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Hidden Politics and Religion in Businesses

"Paying" Politics: Check Out What's Behind Your Purchases

I've been hoarding examples of this phenomenon forever — and I got to thinking about them last week when foxie reminded me that Wal-Mart has been named one of the lowest carbon, greening businesses — admirable, even though many still find faults with their business practices and treatment of their employees.

My mind wandered to this question: when you make a purchase, are you funding more than just a business? Are you tithing toward the bigger philosophy of the company? I will now present my examples to you in the grand tradition of the "trend story" — the secret political and religious lives of your bucks, once you've spent them on burgers and beer.

  • Forever 21: Ever upended one of their bright yellow bags? Behind that bargain (and probably hot) shirt, is a little religious message. John 3:16. Though they might sell itty-bitty ripoffs, the couple who owns the store Do Won "Don" Chang and his wife, Jin Sook, are a private, deeply Christian couple who've built the company for 24 years with revenue topping $1 billion in 2006. For those who don't know, John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[a] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Eternal life and cheap shirts? Sweet.

There's so much more! Burgers and beer, just


  • Coors Brewing Company: Thirsty? Though the company's practices toward employees appear progressive, if you follow the real money earned by the company, you'll find it leads right to a six-pack of super right-wing causes. The entire Coors family has been active in conservative philanthropy, among other things, founding the Council for National Policy. This is a hush-hush group where influential conservatives discuss the future of conservatism in the United States, attending meetings with conservative big-wigs like the late Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly. Joseph Coors also donated an airplane worth $65,000 to the Nicaraguan Contras.
  • In-N-Out Burger: Want a Double-Double Monster-style? Prepare to get a helping of the holy spirit along side. The wrapping you'll get with your sandwich features a pointer toward Nahum 1:7, "The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him." The Snyder family is deeply religious and still privately owns the chain of restaurants. Oh, if you want a little dessert, you'll get a dose of Proverbs 3:5 along with your milkshake. Now if they could only replace the wine with an In-N-Out milkshake at communion. . . .

Does the bigger picture of what a company stands for (and I'll include Wal-Mart in this group) affect your decision to spend? Have you ever passed on a purchase because your philosophies don't jive? How badly do you want a Double-Double right now?


