Boycotts and Jesus ::: Our Latest ‘Target’

Categories: Faith,Ramblings,Writings

Target Boycott

Three circles.

Three circles have become the symbol and driving theme of the Walt Disney Company, and an icon that is adored by families around the world.

The ever-distinctive Mickey Mouse ears profile.

Being a company with such tremendous success and one that has prided itself in family entertainment, I am sure Walt would have never imagined that his company would soon be put under the microscope of Christian conservatives for nearly 10 years.

Yet in the mid 1990’s a boycott of the Walt Disney Company was initiated by the Catholic League. Over the course of the next few years similar efforts were initiated by the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, the American Family Association, along with a host of other organizations. The driving issues behind their efforts against Walt Disney Company were voiced as Walt Disney Company’s increasing anti-Christian and anti-family trends.

Boycotts are not a new tactic for Christians, and Disney certainly hasn’t been our only ‘Target‘ we’ve set our eyes on. From three circles it seems as if we are now focused on two.

Policies and decisions aside, let’s consider what a boycott is designed to do. By definition a boycott is the withdrawal from buying goods or services as a display of protest or punishment. In this instance the boycott is against Target’s latest bathroom policies.

Boycotts by their nature are designed to have both a financial and a coercive impact on the party they are being formed against. It is an organized attack, to which those behind the movement are intending to impact a company by creating a financial loss so that an organization might re-evaluate and change given policies.

Given the definition of the term boycott and evaluating what boycotts are designed to do, I have a hard time accepting boycotts as a Christian practice of protest.

 

Boycotts are intimidation, and intimidation is not the way to Jesus.

 

Do not read me wrong, I find absolutely nothing wrong in choosing to abstain from a business because you do not agree with it or because you are convicted of it; or if you disagree morally, ethically, biblically or otherwise. I do see inherent problems however with organized attempts of intimidation.

As stated above, a boycott is a withdrawal from doing business so that they can feel the pain of you not patronizing them anymore.

In not so many words it says, “change, or we will hurt your name and your finances until you are forced to change”. That is intimidation.

If you are not comfortable with supporting a company because of their policies, you may abstain from them. Remember, abstaining is not a form of intimidation; the difference is in your motives.

 

Boycotts tend to be more about us, and our comfort. We want to create a change so we can continue enjoying what we are comfortable with. Abstaining is about letting go of something regardless of the discomfort it may bring us.

 

Same end. Different means and heart.

The position of Christians having to deal with those we morally disagree with is certainly not a new topic. In Paul’s letter to Titus we see a set of instructions as to how Christians should react when dealing with those situations in which we morally disagree with others:

 

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. Titus 3:1-12 (NIV)

 

We can learn a lot from this passage of Paul’s letter.

 

First, we must remember we have all been on the other side of the “boycott”.

 

At some point in our lives (if we are not still there) we were all foolish.

We were all disobedient.

We were all deceived.

We were all enslaved.

We must all experience Christ’s redemption to become free from the disobedience, deception, and enslavement we have been ensnared by. The only thing that separates “us” from “them” is the truth and liberation we have experienced through Jesus Christ. Remember, when our merciful God saved us it was not because of our righteousness, but because of His mercy.

Companies may be morally wrong in various areas of their business dealings, but remember we have been there too. We must be watchful of our actions, as a boycott by Christians could be a spiritual damnation for the company. I am quite sure many of us would not be where we are today if in our hay-days we were “boycotted” by Christians.

 

Second, as Christians we must also be devoted to doing what is good.

 

But what is good?

In 2 Timothy 2:22 we are told to “flee from the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness…” so that we can be an instrument ready to do God’s work. To abstain from forms of entertainment and media in order to flee from evil desires and maintain purity is noble and good. If we do not agree with Disney, Target, Wells Fargo, Tiffany and Co. or some other organization, we can freely choose to abstain from their services.

My wife Michelle and I choose to not watch certain movies, view certain television shows, listen to music genres, and patronize certain businesses in an attempt to maintain a level of purity and holiness in our lives. We urge others to take a similar stance in filtering what they allow into their lives. We should always be guarding ourselves from the traps and snares that are set up to bring us down, and this does mean disallowing certain things from our lives. Right now you may be thinking to yourself, that sounds an awful lot like a boycott. Our intention in abstaining from certain media outlets is not an attempt to bring about change in their organizations, or to inflict financial damage to prove a point. We are simply guarding ourselves from those things which may hinder our spirits. To continue with motives beyond this is to enter into, as Paul states, foolish controversies which are useless.

 

With this, I am not saying it is wrong for Christians to take a stand in what we believe in.

 

As Matthew 5:14 says, “We are the light of the world”.

Paul even instructs that we may warn the divisive person, and then warn him a second time. But after that, we are to have nothing to do with them. The Disney boycott was established to have a continuing financial impact on the Walt Disney Company in order to bring an alteration to an observed moral decline. While Paul writes we are to slander no one, one of the objectives in any boycott is to adversely effect a company’s reputation in order to force them to review their policies.

I believe that as Christians we have the responsibility to convey the gospel message in love and in truth. We are all equal, and in desperate need of a savior.

