Wonder why you’ve been seeing a lot of adds for this type of fast food meal lately?
Every fast food chain, heck even Arby’s, has been promoting their fish sandwiches lately. Two-for-one deals abound. Why, you wonder? Because it’s that special time of year, that time of year when Catholics don’t eat fish on Fridays. About 22% of the US population is Catholic, 68 million people. Granted, a much smaller portion is practicing. And a much smaller population of that is driving through Burger King on any given Friday.
But it’s enough to make huge corporations change what they are selling. Sure, they are trying to profit off a religious belief, which isn’t exactly awesome, but it’s what’s happening. The truth is – we have some purchasing power. We can decide what gets sold.
And I’m not just talking about Catholics. Think about Catholics + all Christians + any person of faith + anyone at all who has a conviction of a belief in something greater, be it a deity or just a belief in humanity. What if we started making demands from our marketplace? I’m not just talking about fish sandwiches, but what if we started demanding that our grocery stores sell fair trade coffee and chocolate; what if we demanded our clothing outlets sell something other than clothes made in sweatshops? How about buying meat that is humanely raised and hormone free? If practicing-Catholics-who-happen-to-go-to-a-fast-food-restaurant-on-a-Friday-during-Lent have enough power to influence what fast food chains sell, imagine the influence we all have. And fish sandwiches aren’t even good. Trust me, I had one last week.
Now I’m not writing this to make you feel guilty if you don’t buy fair trade chocolate, or only sweatshop free clothes. I suck at it. The temptation of buying what is cheaper gets to me about 75% of the time. My point is, rather, that we shouldn’t underestimate the power we have to influence the market. It is easy to stand in the grocery aisle and wonder, “is it really worth it to buy the fair trade bag of coffee? It’s not like I’m going to be changing the world here.” Because it could.
So maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world that companies are trying to make a profit on our religious convictions. But let’s think deeply about what are convictions are. It goes far, far beyond not eating meat on Fridays. We are called to be good stewards of our earth, to live in solidarity with the poorest of the poor, and to work towards building God’s kingdom on earth. If we start insisting that the companies we shop from respect those beliefs, good ol’ capitalism will do its job and the supply will start reflecting the demand. (That’s all I got out of 2 semesters of economics).
We have some collective bargaining power, and we can use it for good. So don’t give up. Don’t think that your actions are all for naught. We have some purchasing power.