic political opinion), *for example, recently ran an article which discussed a movie which appears to be the same one which my daughter viewed. It interviewed sources for the movie which put the discussion in a whole new light. In one case I recall, a store owner who was featured in the film saying that he was about to go out of business was found to actually be doing much better a year later. Why? Because Wal-Mart brought new customers into the area. Economics is not a zero-sum game, after all. If people have more money in their pockets, they have more ability to spend elsewhere.

The magazine also pointed-out that some economists argue that Wal-Mart’s presence in the United States economy actually acted as a tremendous positive effect in pulling the nation out of the last recession. The poorest in our society benefit from Wal-Mart’s presence, as they can stretch their dollars so much further–shopping there for some is like actually have a larger paycheck. This has ripple ramifications throughout local (and the national) economies.

As another aside, I used to work retail shortly after being married. It was awful. No benefits–or nearly none–and very low pay. Did I picket the stores in which I worked? No, I endeavored to improve my skills and education and found better employment. Wal-Mart wages may not be great for everyone, but that’s why employees have the option to improve their state of affairs and look for work elsewhere. It is a stepping stone, not a goal in and of itself. For students and retired persons the store sometimes offers something they can’t find anywhere else–e.g. flexible hours, friendly work environment, etc.

While we all are opposed to sweat shops and unsafe working conditions, it is my opinion that this focus against a particular retail chain in a church setting is not time well spent. When the children are old enough to sit through an economics class, they will understand that the issue is more complicated than they were led to believe.

What do you think?


#2

I think I can’t add a darn thing to your post. NICE JOB!:thumbsup:


#3

I agree with you. I am also just plain tired of hearing how Wal-Mart is so bad for a community . I have seen communities that had nothing left and Wal-Mart brought in everything. It is like the old “country store”, carries a little bit of everything! So, all you Wal-Mart bashers, give me a break! They go into communities where all the stores have closed except the msot expensive and theya ren’t doing too well either!

Brenda V.


#4

[quote=Brenda V.]I agree with you. I am also just plain tired of hearing how Wal-Mart is so bad for a community . I have seen communities that had nothing left and Wal-Mart brought in everything. It is like the old “country store”, carries a little bit of everything! So, all you Wal-Mart bashers, give me a break! They go into communities where all the stores have closed except the msot expensive and theya ren’t doing too well either!

Brenda V.
[/quote]

Thanks for your observations! It’s encouraging to know I am not the only Catholic who sees something wrong here…


#5

Teens need a variety of activities in a youth group setting, most teens aren’t able to pray for hours on end at every meeting. I think your daughter’s youth group is misguided, but their intentions are very good. They are attempting to nuture a desire for Catholic social justice in these teens. That is a good thing. However, it is best to steer them away from inconclusive issues like the impact of Walmart, and towards more basic gospel issues that really demand attention from Christians, like feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, and pro-life work.

If I were you, I’d call or write the leaders and tell them of your concerns. Ask them if they will provide different sides of this argument. Keep in mind that most of these people are volunteers. And of course, since this is your child, you can sit down at dinner tonight and talk about the subject in-depth and present other views at the time. Ask your daughter for her opinion first, and go from there.


#6

[quote=Cupofkindness]Teens need a variety of activities in a youth group setting, most teens aren’t able to pray for hours on end at every meeting. I think your daughter’s youth group is misguided, but their intentions are very good. They are attempting to nuture a desire for Catholic social justice in these teens. That is a good thing. However, it is best to steer them away from inconclusive issues like the impact of Walmart, and towards more basic gospel issues that really demand attention from Christians, like feeding the poor, sheltering the homeless, and pro-life work.

If I were you, I’d call or write the leaders and tell them of your concerns. Ask them if they will provide different sides of this argument. Keep in mind that most of these people are volunteers. And of course, since this is your child, you can sit down at dinner tonight and talk about the subject in-depth and present other views at the time. Ask your daughter for her opinion first, and go from there.
[/quote]

Yes, my wife and I had a nice discussion with my daughter as soon as she got home and told us about it. She thought it was odd, too, but she didn’t want to speak-up about it, as she was uncertain. I have already sent an e-mail to our priest and the education staff. I agree that looking for pro-life work is good, but just think that attacking Wal-Mart is not the best way to achieve that goal.

As an aside, what better marketing ploy could a Wal-Mart competitor secretly create but to fuel this kind of controversy? It reminds me of some Procter and Gamble urban legends that were being discussed in my Catholic religion class at elementary school in the late 1970s, or so. Does anyone remember this? I think the stories were later somehow connected to a competitor, but I am not sure…


#7

It is my observation that a discussion of the social, political or economic impact of a corporate person like Wal Mart is an appropriate topic for a youth group. I assume that the youth group is made up of teens, and therefore these are young men and women with the benefit of reason. If anyone was indoctrinated merely by watching a single film, then they may not be ready to take on the challenges of adulthood.

