I love chocolate. I think it’s important for you to know that before I get to the giving it up for Lent part. I’ve always loved chocolate. As a young child, I can remember the treat of getting one chocolate bar for the week. I can remember rationing out the squares of my Jersey Milk bar so that I would have two or three squares everyday to get me through to the following Friday when Mom would buy the next weekly chocolate. I remember the thrill of graduating to two chocolate bars per week! And much more recently, under the stress of work and life, I’ve experienced the indulgence of a daily chocolate bar!
I recently discovered the delightful taste of Wunderbar! And the Peanut Butter version of Oh Henry! is quite yummy. And the Mars Caramel bar (pictured here) is out of this world! Believe me, I love chocolate!
Now, its not exactly uncommon for Christians to give up chocolate for Lent. One friend told me the benefit was how awesome the chocolate tasted on Easter Sunday after the 40-day “fast.” In theory, Christians give up chocolate (or TV or Facebook) in order to create a space for spiritual growth. So I guess if you gave up Twitter for Lent, instead of tweeting your friends, you would “tweet” God and grow spiritually through the discipline of prayer. So why give up chocolate for Lent? Instead of being a temporary deletion that challenges me, a good Lenten discipline should be a spiritual exercise which may permanently change me. Thus, I am not giving up chocolate for Lent in order to practice self-denial (though this will be true) nor to create a space for prayer, but instead I suspect that a time of contemplation about chocolate and spirituality might actually change me permanently. We shall see.
Last Easter I watched a documentary that shocked me. It’s undeniably true that children are involved in the harvesting of cocoa in a widespread way in west Africa. And it’s not just child labour, but also forced slave labour. Children are taken from Burkino Faso and forced to work under gruelling conditions in the cocoa jungle of Ivory Coast. This has been well-documented for over a decade now and yet most of us buy our Mars Caramel bars, Oh Henry!s and Wunderbars without the real truth ever entering our minds: “This chocolate bar has been produced with the use of forced child labour.” If those chocolate bars were labelled this truthfully, who would buy them? So during this season of Lent, I am giving up chocolate in order to consider a Christian response to this bitter truth about chocolate. Where is the redemptive movement of God in the chocolate industry? And what is our responsibility as Christians spearheading redemption in this world?
To prepare this kind of Christian response to such a significant social injustice, I need your help. A theological response to a problem like this is best developed in community rather than in solitude. There is a method for doing something like this and I’m going to follow it roughly as you’ll se in log posts every Wednesday through the season of Lent. The method goes like this:
- Define the issue. Research the facts. Get to the truth.
- Collect and consider Scripture which is relevant to the issue.
- Review existing theology or doctrines which come to bear on the issue.
- Bring this all together and draft a Christian response.
- Submit the draft to discussion and debate, then finalize it.
Would you join me in this process? Whether or not you give up chocolate for Lent is your choice, but join our group in hammering out a Christian response to the chocolate industry and you will be changed, if nothing else, you’ll be able to think Christianly about chocolate. How can we get started? You need to watch this outstanding documentary from the BBC called Chocolate: The Bitter Truth. I can’t imagine that anyone could watch this and not be affected. Use the Comment section below to tell us whether you already knew this bitter truth about chocolate. What’s your reaction to seeing this first part of the documentary? If you did know some of this already, tell us what you know and how you discovered it. I’m inviting us to use the Comments to work on Step #1 of the method I proposed above. Feel free to dive into Step #2 as well. While you can certainly view the entire documentary now (click through to youtube), next Wednesday, I will be posting the next part of the video, as well as summarizing our discussion and moving us forward in the above method. (There will likely be some posts between now and then to draw more facts about chocolate to our attention.) Ready to find out the truth? Watch this!