Should we boycott?
I was questioned last night about yesterday’s blog post. The good friend who differed with my post made the point that Christians have as much right to boycott companies who “don’t share our values” as anyone else. I thought I might address that issue today. Do we have a right to boycott a company in the marketplace and, more to the point, is it a good idea to do so.
The easy answer to the first question is, yes, of course we have the right to boycott anyone we want. It is also within our rights to urge others to boycott them too. In our country we are free to buy or not buy all sorts of things in all sorts of places. And, yes, others do the same thing. Among boycotters out there are “greens”, gay rights advocates, both sides of the immigration issue, and a host of others. I am a little uneasy about an argument that sounds a bit like a five-year-old whining about not being allowed to do something his big brother can do (“He gets to do it, why can’t I?”) but perhaps that is just me.
But is it right to do so? Some would argue that it is not only right, it is imperative that faith-driven consumers be selective in who they patronize. The organization I linked to is there to help you choose wisely who to boycott. They claim to advocate for “the unique needs of Christians” because we are “under-represented Christian consumers.” Once again I am a bit uneasy. Are we just another special interest group with “unique needs?” I’d like to hope not.
I’m also concerned about the metric used to determine the rankings of the companies. To think that all Christians have exactly the same definition of a “Biblical worldview” is a bit too much. Also, some of the criteria ignore reality. To knock an organization for not supporting “Biblical sexuality and marriage” because they are willing to hire people who hold different views can in many cases be asking them to violate discrimination laws.
But my main concern is that boycotts and these evaluations miss the point on several levels.
– Doesn’t the Bible tell us “For what have I to do with judging outsiders?” I Corinthians 5:12. Isn’t the whole exercise sort of in violation of Paul’s questioning?
– Does presenting Christians as a powerful consumer group that needs to be catered to and reckoned with make power and not servanthood the primary expression of our faith?
– Doesn’t setting ourselves as judges over others and the standard bearers of morality communicate that we think we are better than others? Even other Christians who have a different metric?
– It seems that in choosing the metric for what constitutes Biblical morality they are trying to have their cake and eat it too. Picking a short list of things we are already comfortable with and declaring it “Biblical” while ignoring anything that might require us to reconsider ourselves is just too easy. What if we should be examining not where we buy big screen TVs but whether we should buy them at all?
That list could go on but here is the big one for me. I don’t see the goal of using economic power to force others to comply with our behaviors as in any way consistent with the Gospel. We don’t want to get people to act like Christians; we want them to be followers of Christ. The flawed premise of the entire culture war is that enforcing the behavior of others is the point of our public witness. We don’t “make disciples” by getting people to do what we like but by getting them to want to follow Jesus. I doubt boycotts serve that purpose at all.