A higher order of intelligence is marked by seeing the fine distinctions in life, the gray areas. Wal Mart, the Industrial Revolution, modern art, French New Wave film: all of these are good things and bad things in relation to an individual’s point of view. As adults we come to recognize our point of view, to develop it, and hopefully to change it when circumstances warrant.

Even if the youth group is hopelessly misguided and doctrinairian about why Wal Mart is BAAAAAAD, your child should be exposed to that in order that she develop her own point of view. Just my opinion, of course.


#8

I will agree that teens need a variety of activities to help them grow. What I object to, like the OP, is any time a controversial issue is brought up to these impressionable teens and the opposite view isn’t even given.

My now 19 yo has wanted to boycot Wal-Mart, until she visited her sister in one of those communities where they actually made things better! She tells me that is the exception, not the rule. Why does she think this? Because she has seen these false documentaries, or documentaries that take things out of context. I still can not convince her that Wal-Mart is not some big evil corporation out to destroy all the little businesses in a town!

Brenda V.


#9

Alrighty, I’ll weight in here too.

I hate Walmart. Can’t stand their stores lack of selection and service.


However, what annoys me about this is that it was in a youth program. The youth program should be devoted entirely to the faith formation of the students not pro- or anti-walmart films.


A better scenario would be opening with prayer and a general topic for discussion. Then having an open discussion of current issues and how they are or should be affected by our faith beliefs.


For example, I could start with prayer, introduce the concept to be covered, such as a corporal work of mercy followed by a newspaper article relating to it. Then I would ask the teens, What do you think is a good Catholic response to this problem? What are our obligations as Catholics to make this better? Can you name other examples in our society/gov’t/culture where this may be an issue or point of conflict? Pros/cons?


Watching a film just seems so lame. Like the teachers didn’t really feel like bothering much, but just wanted to use the group as a forum to air their personal opinions on walmart. I doubt the students’ had any faith enlightenment opportunities and that is the main point of these group - or should be anyhow.


#10

[quote=Rob’s Wife]Alrighty, I’ll weight in here too.

I hate Walmart. Can’t stand their stores lack of selection and service.

However, what annoys me about this is that it was in a youth program. The youth program should be devoted entirely to the faith formation of the students not pro- or anti-walmart films.

A better scenario would be opening with prayer and a general topic for discussion. Then having an open discussion of current issues and how they are or should be affected by our faith beliefs.

For example, I could start with prayer, introduce the concept to be covered, such as a corporal work of mercy followed by a newspaper article relating to it. Then I would ask the teens, What do you think is a good Catholic response to this problem? What are our obligations as Catholics to make this better? Can you name other examples in our society/gov’t/culture where this may be an issue or point of conflict? Pros/cons?

Watching a film just seems so lame. Like the teachers didn’t really feel like bothering much, but just wanted to use the group as a forum to air their personal opinions on walmart. I doubt the students’ had any faith enlightenment opportunities and that is the main point of these group - or should be anyhow.
[/quote]

Great post… For the record, by the way, I am not exactly a Wal-Mart fan. In fact, I have had my pet peeves with them, too. I just get tired of the Wal-Mart bashing in general when it is not based on accuracy or logical conclusions–especially when it is discussed in a church setting.

In regards to an earlier post, I have no problem with my pre-teen daughter getting other opinons, and I am careful not to “make her” always agree with her parents. I just think a 12-year old is too young for this kind of thing, and church is the wrong place.


#11

I think social justice is a very important Christian value and that there are many ways to explore the issue. Teens in the US have a great deal to learn about responsible behavior that includes how they choose to spend their considerable wealth. The more information they have, the more educated decisions they can make. The slant of the movie notwithstanding, I believe everyone should weigh carefully the effect of the use of the “treasures” they are given.

For instance, in the case of Wal Mart, the news has recently highlighted their practice of providing only expensive health benefits that their lower tier employees cannot afford. The employees are instructed to apply for Medicaid and other state paid benefits as low wage earners (food stamps, WIC, etc.). This adds to the price we pay at the checkout by adding to the taxpayers’ burden. PBS did a special with more specific math, but the state of Maryland recently required Wal Mart to either pay 8% of their total payroll in health benefits or face a tax bite equal to the same amount. The issue is far more complex than just paying a low price.