Join The Conversation
Kat-E Kat-E 8 years
I'm far more interested in how a company treats its employees and the environment than anything else. And who is Wal-Mart paying off to get on the list of low-carbon, green businesses? They treat their employees like dirt. And no offense Goody, but Starbucks isn't that successful anymore. They're closing up shops all over the country at alarming rates! Are they good to their employees? Yes. Do they strategically run local businesses out of town? Of course they do, which ultimately leads to a larger gap between the rich upper class and the rest of the world...which leads to an unstable economy, as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. So no, I don't support Starbucks. Businesses like theirs have contributed significantly to the economical downfalls we are facing now.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
Rcferdin (or anyone else who might know), do you have any info about Wendy's being right-wing? I'm curious about it, but can't seem to find anything. I do know, though, that Wendy's gives money to aid in adoptions, since Dave Thomas was adopted. As for the main topic at hand, I try to think about a company's practices when I buy things, but it's not the be-all and end-all for me. It can get very complicated, as well, with companies like Wal-Mart having both pros and cons. I remember seeing an interesting book a while ago that profiled pretty much every major company that sells goods in the U.S. and now, of course, the title is escaping me. I will try to find it again and post, though...
baltimoregal baltimoregal 9 years
tdamji- That is too bad because there are many religious groups that don't do missionary work but do give aid, so by purposely not shopping there you're actually working against the good ones. Just do the homework and you'll be able to tell. Ten Thousand Villages does not do missionary work. Neither does Catholic Relief Services, contrary to popular belief. If fact they do not contradict the culture at all and are often at battle with their higher organizations about it.
beingtazim beingtazim 9 years
I agree with rcferdin and some others - i think consciously about everything i buy and what i eat, too. Even though Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade operation/store/company i don't shop there because they are a christian group ultimately. I just can't support that...reminds me too much of missionary practices where these people go to places around the world and "help" people and turn them into christians. sick.
hypnoticmix hypnoticmix 9 years
Yes, I'll gladly pass up a purchase of a particular brand or a trip to a particular store if I know that the revenue from my purchase is being used for something that is harmful. Such as Wall Mart who holds their employees in a part-time position in an effort to curb medical insurance costs or Star Bucks who purchases non fair trade coffee. As for the chapter and verse on the packaging, although I may have personal disagreement on philosophy with evangelical/Christian views this would not prevent me from having an In & Out Burger, Thank God!
jessy777 jessy777 9 years
***correction it is around a million/year not millions.***
jessy777 jessy777 9 years
I love Chick-Fil-A. I eat there when I crave fast food and they people who own the franchises are always so nice. Not like Mcd's or Wendy's. The store owners are always in there working. I work in retail and we have stores in malls across the U.S. and the fine that Chick-Fil-A pays for not being open in a mall (or strip mall) on Sunday's is huge. It is like millions of dollars a year. I like that the company has stood behind its principals and not lot money override their beliefs. Very cool.
LibertySugar LibertySugar 9 years
That picture is making me hungry.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 9 years
There are already at least a hundred reasons I don't shop at Wal-mart, but I remember hearing somewhere about their censorship of music. Not carrying music that has cover art or lyrics that are "overtly sexual", or topics like Satanism (which is a pretty broad subject in my opinion) and abortion. This forces musicians to either not have their music carried at the stores, or sanitize their music to satisfy Wal-Mart.
ann418 ann418 9 years
No surprise about Coors! But if you live in Colorado, you already know. And j2e1, there are plenty of Coors lovers, even if we are all in CO.
bethany21 bethany21 9 years
CaterpillarGirl- I hear ya! It seems like the only time I even think about Chick-Fil-A is on Sundays, which I get a crazy craving for their nuggets. It's so frustrating! But I think it's great for their employees, because even if they're not church-goers it ensures they have at least one day off to spend with their families.
Jillness Jillness 9 years
On the inside rim of the bottom of the in and out beverage cup there is John 3:16, too.
br0wneyed9irl00 br0wneyed9irl00 9 years
here's a watchdog site for finding out about companies' policies with regards to sustainability, fair trade, and workers rights. this is especially relevant with the explosion of greenwashing (companies who advertize their products and practices as green, but aren't). sites like this are useful to gage what you're contributing to. i'm sure there's another site like this which exposes things like religious affiliation/lack thereof. be sure to do your own research though: once, someone told me not to shop at target because they supported gay charities, then a year later someone else told me not to shop there because they were antigay. you have to make up your own mind.
cubadog cubadog 9 years
I am an apparel developer and every company borrows or as I call steals from everyone. When I worked for Gucci one season I walked into Banana Republic and they had the entire collection in the store. It was so funny. Even though I had a clothing allowance I did buy a few of their pieces since they were made in normal sizes.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
ktown - thats a good point about forever 21, weren't they being sueds by gwen stefani's label for ripping off designs? urban outfitters does the same thing though...
ktownpolarbear ktownpolarbear 9 years
um, not really. although i just don't like to shop at forever 21 on a matter of principle. while sometimes, i can't help but go in and buy the basics for a super cheap price, i hate how they knock-off designer products with no apology. i know "designers" who work for them, and their job is basically to make patterns and copy actual designers. that's what i can't agree with with forever 21's policies.
hausfrau hausfrau 9 years
I look at the region a product comes from more than the company... Haven't all of us gotten that email about boycotting pepsi because they won't put the flag on the can or something? it's hard to cut through the truth and the BS. so discriminating by region is much easier, esp. with all the trouble we've had with goods from china recently... why even just today i spent 1.40 more on maple syrup that came from NY instead of VT!
WhatTheFrockBlog WhatTheFrockBlog 9 years
Although I'm about the least religious person alive, it doesn't bother me if I'm patronizing a business that has religious beliefs. But if they donate some of their profits to causes that I don't believe in, then yes, I'll avoid them. Unfortunately, I don't have the time to investigate every single business I patronize. I wish I did. And I found out yesterday that I will probably be going to San Jose on business in a few weeks and the first thing I said to my coworker who will be going with me was "We HAVE to go to In-N-Out Burger!'
PJ-PJ-PJ PJ-PJ-PJ 9 years
Ahh, Chick-Fil-A. That's my favorite place for a chicken sandwich, nuggets, fries, or a salad (if I'm feeling healthy). No chopped up, processed chicken meat there. They are serious about their Sunday statement. I have to give them a hand for sticking to it. Even though Sunday is just one of seven days, it's still a big day of profit to give up. You don't see a lot of big Christian based companies doing that, because they are too greedy to give up even one day of profit.
MarinerMandy MarinerMandy 9 years
I do to a certain extent, but I'm not going to do indepth research on every company before I buy something from them. And it's all fine and good to say people shouldn't buy cheap stuff, but if that's all you can afford then you don't have much of a choice.
j2e1n9 j2e1n9 9 years
I agree, F21 is cheap. Not only that, but all those kinds of trendy clothes such as H&M, etc. just contribute to more TRASH in our landfills since you can only wear them a few times before they go out of style and/or fall apart and you toss them. :) Some environmental group was telling people to not shop there and to never buy cheap clothes - just spend a little extra and buy clothes you can have for years and years. And who drinks coors anyways?
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 9 years
Chik-Fil-A's , which is the second biggest chicken based fast food place in the USA, founder S. Truett Cathy is a devout southern babtist. The companies official statement of corporate purpose says that the business exists "to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A." They are ALWAYS closed on sundays because "Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and directing our attention to things more important than our business. If it took seven days to make a living with a restaurant, then we needed to be in some other line of work. Through the years, I have never wavered from that position" Which sucks for me cause i get a hankering for a chicken sandwich on sundays.
amers230 amers230 9 years
andiself - it's true about domino's. i'm from detroit (where domino's is based, or at least was) and Tom Monahan is (IMO) a huge right wing activist/crazy man haha. he's actually building a town in florida where the laws are going to be based off of the ten commandments and strict roman catholic doctrine. i don't know a ton about him but i'd bet my life that he is a huge contributor to all of the right wing causes. i dunno, i find that i don't shop or buy from those places because i dislike them for other reasons (forever 21 is cheaply made, in and out and coors are gross) but i'd like to think i wouldn't shop at them for moral/political reasons. i don't think any business is perfect though so it'd be hard to stop shopping everywhere who's owners did something you didn't like, etc.
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 9 years
the church just said accumulatin ggobs of wealth is a sin right? But the Wongs have revenues topping $1 billion and they are devout Christians. Argh this business of sinning is confusing.
j2e1n9 j2e1n9 9 years
I shop local as much as possible, too. It cuts down on transportation costs and polution. People dont really think about it, but everything you buy involves a bunch big trucks moving around to bring all the little pieces together! ;)
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