Thursday, October 27, 2005

Christians and boycotts


The past several months I have received e-mails that have encouraged me to boycott all sorts of businesses in the name of Christ. Either these businesses are giving charitable support to groups who support anti-Christian behaviors, such as homosexuality or abortion, or businesses that have poor employee policies.

As I have read through the e-mails, have looked at the suggested links, and have read the articles where Christian leaders are calling for these boycotts, I have had many thoughts and concerns as well as questions. Here are a few of them:

Where do we draw the line in our boycotting? Recently I learned that American Girl, the makers of the wonderful Kit doll I received as a birthday gift just weeks ago, has given a large sum of money to Planned Parenthood, the number one abortion provider in the country. They are also advertising their cooperation with Girl's Inc. which is an educational organization that encourages girls, among other things, to be pro-choice as far as abortion is concerned. Some others are also upset that the books featuring American Girl dolls promote what they call a "feminist" mindset. (I am in the process of writing an entire piece on Christians and feminism so that is for another day.)

Just prior to this, Starbucks was the target because of their charitable support of homosexual organizations. And before that it was Wal-Mart and Target because of their treatment of employees as well as their violation of the human rights of those in foreign countries where their products are made.

So, the questions I have are these:

Do those encouraging these boycotts apply the same standards everywhere they shop? Do they stop in for a chat with every mom and pop shop owner to find out the recipients of their charitable giving? Do they do the research and discover where every brand name in their favorite store gives charitable contributions? What about every business establishment, every vendor they work with in their own businesses, right down to the guy who sells you paper and paper clips? What about every barber, every beautician, every gas station, etc. etc. etc? Do they ask everyone of these people and businesses if they give to the United Way, who, in most cases, is a big supporter of Planned Parenthood? If not, where is the equity and justice in the matter?

Then I wondered about which "sins" ought to inspire these boycotts. Abortion and homosexuality seem to top the list. What about lust? Should we rent DVD's from establishments that rent or sell X-rated materials? What about R rated movies that have nudity? What about PG movies, like Waking Ned Devine that has nudity, albeit a naked little old man on a motorcycle? What about patronizing restaurants where the waitresses are not wearing modest clothing? Should we give money to businesses who hire these women and then require them to wear immodest uniforms?

And that brings me to this question....there are those who believe that it is a sin for a woman to work outside the home. Do you then not shop at Kroger because there are women clerks? How far does this go and what "sins" qualify as boycottable?

Here is my own answer for this. We need to realize that we live in a fallen world and we must expect that those unbelievers who live in it will act like the unregenerate folk that they are. Our job is not to publically undo them. That is God's job and we have the assurance that one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord. In the meantime, I think Christians ought to be spending their time and energies in doing three things:

1. We must be about the business of witnessing and ministering to our "enemies" in Jesus name, giving a cup of cold water to those who do not yet know Christ, seeking to spread the Gospel far and wide to those who are lost. This might mean speaking a word of kindness and offering compassion to everyone from the owner to the guy stocking the shelves, building a relationship with those outside of our own "boxes."

2. We must stop being afraid of our culture and purpose to engage it and shed light in the dark corners. We are not called to start a new culture but to be God's instruments in reforming this one. I recently actually read the statement that said that "Hollywood is unredeemable." How much faith does it take to say that? Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. We are not the keepers of the secret knowledge of who might or might not be redeemed. Not long ago World Magazine had an interesting article on the large number of Christians who are seeking to influence the movie industry. (I think this is awesome, mostly because so many Christian offerings in the arts tend to be hokey and sappy.) The challenge is to be culturally relevant without compromise. There are many areas of life where this ought to apply.

3. Finally, where are those people who are crying out for boycotts against Christian organizations and businesses that muddy the name of Christ by their own behaviors or hiring practices? I know of a situation where a Christian ministry practiced age discrimination. This is not only unchristian, it is illegal. There are other groups who go far beyond the essentials of the Christian faith and practice discrimination based on their own unbiblical views of women. Should I purchase products from those people? (If I don't would that be called a "girlcott?") Instead of worrying about what the world does or doesn't do, I think believers ought to be holding each other accountable and to higher standards than we require of those outside the body of Christ. It is hard to be taken seriously when we are not cleaning up our own messes.

5 Comments:

At 1:07 PM, Anonymous Patrick Jinks said...

Your blog entry on "Christians and Boycotts" claims that most United Ways support Planned Parenthood.

I am an executive director for a local United Way (in Danville, VA), and know this to NOT be the case. At last count, only 24 of the 1400 local United Ways around the country have passed any financial support to Planned Parenthood. That means over 98% of all United Ways do NOT support them.

Of the 24 that do pass money their way, well over half of the dollars are from donors who specifically designate their individual contributions to Planned Parenthood.

We are the victims of much misinformation, and blanket statements, though well-meaning, can harm our cause, especially if quite inaccurate.

Patrick Jinks
Executive Director
United Way of Danville-Pittsylvania County
Danville, VA

 
At 1:11 PM, Anonymous Patrick Jinks said...

Oops! My other posting had my name linked to a bad address!. This one is correct.

 
At 3:30 PM, Blogger prairie girl said...

Patrick,

Thanks for you comments. Could you send my direction some documentation to support what you said? I would like to pass that along to those who have stated otherwise.

Thanks.

 
At 4:57 PM, Anonymous David said...

Karen,

WELL SAID!

In talking with my wife about this, I am reminded of Jesus' words as he prayed to God in John 17, "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one". Certainly Jesus calls us to be in the world, just not of it, but nonetheless IN it. To be in it is to participate and redeem it.

There is just too much knee-jerk reactionism to situations. What we need is more willingness to discern each situation and let scripture and the life of Christ guide us as we interact with this world.

Certainly Jesus lived "in this world" but was not of it. As some points he infuriated either the liberals and the conservatives of his day because he was considered to be of the other "party". Sometimes being a follower of Christ means being characterized as "extremist" by both parties.

 
At 5:34 AM, Blogger prairie girl said...

David,

I know what you mean. Recently I have been labeled a "crazy woman" and it has been implied that I am a feminist. My family thinks this is hilarous.

I spoke at a mom's retreat over the weekend and talked about the "image" that people expect of homeschooling moms and the "image" we expect of ourselves that isn't always God's image. I see so much of this and it is so discouraging.

 

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