I also have had retail experience and it is a killer occupation. I recommend the book, “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich. Now don’t go all evil liberal on me; it’s important to read a wide variety of viewpoints in order to make sense of things!

I say, "Let them eat punch and cookies, pray, read, discuss and then apply the Gospel to their own lives…


#12

[quote=mschoir01]I say, "Let them eat punch and cookies, pray, read, discuss and then apply the Gospel to their own lives…
[/quote]

Yes. We can hardly refuse to let them discuss the same issues that come up at school and on the news. What would the point of that be? By this age, they are ready to start learning that applying the Gospel isn’t always a matter of black and white choices.

We don’t shop WalMart, and we’ve explained why we don’t to our boys. We think it is very important, though, to also explain to them that many people whom we respect have made a different decision.

Young people ought to know how to mull over questions like this. We need them to grow up to be Catholics who take living their faith seriously, yet who give other people room to make the journey in a different way and at a different pace.

The alternative is to let them wait until college to see movies like this, with no experience in researching the subtlties of the question that documentarians inevitably leave on the cutting room floor. Catholics should learn early that this kind of piece should get them to start thinking, not do their thinking for them!


#13

[quote=mschoir01]I think social justice is a very important Christian value and that there are many ways to explore the issue. Teens in the US have a great deal to learn about responsible behavior that includes how they choose to spend their considerable wealth. The more information they have, the more educated decisions they can make. The slant of the movie notwithstanding, I believe everyone should weigh carefully the effect of the use of the “treasures” they are given.
[/quote]

Excellent point–we exercise and express our moral values almost every time we write a check.

[quote=]For instance, in the case of Wal Mart, the news has recently highlighted their practice of providing only expensive health benefits that their lower tier employees cannot afford. The employees are instructed to apply for Medicaid and other state paid benefits as low wage earners (food stamps, WIC, etc.). This adds to the price we pay at the checkout by adding to the taxpayers’ burden. PBS did a special with more specific math, but the state of Maryland recently required Wal Mart to either pay 8% of their total payroll in health benefits or face a tax bite equal to the same amount. The issue is far more complex than just paying a low price.
[/quote]

There is a similar measure being proposed in the Washington state legislature–which would require corporations with more than 5,000 employess to contribute 9% of their revenues towards employee health care. Currently, Wal-Mart doesn’t pay any health care benefits for over 50% of its employees. It is often claimed that the tremendous wealth generated by this enormous, privately held entity is being subsidized in part by government programs which carry the burden of funding health care for the lowest compensated employees. This is an interesting social justice issue which can be explored and debated with teens in a faith formation context while at the same time avoiding bashing of any one entity.

[quote=]I also have had retail experience and it is a killer occupation. I recommend the book, “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich. Now don’t go all evil liberal on me; it’s important to read a wide variety of viewpoints in order to make sense of things!
[/quote]

This is an excellent, quick read that makes a big impact. I think it should be required reading for HS students–as much to open their eyes to the plight of the working poor as to motivate them to maximize their educational opportunites and avoid the drudgery of dead-end jobs.


#14

[quote=Writer]While we all are opposed to sweat shops and unsafe working conditions, it is my opinion that this focus against a particular retail chain in a church setting is not time well spent. When the children are old enough to sit through an economics class, they will understand that the issue is more complicated than they were led to believe.

What do you think?
[/quote]

Maybe the issue was young children enslaved in foreign countries so that American corporations and U.S. citizens could live opulently — as no doubt, we do.

Should children be taught that enslaving people is wrong?
And if they should, who better to teach that lesson than the Church that Christ started? :hmmm:


#15

There have been a number of good articles written on this topic lately, but the best I have found recently is the December 2005 piece by Byron York entitled “Panic in a Small Town” and appearing in *National Review. *No one’s saying that Wal-Mart is perfect, but many of us point out that it has become a bit of a scapegoat for larger society’s ills. If both sides were provided, that might be different, but I consider giving lies and deceptions clothed as facts to satisfy our longings to improve our communities (but our confusion as to perhaps how to accomplish this goal) boils down to bearing false witness against our neighbor–not to mention conveying some pretty silly ideas on economics.


#16

Though I myself am a Wal-Mart hater, my opinion really has little to do with the reasons cited in that movie, and I agree with the original poster, this should not have been talked about at a youth group. Unless the organizer could really point to how the topic of the week somehow related to the film, I don’t think it has a place at Church.


