Engaging Culture

Boycotts – Do They Work?

Years ago, a Christian ministry called for a boycott against McDonald’s Corporation.  That particular organization has called for various boycotts over the years, and this time I was curious to see the reactions to the issue.  When it comes to boycotts, there are a few different perspectives on the strategy.  In my experience, a boycott is never off the table.  As one of my readers mentioned yesterday with Rosa Parks and the civil rights boycott in Montgomery –  that boycott worked because it showed just how much the African-American community could impact the city.  But personally, I view it as the nuclear option only.  Because if it doesn’t work, it can really look foolish.

Years ago, and with a great deal of fanfare and publicity, a religious denomination initiated a boycott against a major Hollywood entertainment company.  The problem was during the boycott the offending company’s sales went up.  A few years later, a senior leader of the denomination called me for advice on how to delicately call off the boycott without the denomination looking foolish.

I arranged a meeting with the respective leadership of both organizations, and after shaking hands, they both declared a very unimpressive “victory.”  But the truth is, the boycott did absolutely nothing but hurt the denomination’s credibility.

Christians are quick to boycott the entertainment industry, corporations that support gay rights, left-wing organizations, or a wide range of liberal causes.  The problem is – I haven’t seen a shred of evidence confirming that boycotts bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

After all – if it worked so well, why aren’t missionaries using the technique? Why don’t missionaries surround a tribe in a third world country and boycott it?  And while they’re at it, let’s call the tribe names, and criticize their beliefs.

We don’t do it because it doesn’t work for evangelism – but it does work for raising money.

Creating an enemy, then calling an all out war on that enemy really gets a segment of the Christian audience worked up.  The problem is the perception that’s left.  Today, Christians are known as the people who are against everything, when in truth, we’re telling (as the movie title describes) the greatest story ever told.  If anything, we should be known as the people who are for something – something positive that can transform lives and impact the culture.

I think my ultimate problem with Christians boycotting the culture is why?  Why do we expect a secular company to adhere to our values?  Is it our job to police unbelievers? I’m reminded of the verse in 1 Corinthians 5:13 (NIV):  “God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked man from among you.”

Based on that, I wonder if we should spend more time calling those of us inside the Church into account and less time criticizing outsiders.  How is it our business to tell someone who doesn’t share our faith or values what to do?  It’s one thing to caution believers about supporting a company that conflicts with our values, but a full-on boycott is something altogether different.

Is the motive changing the culture or raising money?  I think that’s the big question here.

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21 Comments

  1. I am very happy to see the Don Wildmons of the world at least stand up and first, make those who "say" they are Christians, aware of what is going on in our culture, and how the very companies that benefit heavily from our dollars are supporting lifestyles and policies that we know are against what the Bible says is right. As Christians, we are so ignorant of what is happening around us, and from the comments attacking Wildmon and his group, seem happy to remain so.   

    When will we learn that the reason homosexuals have succeeded in mainstreaming their agenda is that they did and continue to do just what we are talking against –  witholding dollars from those who don't stand with us on important issues.  The advance of the homosexual agenda changed some years ago from the "in your face" challenges that produced resistance, to the behind-the-scenes pressuring and guerilla infiltration of their agenda into every institution that supports and shapes our culture.  All this while we sat around singing Hallelujah on Sunday and eating a second helping of the "prosperity pudding" and drinking the "live your best life" lemonade.

    This subject of homosexuals "marrying" is a big deal people.  It goes against the very foundation of how God created family, yet I continue to hear Christians say, let's just love them into the kingdom of God – when God has already said IN HIS WORD who will not inherit the kingdom.  Homosexuals are included in the ones he names as well as many others.  If we really want those named to be in the kingdom, then we must stand up for what God says is right – speak openly and honestly for what God says is right – and that should include witholding our dollars from companies whose policies are contrary to what we hold dear.

    I identify myself as a Christian first – bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus. That was my choice.  Everything else I am in this life – my sex, race, height, eye color – I had no choice in.  As one who chose to become a Christian, I must choose Him everyday in how I live my personal life, how I treat others and how I spend the money that He blesses me with.  Do I have to hate those who live contrary to what I believe in order to show that I love Christ?  No, absolutely not.  But I must stand, unashamed of the gospel of Christ, while believing that when He is lifted up, He will do just what He said – draw all men unto Him. 

    As for me and my house, I will put my money where my mouth is – not at McDonald's -even if the location is Christian-owned and be thankful for those who provide information that helps me to choose knowledgeably.         

  2. Bingo! We live in a fallen world. We can run out the clock being against stuff…or…be Amabassadors for Christ.

    Christianity and common sense can go hand-in-hand…but often don't.

    Wildmon & His Wild Bunch are well-intended, well-organized. CBS's Swingtown's ad revenue has been cut into by their boycott….but, five years from now will America be a better place because of it? Probably not.

    Let's show off our Savior instead of showing America her dirty underwear. The clock is ticking…..

  3. I personally think that some boycotts work and some are completely ridiculous (like not buying gas for a day). Boycotts are more about rallying people for a common cause to effect change in a community. 

    In the Rosa Parks story, it was the Churches and ministry leaders that rallied the people for the cause and they were successful. I don't think they were concerned about looking "foolish". Using any kind of blanket statement saying they don't work, isn't accurate.

    Perhaps a boycott is not the solution for every situation, but we still need to be a voice to bring reformation because we as Christians, are definitely not gaining ground. Any suggestions?

