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Here are a few things to keep in mind this week as we get ready for Valentine’s Day:

While Valentine’s Day is a fun holiday for many, it can also be painful, stressful, and lonely for others. There is a lot of pressure in our society to “find a partner, settle down, and have a family.” In some cases, our “value” is even determined by our relationship status and being single at a certain age is seen as a personal failure. The hype around Valentine’s Day (and the entire month preceding it) can often create a lot of stress for those of us who already feel these societal pressures and can be very painful for those of us who have experienced broken relationships or are grieving the loss of loved ones.

This week, let’s not forget about those around us who may find Valentine’s Day to be stressful, painful, and lonely. Let’s think about how our words might affect others when we talk about our Valentine’s Day plans, when we preach on Sunday, and when we write our faith reflections this week. Let’s create spaces (small groups, worship, or social events) where members in our faith community can gather with one another without having to hear or talk about Valentine’s Day. Let’s call, write a note to, or make plans with individuals who may be feeling particularly lonely this week.

Valentine’s Day leaves a large carbon footprint and creates a demand for unethical goods. Though we often claim Valentine’s Day is a holiday that focuses on celebrating our loved ones, it has actually become a day that is driven by mass-consumerism. According to the National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay, “Valentine’s Day remains one of the biggest gift-giving holidays of the year.”  Approximately 142 million Valentine’s Day cards (not including the valentines made in children’s school classrooms) are exchanged each year.  The NRF estimates that the total spending on Valentine’s Day gifts this year will be $19.7 billion, and the average amount that individuals will spend on Valentine’s Day gifts will be around $146.

Not only is this mass consumerism around Valentine’s Day bad for our environment, it also creates a demand for products that are made quickly and cheaply and thus enables and contributes to the slave labor industry.  Check out these horrifying statistics about the most popular gifts we purchase for Valentine’s Day:

–      ROSES: 1 out of 12 roses we buy in the U.S. for Valentine’s Day are likely cut by a child in Ecuador or another employee (most likely a woman) who is extremely underpaid and required to work sometimes up to 20 hours a day.

–       CHOCOLATES: 70-75% of the world’s chocolate comes from cocoa beans harvested in West Africa, where almost 2 million children work under violent and hazardous conditions.  Many of these children are kidnapped or sold (some as young as 7 years old) and forced into such labor.

–       DIAMONDS: 65% of the world’s diamonds come from Africa and are mostly either mined by children or other laborers working under brutal conditions or are conflict/blood diamonds, which are mined and sold to support rebel wars.

–       GOLD JEWELRY, CELL PHONES, COMPUTERS: $180 million per year is spent on computers, cell phones, and jewelry made from conflict minerals (gold, tin, tungsten, and tantalum) that are mined and sold to fund militia groups that have killed millions of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo.  (40% of these minerals are mined by children.)

–       TEDDY BEARS/STUFFED ANIMALS: Many of our teddy bears and other stuffed toys are made in sweatshops in China and Indonesia with poor working conditions, little pay, and long work hours.

Let’s find ways this Valentine’s Day to reduce our carbon footprint and our demand for unethical goods. Here are some ideas:

GIVE HOMEMADE GIFTS, VALENTINES, AND CARDS

GIVE THE GIFT OF EXPERIENCES INSTEAD OF STUFF: Give the gift of doing something fun together.  

SHOP LOCAL: Support local stores and businesses by shopping local. Purchase flowers that are locally grown.

 SHOP FAIR TRADE: Purchase gifts, coffee, chocolates, clothing, and jewelry that are fairly traded and empower communities, farmers, and women around the world.  In addition to checking out your local shops that sell fair trade items, here are a few fair trade websites:

Ten Thousand Villages      31 Bits      Bead For Life      Mata Traders 

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“God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth’…God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” – Genesis 1:26, 31

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5 thoughts on “The Pastoral is Political: Valentine’s Day Edition

  1. For pioneering clergywomen, February 14th is also the birthday of “famed American suffragette” Anna Howard Shaw!

    Tina Fey’s character celebrated “Anna Howard Shaw Day” on 30Rock and now we can all celebrate this 19th century Methodist preacher, teacher, doctor, and temperance speaker 🙂

    The best V-Day gift is definitely Anna Howard Shaw’s memoir, “Story of a Pioneer.”‘

    Liked by 1 person

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