Over the years I’ve seen Christians call for a ban on a variety of products, companies, movies, etc. Some have been “effective,” most have not, and even more have just been forgotten about. Social media has added a new wrinkle to this boycotting phenomenon. Every social and political spectrum uses the connectivity of the Interweb to reach out to all their adherents to unite behind their cause. I’m personally not much of a boycotter. I’m too busy to go to any kind of actual protest. And I’m overall just unsure what my responsibility as a Christian is to boycott companies that act as unchristian as they are. Am I only supposed to buy products from other Christians? I hope either Fruit of the Loom or Hanes are a Christian company because I don’t think I could name a third underwear provider. But I really stopped and thought about what the Bible says about issues such as this.
The Old Testament is pretty clear-cut. God basically told the Jewish people to boycott everyone. The Law pretty much prohibits any interaction with foreign cultures. So are Christians supposed to follow suit? No. The New Covenant is inclusive of all peoples and cultures. Anyone can call on the Name of the Lord and be saved. So Christians popped up like little mushrooms after the rain all over the known world. Christians bought and sold merch in the marketplaces like anyone else. We do find some disturbing stories though about the churches in some of the Greek cities. What seemed to be occurring was if you wanted to be a part of the local economy you had to join the corresponding guild (think unions but with demon worship.) If you were a blacksmith you had to be part of the blacksmith guild. If you were a carpenter you had to be a part of the carpenters guild, and so on. If you tried to do work outside of the guild, your house would be burned down (so not totally different than a union… it’s ok, I can say that, I’m Italian.) The problem was, at the local guild chapter meetings, they would literally bring an animal sacrifice to their particular guild’s false god. Christians no doubt couldn’t be part of such ceremonies, and thus couldn’t be part of such guilds. Therefore, Christians were left destitute and could only trade with one another. They were poor but rich in spirit. What we deal with today as Christians doesn’t seem to be equivalent to that, does it?
Beyond that, the Bible is filled with statements and examples that God is going to judge every single person on the earth for what they have done. So yes, CEO’s, Board of Directors, Managers, and the like will be judged one day by the only one who has the right to judge. So the question is, will God judge Christians who support companies who actively campaign against God’s principles, truths, and character? I’m not afraid to answer that question and anger half of my readership. But I want to set myself up to only anger a quarter of it instead. So first, here are my 5 Biblical warnings about #boycotts.
#1 – Don’t Vow
If you come to the conclusion that you want to boycott a particular store, then no problem, you have every right to do so. I’d be careful about making a vow before the Lord though. Vows aren’t real common today. Maybe we picture a brave knight making a vow to rescue the princess and slay the dragon. But a vow is simply a promise you make before God and only death can break it. (We say vows at our weddings but seeing the number of divorces that occur, people don’t seem to be taking them too seriously lately.) Vows are serious things. King Saul was actually doing a pretty good job for Israel until he made a stupid vow before God that no one in Israel will eat until they vanquished their enemies. But his son Jonathan didn’t hear him make the vow and thus when he saw a huge honeycomb dripping honey, he got his Winnie the Pooh on and ate all that sweet, sweet nectar. So after the battle, all the hungry men that didn’t eat the honey went all Walking Dead on the livestock. They were so famished that they were literally taking bites out of cows and sheep. So after the victory, Saul heard all this. They got the victory but his own son needed to die because he broke the Kings vow. But the King didn’t want to kill his beloved son. Who would? But then even the people who achieved victory also needed to be punished because although they kept the vow, they broke the Law by eating blood. Ahhh!!! The moral of the story is… don’t make vows.
#2 – Don’t Swear
This is similar to a vow but made to a person. Jesus told us to stop swearing. People used to swear by the Temple, or even the gold in the Temple! (It’s similar to the double and triple dog-dare system laid out in A Christmas Story.) Jesus told us to keep it simple and just let our “Yes’s” mean “Yes” and our “No’s” mean “No.” So when we say, “I SWEAR I am NEVER shopping at THAT store EVER AGAIN.” I think you better mean it. I remember when many Christians “boycotted” Disney because of Gay Pride Parades. That didn’t seem to last long. Christians love Disney. I think Frozen out-sold the Bible for a couple weeks even in the Deep South. So, many are going to boycott Target until Lilly Pulitzer puts out a new collection or that 50 in. TV goes on sale for $338 on Black Friday. Then they will start thinking to themselves, “Target.com isn’t the same as Target, right?” “And I really only swore to boycott the Target bathrooms, #boycotttargetpotties, that’s what I tweeted, I remember.” I’m not telling you not to boycott Target or other such establishments (I haven’t declared anything on that issue yet.) I’m just warning you to not swear you are going to do something if you aren’t totally committed to following through on that commitment. Your word is one of the most valuable things you have as a Christian. Evangelistic efforts get convoluted if you aren’t completely truthful all the time.
