June 2016 – AFA’s boycott of Target (See here.) raises the question again if followers of Christ have biblical warrant to decline doing business with a company as a means of protest.
Below, I address three common objections to boycotting. But first, consider this simple reality of free enterprise: Keeping customers happy is how companies prosper and stay in business.
More to the point, aren’t Christians justified to decline to eat at a restaurant where the food is bad? And yet, even when a company promotes rebellion against God, some Christians object to publicly declaring they will not do business there.
Objection #1: Christians lose boycotts
“A boycott is a display of power, particularly of economic power,” Dr. Russell D. Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, has said. “The boycott shows a corporation … that the aggrieved party can hurt the company, by depriving it of revenue. … It is a contest of who has more buying power, and thus is of more value to the company. We lose that argument.”
Moore has confused the means with the goal. The goal of a boycott is not primarily to hurt a company’s pocketbook. AFA boycotts are generally against huge corporations like Disney, Pepsi, Ford, Home Depot, or now, Target. Such corporate behemoths are virtually impervious to the “display of power” Moore cites – and AFA knows it.
Then why boycott? Because a boycott 1) draws attention of the offending company in order to start a dialogue with its decision-makers; and 2) begins a public dialogue about the main issue of contention.
A 1955 boycott of the bus company in Montgomery, Alabama, motivated people to ask questions about the evils of segregation. Who can say that the black community in America lost that argument?
Objection #2: Boycotts don’t change culture
In a blog for the Christian Post, media guru Phil Cooke said about the use of boycotts: “It raises plenty of money for fundraising campaigns, but as a strategy to change the culture, it simply rarely works.”
AFA has never set out “to change the culture” with a single boycott. Our goal is simply to move it incrementally in a more godly direction.
Are Christians only to care about changing the entire culture? Aren’t we also to care about the biblical principles at stake?
Objection #3: Boycotts are not biblical
Karen Covell, director of the Hollywood Prayer Network, said this about boycotts: “Jesus only got mad at the religious leaders – never at the people who didn’t know or claim to know Him. … I truly don’t see biblically where Jesus judged the nonbelievers.” (Emphasis in original.)
Simply untrue. Jesus certainly did announce the judgment of nonbelievers. In John 3:18, Jesus said those who did not believe in Him have “been judged already.” Why? Because “men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil” (vs. 19).
Of course, it is true that Jesus only rarely addressed the nations outside Israel. That is because in His earthly ministry, He made it clear that He “was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24), not to the pagan world.
For the most part, Jesus assigned to the church the task of confronting the world with sin. In fact, it is part of the Great Commission “that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Doesn’t proclaiming repentance for the forgiveness of sins require some mention of sin?
Likewise, Christians are called to be salt and light in the world (Matt. 5:13-16). Why would Christians need to be salt unless the world is corrupt? Why would Christians need to be the light of the world if it isn’t covered in darkness?
Thus, from AFA’s perspective, boycotts are not “a display of power,” as Moore suggests, but a display of God’s righteousness.
Finally, in the matter of the Target boycott, I suggest three things:
1. Pray about your participation. Only Scripture should bind the conscience of a Christian.
2. Keep a charitable attitude toward others who do not make the same decision as yours.
3. If you boycott, politely communicate your displeasure to the company. Let them know of your decision to boycott and why.
Adapted from afa.net/the-stand/the-culture-war/2016/04/should-christians-boycott