Hershey’s, part 2: The Great American Chocolate Bar?

[Part 1 of the Hershey’s post is here.]

A friend of mine has an “about me” section on her blog, and hidden down inside this lovely paragraph is this confession: “I buy organic eggs and yogurt but nothing else, and that makes me a hypocrite.”  I resonate with this. (As I’ve been quick to confess recently, I am often a hypocrite.)

Over the six years J and I have been married, we’ve begun making decisions, sometimes difficult decisions for us, about consumption. Well, we’ve been making lots of decisions, of course, but the ones I’m focusing on right now are primarily about consumption.

Like lots of people these days, we try to eat locally as much as possible, we try to find out where our food is coming from, and we’ve mostly stopped purchasing non-fair-trade items like chocolate (which means, in the case of chocolate chips, since we are also cheapskates, that we just don’t eat chocolate chip cookies anymore) and coffee. Cocoa and coffee are two industries notorious for slave labor, especially child slave labor. (It doesn’t take much Googling to find out reputable information, including from international watchdog organizations that back this up, and even a few documentaries have now been made on the topic, so you can trust me that it’s not a “conspiracy.”)

So, okay, I buy locally roasted, fair trade coffee beans. Yum. And when we buy chocolate to sneak into movie theaters, it’s fair trade. But when I see a Mr. Goodbar, I still get warm fuzzies. When I put on my Hershey’s sweatshirt, I’m  happy. When I sing my “Hershey’s chocolate, Hershey’s chocolate, Hershey Chocolate World… wherever you go, no matter how far… you’re always near… a Hershey bar! Hershey Chocolate, real milk chocolate: Hershey’s! The great American Chocolate bar!”–well, I like that it brings a smile to people’s faces.

In my mind, “big bad chocolate corporations getting their chocolate from child slave labor” and “Hershey’s chocolate” are completely separate. Completely. I like it that way. I mean, obviously I kind of knew that  Hershey’s was complicit, no “fair trade” label, it’s too affordable, no claims made about ethical anything on their candy bars or on their web site…but still. It’s my Hershey’s.

Recently, J has gotten involved with a group of folks on campus who are bringing the “Not for Sale” campaign to campus. “Not for Sale” is a campaign that promotes awareness about the global slave trade and advocates using our power as consumers to work for social change. That’s what prompted the “blood chocolate” comment at the end of my last post.

Now, I realize that our not buying a Hershey’s chocolate bar doesn’t make much difference in the scheme of things. But that’s not really the point here. The point is this: once you know something, you can’t not know it.

There’s a Sara Groves song called “I Saw What I Saw,” which I think I read somewhere is about a missions trip she took where she came face to face with poverty. The song opens like this:

I saw what I saw and I can’t forget it. I heard what I heard and I can’t go back. I know what I know and I can’t deny it–something on the road, cut me to the soul. Your pain has changed me. . .

Every time I listen to this song, I think about all of the issues that are so huge and impossible and overwhelming to me, issues I think are absolutely important to solve, issues that are at the core of what it means to be a confessing Christian, but issues that seem impossible. It’s things like homelessness, world hunger, inner city poverty, child slavery, the sex trade industry, war, violence, heck, universal healthcare… the list goes on and on. But this song reminds me that there are people, real people, people with faces involved in this pain and suffering.

It is in those faces–and the knowledge of those faces–that I see Jesus.

Even in a candy bar wrapper. Really.

I can’t just decide not to see Jesus there.

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