God's Politics

Who doesn’t like a good underdog story? … David versus Goliath always makes good copy, especially when the adversaries are as polarized as the oft-demonized retail giant and a Jesuit priest. … But what happens when Goliath wins?”

So says Robert Rowen-Herzog in his article “When Goliath wins,” which appears in the upcoming issue of Geez magazine. The priest he is talking about is Father Jim Profit, and the bad rap retailer is Wal-Mart.

I first heard of Father Jim in 2004. I was in a state of distress at the time. Wal-Mart was laying asphalt on a patch of land where I had once picked strawberries. The big bad box retailer was coming to my hometown, and although the town is brimming with Mennonites renowned for fending off encroaching worldliness, I could hardly find a Christian who had a any qualms with the king of commercialization.

So I called Father Jim. For most of a decade he had been trying to stop Wal-Mart from setting up shop right beside the Jesuits’ retreat center and 600-acre sanctuary on the outskirts of Guelph, Ontario.

Father Jim spoke about the importance of sacredness and serenity in today’s world. “Mega shopping plazas,” he told me, “as monuments of consumerism, are the symbolic opposite of these spiritual values.” That’s why he had joined the fight against Wal-Mart. (See Wal-Mart comes to Manitoba’s Bible Belt.)

Now, three years later, a Wal-Mart sits right next to the Jesuit property.

But that’s not the end of the story. So we at Geez magazine asked Robert Rowen-Herzog to interview Father Jim about failure, new life, and what it is like living contemplatively beside a Wal-Mart.

We are a culture defined by development and consumerism, and mega-shopping plazas like Wal-Mart exist as a monument to these forces. Consumerism masks the need we all have to turn inward to encounter God immanent at our core.

Losing this fight with Wal-Mart … was a death. But in the death we have new opportunities for life.

See the full article: “When Goliath wins.”

Will Braun is editor of Geez magazine.

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