Everyday Justice | Notes & Review

Posted on July 7, 2012


Julie Clawson. Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of our Daily Choices. IVP Books, 2009.


WARNING! Read Before Proceeding

Don’t panic!

We see acting justly as an all-or-nothing endeavor, and because we can’t do it all, we often end up doing nothing. This book exists to help us start doing something by giving concrete and practical steps to help us live justly in the everyday. (Locations 76-77)

This book tells the intricate and complicated stories of injustice for specific reasons: (1) so we can see how our Christian faith should inform our response to those issues and (2) so we can discover practical ways we can start working for justice in our day-to-day lives. (Locations 80-82)


But in his typical upside-down fashion, he proposed a revolution more radical than any violent uprising, more subversive than any secret army: a revolution of justice guided by his principles of compassion and love. (Locations 104-105)

Understanding Justice. Justice, at its very core, deals with relationships-our relationships to God, to each other and to the world. (Locations 129-130)

Justice can thus be defined simply as the practical outworking of loving God and others. Or as Dr. Cornel West puts it, “justice is what love looks like in public.” (Location 145-146)

Justice as punishment versus justice as restoration. Loving others by seeking what is right, good and fair for them is not only how we act justly, it is also how we live righteously. (Locations 161-162)

Instead of only punishing wrongdoers in the hope that they will then live rightly, biblical justice involves healing the brokenness that marred our relationships with each other in the first place. (Locations 163-164).

Living justly means understanding the impact of our decisions. (Location 197)

ETHICAL CONSUMPTION. the application of our moral values and ethical standards to our consumer habits.

Justice, in all its various forms, is for everyone. We might each live it out differently, but God expects us all to seek justice. (Locations 211-212)

I hope this book will stretch you to take off the liberal or conservative lens and see the world differently. The call to self-sacrificial love should always supersede whatever is written on our voter registration cards. (Locations 229-230)

1. COFFEE: Fair Trade and the Daily Latte

In the world today an estimated twenty-five million people make their living growing coffee. (Location 268)

While in theory, free trade is good for all, in reality there is nowhere in the world where free trade actually exists. (Locations 301-302)

LIVING WAGE: the minimum wage necessary for a person to maintain a basic standard of living. The idea is that one’s income should enable a person to provide shelter, food, heath care and education for their family.

God is aware of how our economic system harms and cheats workers, and Scripture is not silent about his indignation. (Location 343)

FAIR TRADE: a system that ensures payment of a fair price, as well as sets up fair social and environmental standards related to producing a wide variety of goods.

  1. Buy fair trade
  2. Ask your local stores to carry fairly traded items.
  3. Get your church to serve fairly traded coffee and tea during the fellowship time.
  4. Raise awareness.

I recently heard Christian author Brian McLaren speak on justice issues at a local bookstore. At one point he suggested labeling products with “ethical facts,” similar to the “nutrition facts” already found on food products. (Locations 423-425)

Conclusions. Becoming an ethical consumer may take creative steps like seeking new labeling systems or starting new businesses, or it could be as simple as tweaking your shopping habits. If we are to attempt to live justly in the everyday, how we shop is one of the most basic habits that we can alter. Where we choose to spend our money affects not just us or the large corporations but everyday people around the globe. If we care for these people and love them as Jesus commanded us to, we need to be aware of the ways our economic choices affect them. Making sure they receive fair wages through programs like fair trade is one way to put love into action. (Locations 442-446)

For More Information – Books, Movies, Websites

Alvarez, Julia. A Cafecito Story.
Cycon, Dean. Javatrekker: Dispatches from the World of Fair Trade Coffee.
Stiglitz, Joseph E., and Andrew Charlton. Fair Trade for All: How Trade Can Promote Development.
Wild, Anthony. Coffee: A Dark History.

Black Gold, Fulcrum Productions, 2006.
Buyer Be Fair. Fox-Wilmar Productions, 2006.


2. CHOCOLATE: Modern-Day Slavery Exposed

HUMAN TRAFFICKING: the illegal and generally involuntary smuggling of a person across borders, often for the purposes of forced labor.

Candy companies rely on impulse buys for 90 percent of their sales. (Location 619)

Seeking Abolition Today.

  1. Encourage elected officials to support laws that seek justice.
  2. Use your purchasing power as a consumer.
  3. Write to the chocolate companies.
  4. Raise awareness.
  5. Financially support or volunteer with organizations that seek justice for slaves and make slavery unnecessary.