#17

Blah, just dont worry about it so much. Here is what i think: the people in those youth groups are just young kids who love a reason to hate/rebel against things. Its true and I’m one of them. Im 20 (i still consider myself a teenager) and i love that stuff. We just love to rebel against stuff, so let us. I also am not too fond of Wal-Mart, but i like to focus on bigger stuff to rebel against such as, lets just say almost the entire justice system maybe? Yeah, its good fun and it forces us to learn so, its probably a good thing. I do however agree that it was out of place at a youth group. Not because it is inappropriate content, but because they should be trying to focus on spirituality. I’m goin to March for Life this weekend for sure, what a great way to stick it to the Man!


#18

[quote=Writer]If both sides were provided, that might be different, but I consider giving lies and deceptions clothed as facts to satisfy our longings to improve our communities (but our confusion as to perhaps how to accomplish this goal) boils down to bearing false witness against our neighbor–not to mention conveying some pretty silly ideas on economics.
[/quote]

Who are you to talk about “bearing false witness?” I’m stepping pretty deep right now just to listen to you justify Wal-mart’s enslaving techniques to gain high profits. IF myself and 60 million other people are wrong — proove it!

Catholics arn’t suppose to worship at the Altar of Economics!

They ‘supposedly’ are following Jesus Christ. He set the best example of how to treat our neighbor and what is the best form of “economics.” I can tell you it doesn’t have anything to do with enslaving others for own personal gain and profit.

The Bible is VERY clear about paying a man a decent day’s wage for a decent day’s work. So Wal-mart pays the lowest wage they can get by with in America, you can bet your bottom dollar they employ sweat shops in China to produce their $5 dollar shirts here!

If the 60 million of us are wrong — I say again, proove it! Show us some data that it isn’t true. But there is no way in America that you will stop our Free Speech to decry the immoral tactics that large corporations based in this country hide behind in the name of “economics.”

Jesus would have been the First one to defend against the enslavment of young children for the financial gain of the Greedy.


#19

[quote=BLB_Oregon]Yes. We can hardly refuse to let them discuss the same issues that come up at school and on the news. What would the point of that be? By this age, they are ready to start learning that applying the Gospel isn’t always a matter of black and white choices.

We don’t shop WalMart, and we’ve explained why we don’t to our boys. We think it is very important, though, to also explain to them that many people whom we respect have made a different decision.

Young people ought to know how to mull over questions like this. We need them to grow up to be Catholics who take living their faith seriously, yet who give other people room to make the journey in a different way and at a different pace.

The alternative is to let them wait until college to see movies like this, with no experience in researching the subtlties of the question that documentarians inevitably leave on the cutting room floor. Catholics should learn early that this kind of piece should get them to start thinking, not do their thinking for them!
[/quote]

:thumbsup: Amen, BLB!


#20

[quote=seabird3579]Who are you to talk about “bearing false witness?” I’m stepping pretty deep right now just to listen to you justify Wal-mart’s enslaving techniques to gain high profits. IF myself and 60 million other people are wrong — proove it!

Catholics arn’t suppose to worship at the Altar of Economics!

They ‘supposedly’ are following Jesus Christ. He set the best example of how to treat our neighbor and what is the best form of “economics.” I can tell you it doesn’t have anything to do with enslaving others for own personal gain and profit.

The Bible is VERY clear about paying a man a decent day’s wage for a decent day’s work. So Wal-mart pays the lowest wage they can get by with in America, you can bet your bottom dollar they employ sweat shops in China to produce their $5 dollar shirts here!

If the 60 million of us are wrong — I say again, proove it! Show us some data that it isn’t true. But there is no way in America that you will stop our Free Speech to decry the immoral tactics that large corporations based in this country hide behind in the name of “economics.”

Jesus would have been the First one to defend against the enslavment of young children for the financial gain of the Greedy.
[/quote]

If indeed the sweatshop allegations are true, I would be interested to know the evidence that supports your side of it. If true, I would have a problem, too. Remember, I did not say that I was a fan of Wal-Mart. I already explained why the situation got on my nerves at length, and I have supplied a good article for you to check out, if you care to admit to there being two sides to the issue. I’ll recap my concerns… First, it was done at chuch. Second, the movie is based on lies and distorted interviews. Third, the movie promotes a simplistic and silly view of how economics works. Fourth, both sides were not represented in any way. For all we know, Target, any competitor, could be supporting this kind of controversy in subtle ways.

I do find the sweatshop allegations disturbing, but this is the wrong way to approach the issue. Also, as my wife recently pointed out, we don’t see brands at Wal-Mart that we don’t also see everywhere else. So, if Wal-Mart is engaging in sweatshops (of which I am not convinced), it would look like everyone else is, too. I think we are using Wal-Mart as an easy and convenient scapegoat for society’s ills.


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