We are given so many messages every day. What to do. What is. What isn’t. What to wear. How to be human. The list goes on. It is estimated that we can see up to 10,000 adverts a day. Walking down the street, on our phones, on public transport – all around us, we are being given messages. These messages vying for our attention, although different, sing from the same hymn sheet. We are told we need something more, or else we risk not being fulfilled. Whatever that thing is, we are told that we need it. And so we buy it and invest. Then we see another advert and the same thing goes on and on again.
The problem is, our want for more has a cost on the lives of people living in poverty. Back in 2016 it was estimated that we produced 80 billion items of clothing just that year, despite the world’s population being just 7.7 billion. That want for more ultimately impacts the lives of people working in poor conditions who are forced to deliver huge amounts of clothing because of the demand. And it’s not the fashion industry that has this problem. It’s estimated that, on average, every person uses around 4,000 pieces of plastic every yearThis is costing both people and planet. Right now around the world, one in every four people don’t get their rubbish collected because they don’t have that service available. But that waste has to go somewhere. It goes on the streets, in waterways, and is burnt in public areas just to get rid of it. This leads to flooding, sickness and further health issues.
There is a massive problem, yes. The narrative we are fed ultimately hurt people in poverty, yes. But there is also an opportunity to change the narrative and tell a different one. Each one of us has incredible potential, and together our collective actions can turn the tide on the global issues of injustice. This can be our act of rebellion. As Christians we follow a Jesus who didn’t always do the popular thing. He didn’t turn a blind eye against some of the prevailing injustices. The Gospels are full of stories of rebellion against the norms. I would argue that, as Christians, we are also called to rebel against the narratives of consumerism and convenience that we’re bombarded with constantly. However there are two dangers here that we risk falling into as we try to do this.
Firstly, our rebellion must become a whole life response. We know that it’s good to not buy a lot of single-use plastic or that climate change is bad. When we see a petition about these kinds of social issues we sign it. However, that is where the narrative stops and we continue to live out a life that contributes to these problems. One of the shocking things I have found as I look into this, is that I am part of the problem. Someone might have a larger carbon footprint than me, I could be the best petition signer, but if I don’t realise my contribution it would be easy to sit back and offset my journey of justice to my signature alone. No, instead as a follower of Jesus I am to go on a journey of justice. A journey of what it looks like to go all-in for bringing restoration to a broken world and broken systems, even if it makes me feel uncomfortable.
Secondly, we need to realise that we are in a broken system. We are in a system that tells us we need more to be fulfilled. There’s been a slight change to this to narrative and we’re now told we can buy something to make the difference we want to see. Have you seen that everywhere is now selling reusable water bottles and coffee cups? Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to have them. But now the system has told us that we need the best looking one, or the ones with the coolest designs. And so we end up with five or six that we don’t even use. The system looks like it can work in our favour, but perpetuates the problem just under a different guise.
In our call to tell a different story, sometimes it doesn’t just need to be the story that is different, but the way we tell it. We have to recognise that the system is broken and therefore we need to get creative. If we are to rebel well we might need to think outside the box. That could look like sending coke bottles in the post to Coca-Cola to with a message in it of why they need to change. This could look like raising money to wipe off bad debt. Whatever we do, telling our different story differently can also surprise and help in the system change itself. So let us continue to rebel against the narratives that fill our society and flood our screens. In doing so, let us commit to rebelling well and not falling into the traps of tickbox justice or being part of the same system under a different guise.
Check out the amazing things Tearfund is doing and see how you can get involved down below.