Conclusion. The solution wasn’t to abandon chocolate farmers and stop buying chocolate altogether, but they sent the message with their money that they would support oppression-free chocolate. (Location 666-667)

But I am not legalistic about chocolate. If I’m offered a slice of chocolate cake or given a box of chocolates, I won’t insult the giver by saying “I can’t eat this because I don’t know if it is slave-free.” I do my best to care for these children and seek change while still showing love to those around me. Seeking justice and respecting the image of God in everyone requires knowing when to speak up and when to gracefully stay silent. The point is this: for change to occur and for the cries of these slave children to be heard, enough people need to speak up. (Locations 671-675)

For More Information – Books, Movies, Websites

Bales, Kevin. Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy.
Batstone, David. Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade — and How We Can Fight It.
Hunter, Zach. Be the Change: Your Guide to Freeing Slaves and Changing the World.
Metaxas, Eric. Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery.
Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet.

Amazing Grace. 20th Century Fox, 2007.
Call+Response. Fair Trade Pictures, 2008.
The Price of Sugar. New Yorker Video, 2007.


3. CARS: The Global and Local Impact of Oil Consumption

CLIMATE CHANGE: the effects of greenhouse gases on the earth’s long-term average temperature.

Real lives are affected by our use of gas and oil, and the people it affects are people God commands us to love and respect as his image bearers. Their lives are important, and demand our love and attention. For them, climate change isn’t a theory to be debated but a disaster threatening their very survival. (Locations 736-738)

Loving our Local Neighbors. “Doing something” doesn’t have to be big or dramatic; sometimes it can be simple steps that help make life better for the neighbors Jesus instructed us to love. (Locations 764-765)

Loving our Global Neighbors. Whether we are aware of the issues or not, when we give money to a company we implicitly tell them that we approve of their corporate practices, including how they treat their employees, local communities and the environment. (Locations 799-801)

Loving the Creation and its Inhabitants. Beyond becoming more informed, however, practicing justice in this area will ultimately have to mean changing our habits to reduce our reliance on gas and oil products. (Locations 821-822)

Ways to reduce our gas consumption.

  1. Drive less.
  2. Make cares fule-efficient.
  3. Reduce the amount of plastic we use.
  4. Change our eating habits.
  5. Control the temperature of our homes.
  6. Use energy-efficient appliances.
  7. Simplify.
  8. Lobby to seek alternative fuel options.

Conclusion.I’m also encouraged by the examples of others who’ve chosen to make small changes that have resulted in big differences. The shipping giant UPS, for instance, decided to stop making left-hand turns. Seriously. Sitting in an idle vehicle waiting to make a left-hand turn wastes gas. Take nearly 95,000 trucks delivering packages each day and the wasted gas adds up fast. So UPS decided to carefully plan their delivery routes to eliminate as many left-hand turns as possible. The result? In 2006 this planning helped UPS cut 28.5 million miles off its delivery routes and saved them roughly, 3 million gallons of gas, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 31,000 metric tons.22 Small changes in our everyday actions do add up and make a difference if enough of us start doing them. But we each have to do our part. (Locations 875-879

For More Information – Books, Movies, Websites

Bouma-Prediger, Steven. For the Beauty of the Earth: A Christian Vision for Creation Care.
Lowe, Ben. Green Revolution: Coming Together to Care for Creation.
Manby, Bronwen. The Price of Oil: Corporate Responsibility and Human Rights Violations in Nigeria’s Oil Producing Communities.
Reay, Dave. Climate Change Begins at Home.

The 11th Hour. Warner Home Video, 2007.
Fuel. Blue Water Entertainment, 2008.
An Inconvenient Truth. Paramount, 2006.
Who Killed the Electric Car? Sony Pictures, 2006


4. FOOD: Choosing to Eat Ethically

“You are what you eat” takes on a deeper meaning when we realize that the story of our food is much bigger than what we typically assume. (Locations 923-924)

The irony here is that, before the last century or so (and in much of the world today), what is labeled “organic” was the conventional option. (Locations 926-927)

SUSTAINABILITY: using earth’s resources at a rate at which they can be replenished.

The Issues With Our Food. Food is not just food. What we eat involves history, economics and politics. It touches the lives of farmers, communities and corporations. (Locations 934-935)

But the real issue isn’t that cows produce gas but that our demand for meat requires more cows than this world can sustain. (Locations 1009-1010)

Loving Others in Food Production. When a person’s land and the animals are directly connected to their very survival, they are more likely to take care of them. This is the biblical concept of stewardship. (Locations 1038-1039)

…our destruction of nature is not just bad stewardship, or stupid economics, or a betrayal of family responsibility; it is the most horrid blasphemy. It is flinging God’s gifts into His face, as if they were of no worth beyond that assigned to them by our destruction of them. – Wendell Berry

How To Eat Ethically. In considering how to eat ethically, I am drawn to the criteria proposed by J. Matthew Sleeth in his book Serve God, Save the Planet. He points out that while God doesn’t give Christians in the New Testament specific dietary restrictions to follow (such as kosher laws), we shouldn’t fail to apply the principles of Christian morality to what we eat. He identifies four in particular: First, in the case of a food shortage, people shouldn’t eat more than their “fair share.” Second, people should refrain from eating food obtained immorally-whether stolen, produced by child or slave labor, or from mistreated animals. Third, we should refrain from food that is harmful to us. And finally, we should refrain from “eating food if the growing, harvesting, storing, or cooking of it is harmful to others.” (Locations 1054-1058)

Locavore: a person who supports environmentally friendly food production by choosing to purchase food grown in her local area.

