I owe part of my vocation to Walmart. Yes, you read that correctly: Walmart played a part in me becoming a Franciscan. Let me explain.
When I went to college, I was very excited about my faith. I wanted to be a youth minister that planned retreats and lead praise and worship. I was “on fire” for the faith. There was just one problem: I knew very little about my faith. I knew that church was fun and that Jesus loved me, but the theology of the Church? Its social mission? Its history? Its anything of substance? Yeah… I was a bit hazy on that.
Finding that the Catholic Campus Ministry group on campus was nothing like a youth group (no praise and worship, no skits, no fun games) I found myself struggling to click with church during my freshman year. The things I loved weren’t there.
Then, in my sophomore year, CCM put on a four-week series on Catholic Social Teaching. We talked about the right to life, the tenets of social action, the need to get involved in the world, and, finally back to Walmart, we watched the documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. Although the documentary is not religiously motivated at all, it offered a spark for a larger discussion on a Catholic perspective on the economy. We discussed questions of workers’ rights, working conditions, the role of money, the responsibilities we have in the world, solidarity—all things that are straight from the Catholic Tradition.
I’d never heard any of it before. I had no idea the Church cared about this stuff. To say that it was “life changing” might be a bit of a cliche, but it certainly had an effect.
Today, I hope that Walmart may have a similar effect on your faith. In this video, I begin by presenting the opinion that I have long held, that Walmart is a bad company that does more to harm the world than it does to help it. And we could stop there. But that would only be part of the story. The fact of the matter is that, despite its many failings, Walmart actually does a lot of good as well.
Do the positives outweigh the negatives? Are we willing to tolerate human rights violations for a good price? At what point do we say that they’re crossing the line? My hope with this video is not to give an easy answer that “Walmart is good” or “Walmart is bad,” but rather to show the serious dilemmas we face when we enter the marketplace and to challenge everyone to ask moral questions about the economy. Although less clear-cut than issues of sexual or scientific morality, economic morality must be something we Catholics take seriously.