Engaging Culture

Should we Boycott, Protest, or Engage Secular Culture?

Karen Covell, Director of the Hollywood Prayer Network had an interesting conversation with an employee of a major ministry regarding their position on boycotting the entertainment industry.  Karen, (like most of us Christians in the entertainment business) prefer to think of boycotts as a completely last resort.  It raises plenty of money for fundraising campaigns, but as a strategy to change the culture, it simply rarely works.

But Karen responded to this ministry with such a clear and direct explanation of her position, I thought it worth posting. With Karen’s permission, here’s her letter:

Dear _____:

Thanks so much for your quick and kind reply.  I do want to lovingly challenge you on one point about boycotts: Jesus ONLY got mad at the Religious Leaders – never at the people who didn’t know or claim to know him. To them he was patient, loving and forgiving, i.e. The woman at the well. I truly don’t see biblically where Jesus judged the non-believers. In fact, he told us to love our enemies. And yet, the boycotts today are all aimed at non-believers. We don’t boycott the Billy Graham organization or even Christian ministries that go bad. We just boycott the “lost” who don’t know any better than to lift up and celebrate their world views and their “lostness.”

I truly believe that if boycotting was biblical then it would lead non-believers to Jesus, it would build community, unity, peace, and all the things that Jesus wants for us. Yet all it does is to cause non-believers to hate us, they feel judged, and they get turned off from Christianity because of how they feel toward the Christians who are telling them that they have to “act” like Christians. I have never met anyone who has become a Christian because of a boycott. But I have seen many examples of the opposite.

Jesus tells us that the followers of Him who are leaders will be held responsible for our actions, but he never says that about non-believers.  So, that is my challenge to your organization. To truly find something Biblical that supports the effort. I am open to hear your thoughts.

I would love to continue the dialogue and I thank you for listening.


I think Karen’s reply is brilliant.  What do you think?

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  1. Phil,

    Great post, I am glad Karen gave you permission to share her letter, I hope others in the media industry follow her example.

    I just stumbled across your blog because you have a blog I read linked here.  I know you from when I worked with Clyde T. on the Damah Film Festival.  Are you still involved?  I miss the Damah team, a great group of people (including you and Karen!)


    Barbara Legere 



  2. This is such a complex subject, isn’t it Karen? On the one hand you have the Church, awakened from her slumber, wanting to “fight back” now against the tide that has swept this Nation farther away from her Christian foundations on issues like abortion, and the mention of “God” on our quarters and dimes. She wants to “do” something now, and I think many people feel mounting a boycott is a tangible “something” to push back the darkness.

    On the other hand you have the issue of Grace.

    From “What’s So Amazing About Grace” by Philip Yancey:

    Grace is the church’s great distinctive. It’s the one thing the world cannot duplicate, and the one thing it craves above all else – for only grace can bring hope and transformation to a jaded world.

    Karen, what are your thoughts as to what instead we “do” when in the market place we feel we could force change by publicly withholding our financial support for a company? Would it be possible to mount an “anti-boycott,” a prominent, public display of genuine grace?

    Just a thought. . . what kind of response would Rosie have if a few thousand “radical Christians” sent her flowers, and a note with words of authentic love and grace? What aroma would remain and would we feel we had “done” something?


  3. Tom,Thanks for your email.  And I actually get excited about the thought of sending Rosie flowers and a love note, backed by prayer!  She would be blown away, tell her friends, they would be blown away, and the curiosity, intrigue, openness, and melted hearts would begin. Because that's one thing she can't compare with Islam Extremists PURE GRACE AND LOVE.  The Psalms say that "a kind word turns away wrath" and that's what I have experienced working in every situation and/or conversation I've been in with angry people or people who don't agree with me on something.That's why I encourage prayer instead of boycotts.  If we Christians would extend the same energy, effort and time on caring for people, serving them, loving them and praying for them, the world would be a different place.  And that's the unique response that Christians have, versus any other religion.  Because of the Holy Spirit in us, we are uniquely qualified to show authentic love and grace – so that's what we should do.  We need to put aside our own agenda and follow Philip Yancy's lead and be distinctive in our words, actions and responses.  Grace truly is AMAZING!I have watched all of the Transformation videos, produced by The Sentinel Group.  They follow the spiritual journey of whole cities all around the world, that have been spiritually oppressed.  In each city that has experienced breakthrough, someone starts praying for that city and the people in it, then others join in prayer, next, Christians leaders unite, then comes reconciliation, forgiveness, more unity and eventual revival – in every single case.  I truly believe that that's possible for Hollywood, if Christians would pour all they have into praying for this place and the people here.  The grace and love would flow, hearts would melt and revival would break out.  Oh how glorious.Look how you got me started!  Thanks again for your words.In His Grip,Karen

  4. I think that Boycotts don't always hurt the CEOs but they do hurt the working class (Some may be Christians who agree with the people boycotting. When I mention the harm done to minimum wage employees their response is, "The just have to pay for the sinners". I find that position morally wrong and warped. When groups like the Parents Television Council and the American Family Association stage a boycott they provide people with a template for a email that you can send to network. Do the networks take the really take the same email from a million different people seriously? I don't think so.
  5. THAT'S A GREAT QUESTION.  My instinct tells me that the SAME e-mail or postcard from a million people doesn't have the same impact becuase it's obviously orchestrated.  A smaller number of original letters, e-mails, or postcards, would have more impact in my opinion.   But I don't know for sure.  Let's see if we can put that question to some network or studio executives.


  6. We should always try to avoid un-Godliness we don’t necessarily have to confront it. We must always repel secular un-Godliness when it intrudes into Christs Church, this is not a choice it is an obligation.

  7. Boycotts simply don’t work – they’re wrong headed and completely anachronistic. They raise money and feed the ‘busy’ culture of religiousity – but it’s a zero sum game – nothing is changed.

  8. Boycotts don’t work. Prayers do. I believe that if Christians would just pray for them(the celebrities) and walk in love, then they would give their lives to Christ.

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