The choice becomes not just whether to buy “cheaper” food but deciding who will pay the cost of the food we buy. (Locations 1114-1115)

  1. Rethink your eating habits: Cut out some meat.
  2. Alter the foods you eat: Cook from scratch.

For More Information – Books, Movies, Websites

Kingsolver, Barbara. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
Singer, Peter, and Jim Mason. The Ethics of What We Eat.
Sleeth, J. Matthew. Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action.

Fast Food Nation. 20th Century Fox, 2006
Food Inc. Magnolia Pictures, 2008.
King Corn. Docurama, 2007.


5. CLOTHES: The Story Behind What We Wear

SWEATSHOPS: working environments with dangerous conditions, where the workers have few rights and often work long hours for little to no pay. (Location 1249)

Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is an Israelite or is a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin. (Dent 24:14-15)

Taking Responsibility for Workers. Seeking justice in these ways involves not just admitting guilt but also requires taking responsibility by helping restore the dignity of those they have, perhaps inadvertently, wronged. True justice always involves healing and restoration of the broken. (Locations 1306-1307)

Excuse #1: Ethically made clothing isn’t stylish.
Excuse #2: Ethically made clothing is more expensive.
Excuse #3: I can’t find clothing that is ethically made (in all areas).
Excuse #4: If I don’t buy ethically made clothing, at least the workers in sweatshops will still have jobs.

The point is not to destroy jobs and lives but to bring healing to those already broken. (Locations 1371-1372)

For More Information – Books, Movies, Websites

Hartman, Laura P., Denis G. Arnold and Richard E Wokutch, eds. Rising Above Sweatshops: Innovative Approaches to Global Labor Challenges.
Rosen, Ellen Israel. Making Sweatshops: The Globalization of the U.S. Apparel Industry.
Ross, Robert J.S. Slaves to Fashion: Poverty and Abuse in the New Sweatshops.
Snyder, Rachel Louise. Fugitive Denim: A moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade.

China Blue. Teddy Bear Films, 2005.
The Corporation. Zeitgeist Films, 2005.
Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Brave New Films, 2005.
What Would Jesus Buy? Arts Alliance America, 2007


6. WASTE: The High Price of Our Dirty Little Habits

In a 1997 yacht race from California to Hawaii, Captain Charles Moore decided to attempt a shortcut through a seldom-sailed area of the Pacific Ocean. Expecting to merely face the odd currents common to that area, Moore discovered instead a vast sea of trash.’ Captured by the swirling currents, this “plastic soup” stretched for thousands of miles and contained an endless number of plastic bags, discarded toys, syringes, lighters and other debris too durable to biodegrade. Washed-away beach debris, accidental shipping mishaps and deliberate dumping into the ocean all end up in this dead space, carried and then trapped there by the never-ending currents. (Locations 1413-1416)

We now own more clothes, more labor-saving devices and more entertainment items than our predecessors would ever have dreamed possible. Some may see such acquisition as a sign of progress, but “progress” always comes at a price. (Locations 1432-1433

This world is our home, and a redeemed version of it will continue to be our home for eternity after the resurrection of the dead. Yet instead of lovingly taking care of our home, we have, literally, trashed the place. (Locations 1438-1439)

PLANNED OBSOLESCENCE: the deliberate engineering of products to break after a given amount of time, requiring consumers to spend more money to replace the product.

The reality is-if we want to seriously consider the impact we have on this earth, as well as reduce the amount of waste and the dangers of the waste we create-our use of diapers and sanitary products needs rethinking. (Locations 1539-1540)

Changing Our Habits.

  1. Recycling.
  2. Precycling: reducing the production of waste before it is created.
  3. Simplifying. As J. Matthew Sleeth puts it, “the earth was designed to sustain every generation’s needs, not to be plundered to meet one generation’s wants.” Choosing to simplify and reduce our consumption can help us come closer to only taking our fair share of the earth’s resources. (Locations 1606-1607)

For More Information – Books, Movies, Websites

Brown, Edward R. Our Father’s World: Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation.
Royte, Elizabeth. Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash.
Ryan, John C., and Alan Thein Durning. Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things.
Strasser, Susan. Waste and Want: A Social History of Trash.
Tammemagi, Hans. The Waste Crisis: Landfills, Incinerators, and the Search for a Sustainable Future.