#3 – Don’t Shame
If you feel strongly on a particular issue, you should share that opinion and share it strongly. But shaming people into your particular line-of-thinking is a dangerous place to be. All of our lives are filled with hypocrisy. Unless you only shop at Hobby Lobby and eat at Chick-fil-a then you are guaranteed to support companies that love abortion, approve of all sorts of sexual acts that are contrary to God’s Word, and probably even contribute to slave-labor and maybe even sex trafficking. (Besides if you only ate at Chick-fil-a you would starve on Sundays because of their heinous practice of being closed. There are people who go to church on Saturday you know, and could then serve me nuggets on Sunday.) But I’m not saying you shouldn’t boycott Target or whomever else. I’m just saying, don’t shame other Christians if they don’t have the same conviction. If you really believe they are wrong in not boycotting, lovingly explain to them IN PERSON why they are erring. But this issue definitely seems like a plank in your own eye when there’s a speck in your bother’s eye kind of scenario. But that passage is often misunderstood to mean to never say anything judgmental to another believer. No, it says to remove the plank from your eye first, and then help your brother or sister remove the speck from their own eye. (i.e. don’t tell someone to stop shopping at Target if you are living with your boyfriend or girlfriend… but you should definitely stop doing that.)
#4 – Don’t Lack Compassion
This present season’s uproar over bathroom usage for transgender people is a complicated issue. I have a ton of questions for those in the Transgender community HERE, but I also realize that what public bathroom a transitioned person should use is not an easy question. Whatever my personal beliefs are on the issue, I am not going to legislate my belief on others. (On the same hand, I want to make sure my faith isn’t legislated on by others either.) Many of you reading this might really truly believe that transgender people are seriously disturbed individuals. All the more reason they need our compassion. Christians are often times the extreme minority in their culture. We should show compassion on any group that feels oppressed. As a Christian, I don’t mind being hated or despised for believing in Jesus Christ or the Gospel. I don’t particularly want to be hated and despised for a secondary issue though. There are lots of things I disagree with in this world, but I tend to stand up for Jesus as opposed to against something others believe in.
#5 – Don’t Lack Common Sense
Honestly, Christians know they have been in the bathroom with a transgender person at some point in their life and just didn’t realize it. If we don’t know, then it doesn’t bother us. If someone isn’t comfortable using a particular gender’s bathroom, then I don’t want them to be forced to. However, as much as the rights of the majority cannot trample the rights of the individual; the rights of the individual cannot trample the rights of the majority. This is my problem with designing legal loopholes. To make a policy that allows a grown man that just claims some sort of gender fluidity access to a bathroom designated for women, it becomes a major distraction at minimum and a dangerous situation in all probability. (There already have been problems and they will get worse – not from the Trans community itself but from perverts claiming to be for legal protection.) The common sense solution is to start offering more single stalls that just say “Bathroom.” I’m not sure about transgender people, but I know I would choose that bathroom 10 times out of 10. All I want is privacy when I have to “drop the kids off at the pool.” (And would only allow my daughters to go in such private bathrooms as well.)
Back to the question, will God judge Christians who support companies who actively campaign against God’s principles, truths, and character? Romans 8:1 says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” So, no, God isn’t going to start judging Believers according to the Law again. Jesus took all of our judgment on the cross. We are called to love God and love others and to go and tell the world of who Jesus Christ is. I’m not pretending that this is the only command in Scripture though; there are many others. However, how I view this issue of boycotting is similar to how Paul dealt with the issue of meat sacrificed to idols. Some Christians ate meat sacrificed to idols because it was cheaper than the other meat in the marketplace. Other Christians viewed it as a horrible evil to touch something that was involved in demonic practices. The Corinthians tried to get Paul to take sides and he wouldn’t do it publically. Privately he said, that around those that ate meat sacrificed to idols he would eat it too; and around those that didn’t, he would abstain. I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that. I have nothing inside of me that wants to dissuade people who feel strongly about boycotting Target or Disney or Deadpool. I also have nothing inside me that wants to convince people to boycott anything either. There will be times where I want to inform other Christians about the beliefs and practices of certain companies, and I hope other Christians do the same. I very well might take my business elsewhere, and I might not, but I will weigh my own decisions carefully and will stand before God one day and give an answer for why I did what I did. “God, that $338 TV was just me trying to be the best steward I could be. Yeah God, I know that’s pretty flimsy.”
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