 

We can become so wrapped up in boycotts that we forget that behind the corporate doors, big desks, and branded images, they are souls too.

 

Boycotts are not the answer. We can’t hold the teachings of Jesus to those who don’t proclaim to follow Jesus. We can just love and expose them to a more life-filled way.

Author: Kyle Froman

Kyle Froman is co-author of "The Race: Living Life on Track" along with Darrell Waltrip and Billy Mauldin. Kyle is a chaplain for Motor Racing Outreach currently serving the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series community. Kyle also serves as the director of the MRO Association, a nationwide network of associate chaplains serving various motor sports communities around the nation. He currently lives in Spring Hill with his bride Michelle, and two boys.

  • Steve Kipp

    Kyle
    1. You closed with: “We can’t hold the teachings of Jesus to those who don’t proclaim to follow Jesus” … then much of what Jesus told the Pharisees, including some of His teachings (see Matthew 23, for example), are nonsensical. Why did Jesus then even bother to comment to the Pharisees there about His teachings re: hypocrisy, humility, about “the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Mt. 23:23), about murdering prophets, etc.? Your comment, Kyle, almost comes across as lecturing Jesus about Him going too far.

    2. You write about “intimidation,” but who’s intimidating whom? Who’s being provoked? And is it “OK” Scripturally to be provoked by our culture, or is that a “no-no,” too? [see 2 Peter 2:7-8: “7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was DISTRESSED by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was TORMENTED in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)…”)

    3. You imply that the motive to protect women and girls from those who would take advantage of changing rooms & bathrooms proximity as being a “foolish controversy.” I always thought that if a Christian knew a certain intersection was dangerous and advocated a traffic light being put in there, that it’s not “foolish” to do so since REAL potential victims are involved…we’re not simply talking theoretically/philosophically/academically (like you imply) about “disagreeing” morally with a business. IoW, to pre-empt somebody (who may not even be part of the lgbT controversy part of this) who exploits direct access to females in vulnerable situations is not “foolish.”

    4. You talk about the people behind these corporations as being “souls” who need our Gospel conveyance; and how we’ve all “been there”–disobedient, deceived, enslaved…How “Companies may be morally wrong in various areas of their business dealings, but remember we have been there too”… Your anti-boycott approach comes across as an absolute. Many of the boycotts through the years have focused on corporations which directly fund the abortion industry. I think an analogy from a John Warwick Montgomery book from the 1980s fits here:

    “…when Christians spearhead human rights legislation in international and domestic law, they create no significant barriers to evangelism. Moreover, as one moves up the scale of rights to those universally regarded as non-derogable—what Marks termed the ‘indestructible core’ of human dignity—the concern not to imperil evangelism by legislating what non-Christians will not agree to diminishes to the vanishing point…it would be monstrous to use the victims of such human rights violations as hostages to this kind of evangelism. No human beings should have their lives arbitrarily snuffed out or be enslaved or tortured for the sake of the possible future conversion of their executioner, slaver, or torturer, when Christians could reduce the extent of the practice or perhaps even legislate it out of existence. A concrete example: The arbitrary destructions of fetal life should be outlawed, even if it so deeply offends abortionists and reduces the chances of their conversion. The life of the unborn child must not be sacrificed to the possible conversion of those who violate indestructible core values of human dignity. There is, after all, a Last Judgment to consider.” (John Warwick Montgomery, Human Rights and Human Dignity, (Probe Books/Zondervan: Dallas, Grand Rapids): pp. 181-182).

    IoW, those who avoid confrontation with corporations which directly fund child dismemberment in the womb because they are openly fearful that it’ll hurt their Gospel outreach to them are only ignoring real victims are involved (in the above example, the pre-born; and in this blog’s example, note all readers that Kyle never ONCE mentions REAL victims involved…how men have either been arrested or chased out of Target stores relating to changing rooms/bathrooms in Nassau County, FL, Dallas, TX, Frisco, TX, Brentwood, MO, Abington, PA, Idaho Falls, ID, Miami Township, OH, Revere, MA, Bismark, ND, and who knows elsewhere? All in a half-year’s time!!!)

    So…if in the name of “reaching out” to people behind corporations funding abortion (refusing to “imperil evangelism”), you don’t seek to protect those pre-borns whose snuffing of their lives are being funded by such funding… Montgomery calls that both “monstrous” as well as such people being guilty of holding the pre-born hostage to potential evangelism. Likewise, Kyle, you’re seemingly holding hostage these 9 Target victims in 9 real cities (+ others, past and future) to the same nonsense.

    5. As for me and my family, yes, I’ll abstain. Paul told Timothy not to “participate in the sins of others” (1 Tim. 5:22). And what’s good for the individual (Timothy) is seemingly also good for Timothy’s sheep under him. IoW, however one wants to get technical about abstention…Kyle might call it personal abstention; we might call it a corporate, collective abstention (seems pretty similar). ‘Cause, after all, if I choose not to utilize a certain babysitter because she takes the babysitting $ & goes down to the local crack dealer or marijuana market & we agree as neighborhood parents to avoid funding her crack addiction, isn’t corporate abstention simply another name for a boycott? And before that crack-using babysitter is lucid enough to even consider the Gospel, won’t she have to be less than high?