WALL-E. Walt Disney, 2008.


7. DEBT: Proclaiming Jubilee to the Nations

Many of the justice issues mentioned in this book connect in some way to debt. To truly understand the causes of these injustices, we have to first understand this debt and what it does to countries. (Locations 1653-1654)

In the year of jubilee, the enslaved are set free, debtors’ debts are forgiven, and community that is fractured by inequality is restored.

Your Role in Debt Relief

  1. Awareness.
  2. Activism.

For More Information – Books, Movies, Websites

Roodman, David Malin. Still Waiting for the Jubilee: Pragmatic Solutions for the Third World Debt Crisis.
Valleyly, Paul. Bad Samaritans: First World Ethics and Third World Debt.

Bamako. New Yorker Video, 2006
Life and Debt. New Yorker Video, 2001



During the process of writing this book, I often encountered the attitude that seeking justice and trying to change the world is just too hard. (Locations 1833-1834)

The unfortunate result is that we come to see loving others as something for other people to do. (Location 1838).

This book is, in many ways, just an introduction. The issues brought up and the suggestions given represent a small segment of the numerous ways that we can help make the world a better place. These are places to start. (Locations 1842-1843)

Living for just ourselves isn’t an option, because everything we do impacts other people. (Location 1844)

Christians should care about these things because they are things that God cares about. (Location 1851)

Making a difference with these issues should just be an everyday part of what it means to be a Christ-follower. God created and called us to do good works. Ephesians reminds us that we have been saved by grace so that we can do good works (Eph 2:8-10). This is not a duty we have or a passion we develop; it is a destiny we were born to fulfill. (Locations 1854-1856)

As a Community. Having the support of a community helps all of us better commit to seeking justice. (Location 1871)

Community like this is vital to the work of justice. No one can do this alone. Justice is done in the name of, by the power of and in the community of Jesus. (Locations 1874-1875)


I wish this book didn’t exist — or more precisely that it didn’t have to exist. If injustices didn’t abound in the world today then there would be no need for this book. (Locations 1877-1878)

— VIA —

In all honesty, reading a book like this evokes emotions of anger, frustration, hopelessness, and cynicism. Let’s see if we can trudge through these emotions intelligently.

It is astonishing that we treat one another in horrific ways, all in the name of entitlement, progress, advancement, prejudice, democracy, survival of the fittest, or whatever other ethic we may conjure up that either justifies or explains our “inhumanity.” To know that I have benefited from the world’s suffering is deplorable, and that should be the response of any conscionable citizen. Yet, we must engage with these issues with extreme wisdom because the economics of it all is quite variegated and complicated. I can’t help but ask the question, “Does my not buying this chocolate truly make a difference?” And I must ask the follow up questions, “What kind of a difference is it really making ultimately in the lives of every last person in the production chain?” and “Doesn’t the ultimate difference and change need to come from the top, not the bottom?”

I perceive the answers to be “yes,” and “fair, to a certain degree,” and “perhaps.” Yes, with the emergence of these campaigns, programs, initiatives, NGO’s, media blitzes, etc., voices are being heard, changes are being made, lives are being affected (for better), and justice is being done. Yet, I can’t help but wonder if our complicity in this entire economic system is simply creating other injustices even as we attend to “known” injustices. Lastly, how did the wealthier, dominating, “ethical” countries produce leaders and corporations who seem to care about the purity of what is right only when their constituents balk, which confirms in me (cynically) that the ethics of leaders in these businesses hasn’t really changed. In other words, the system itself is still intact, and is in many ways “self-correcting,” yet, the soul of the matter — those with the power and authority to live and operate differently by default — does not seem to be a target of concern in these efforts. Should it not be?

Argh. And there in-lies the problem (a problem I believe many of us share). In the midst of asking all these questions, opining over the politics (an additive that would make this conversation an explosive cocktail of very damaging proportions), and wrestling with my own cynicism, and sin, I still get in my car, drive to the store, buy my clothes, chocolate, and hamburgers, and throw everything in the trash. The irony, is the analysis paralysis of this issue also keeps me from living justly.

Which is why Clawson’s book is brilliant, necessary, hopeful, empowering, and prophetic. So, recycle. Drive less. Read labels. Educate yourself. Watch a different kind of movie. Change diets. Buy fair-trade. Simplify.

Argh. There-in lies another problem. That which is so simple is often the most difficult and challenging. Thanks, Julie, for setting the example.

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