A national television ad campaign featuring two prominent Baptist ministers who call on Wal-Mart to give the gift of economic justice this Christmas was launched Monday.
"The Bible says, 'To whom much is given, much is required,'" says the Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, interim pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church of Nashville, in the television ad which is being aired in 35 markets across the country.
"Wal-Mart rakes in over $21,000 in profit every single minute. This Christmas, let's make Wal-Mart be a better neighbor to us all."
The ad is part of the third annual "Hope for the Holidays" campaign by WakeUpWalMart.com, which spent over $1.5 million in radio and TV ads to draw attention to the retail giant's unique responsibility toward the communities it represents.
The Rev. Markel Hutchins, a Baptist minister who heads Markel Hutchins Ministries, also joins Johnson in the ad to call on the multi-billion-dollar corporation to be a better "neighbor" to its communities this Christmas by paying fair wage, providing affordable healthcare, and ensuring the safety of the goods it sells.
"A corporation that big has the moral responsibility to do right by its customers and employees and all humanity," says Hutchins in the television spot.
Although Wal-Mart is America's largest private employer, the company pays its employees low wages for long work hours, contends WakeUpWalMart.com, and fails to provide affordable health care to its fleet of part-time workers.
The website also reports that Wal-Mart, which made $12 billion in profits last year, imports most of its merchandise from China, where product quality and work conditions have often been called into question.
"Wal-Mart is not the epitome of all unfairness and injustice in the world but it's just that they are the biggest," said Johnson in an interview with The Christian Post. "We want these corporate neighbors to have more equitable policies for their employees."
The church has the role to be "a voice for fairness and justice in an economic system that is increasingly creating disparities," said Johnson, a visiting Instructor of Preaching at the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University in Atlanta.
"Justice is figuring out what belongs to whom and giving it to them," he added. "A decent wage is what belongs to the people of God who are workers."
From a short-term perspective, one may think that Wal-Mart can accrue more profits by keeping its current employment policies, said Johnson. But he believes that through reform, the company can reap greater benefits in the long run.
"It's not rocket science to see that that will cultivate a more dedicated, more loyal partner in your business," asserted Johnson.
In conjunction with the television ad, community and religious leaders from more than 40 cities and towns began holding candlelight prayer vigils outside Wal-Mart stores on Monday night, offering prayers and handing out "Think before you shop" holiday cards to shoppers.
Johnson urged Americans to voice their protest to Wal-Mart's policies by taking their business to a competitor, even if it means paying a few cents extra for some products. He also suggests that they write letters to the company's leadership, the manager, or the editor of a local newspaper.
Meghan Scott, deputy campaign manager for WakeUpWalmart.com, told The Christian Post that she hopes for Wal-Mart to exhibit a positive model for other corporations in America.
"The truth is that if Wal-Mart made some small changes here, then everybody would follow suit," she said.
The ad was paid for by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and will air until Thursday in most markets.