    The homosexual agenda has already started to infiltrate the church. GLAD (a homosexual organization) has instructed the gay and lesbian community to slowly start to influence their friends, neighbors, businesses and community to accept their marriage as a normal part of American society. Once they gain ground, the law suits will follow.

    I guess it will soon be normal to take your kids to a ball game or Mc Donalds to sit by a gay couple who is showing a public display of affection also know as making out.    

    Any suggestions on how to stop these agendas from infiltrating the church if boycotts are completely out of the question?   

  4. Exactly! Lately, God has challenged me to get my "fight" back…but to fight for the right things, and with the right weapons.

    That missions paradigm is quite compelling. And the "big question" you pointed out at the end really is the bottom line. It reveals motives and intentions that we may not be so willing to own to in the first place.

  5. You wrote: Is it our job to police unbelievers?

    I believe it's our job to shape our culture. We are in great need of reformation!

  6. “Shape our culture” means some of us think believers are called to be the meat and potatoes, instead of salt and light.

  7. Boycotts in general are political exercises in power that attempt to draw institutional churches into the economic arena to prove to others (and themselves) that they can control the culture.

    The only problem with that is that Christ didn't call upon us to control cultures.  He called upon us to go out into the world to reach individuals with the Gospel of Christ.

    Culture changes only when enough individuals change their minds.

    It's about time as Christians that we eschew the machiavellian politics of institutional churches and religious organization and return to God's definition of what the Church is and leave the controlling manipulation of most of the organizations trying to change the world using the world's methods.

  8. Let's see Jeanette… So far, AFA has boycotted Disney, Target, Ford, McDonald's, Miramax, and many more. MSNBC says: "The fight against Ford is just one of many it has going: As of Tuesday, it was calling for action against the Carl’s Jr. hamburger chain (to protest its racy new ad featuring Paris Hilton), Kraft Foods (for its sponsorship of the 2006 Gay Games), Mary Kay Cosmetics and Old Navy stores (for advertising on ABC’s prime-time soap opera “Desperate Housewives”) and NutriSystem Inc., the weight-loss company (for airing its own salacious TV ad). Most recently, the AFA ended a nine-year boycott of the Walt Disney Co., which it launched because of what it felt was the company’s “attitude, arrogance and embrace of the homosexual lifestyle.” The AFA said it was moving on because “we have made our point.” Disney said it never changed any of its policies…"  

    Now – after all that:  Has our culture changed?  Have any of those people been won to Christ?  Are things different?  Or does it just make Christians look stupid? 

  9. I'm boycotting Mc Donald's for political reasons! But you won't catch me with a picket sign if front of abortion clinics, movie theatres, and especially gay parades. Before Christ, I lived in West Hollywood for 10 years, worked in bars, and played in bands with lesbians. I have been able to lead a few to the Lord and still keep in touch with some. it's ok christians to love people without monetarily supporting them. I personally will not eat at Mc Donald's anymore. I could lose a few pounds anyways.

     Love you all !!!! 

  10. I'm going to need to check some of those key verses in the more modern translations again.

    16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, avoiding all contact with special sauce or seseme seed buns. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

    Perhaps a sermon series based upon the observation that none of the fish Jesus directed to be pulled in from the other side of the boat were used in Filet-o-Fish sandwiches.  Now, please turn in your hymnals and let us sing together,

    Hark the Herald Angels Sing,

    Glory to the newborn King! 

    For Peace on earth and mercy mild,

    Keep McNuggets from your child!

    😉

    Seriously, I think Boycotts can work, but there are organizations that have taken it to ridiculous lengths and Christians who appear to define themselves by what they are not and what they are against rather than promoting a positive statement of Christ and his power to transform lives.  It's worth a litte ridicule now and then to keep the focus where it belongs.

  11. eye on the prize……..I get your drift loud and clear!  Some would rather we stand, hold hands and sing "Koombaya."  I don't know, as it is so much, "being ignorant to what is around us," as we have become desensitized and no longer have the conviction that some issues are such a "big deal."  I agree, "we must stand up for what is right, first."  We can take a bold position by preaching the Gospel which includes calling wrong what it is…sin.  Jesus said he came to, "preach deliverance to the captives."  The world is never going to like it.  But at the same time there will be those "in the world" who will hear, listen and turn from their ways.

    Some of our predecessors in the faith took such bold public steps that cost them, literally, their heads. No….we want to blend in and tolerate the ills of our society all in the name of "being a witness."  Jesus was as much "in your face," as He was compassionate and kind.

    I am not called or feel led to picket in front of an abortion clinic.  We have just such a clinic in our city that performs third trimester abortions and partial birth abortions.  Thank God there are those who are willing and commited to keeping it in the Christian's eye and the public's eye through their sign waving or the media would see to it that we never knew such atrocities existed….let alone what is being done behind the scenes by Christians to help these women.

  12.  

    Sometimes I think it is very distracting for Christians to be looking about for something to get upset about. If we're watching the other guys we don't have to look at ourselves. Wouldn't it be interesting if we focused on what WE are doing wrong? And I don't mean the other church or Christian. You.   

    For me, I'm having enough trouble truly loving my neighbor…living with grace. Full time job. I can only stumble towards Christ. If the only loud voice the world hears from Christians is one of anger and protest….what does it say about us? What if we put all that energy and time into something else? Art and relationships don't survive war zones. Who do you listen to? The voice of a friend or an angry stranger. Could be just me. 

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