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Friday Discussions: Should Christians Boycott?

By October 1, 2010Christians, Culture

The Friday discussions have been fun. Thanks for participating. I hope you will join the dialogue. Remember, I like discussion, so don’t be bashful.

Today I want to know your thoughts on the subject of boycotting something you don’t support or believe in as a Christian. Recently I saw a group boycotting a business in another city. I won’t share the companies name, but apparently this company supports activities the Christians didn’t support. It made me curious:

Should Christians boycott products or companies because of things they are doing that may be seen as “unchristian”? Do boycotts work?

Do you think a boycott helps or hurts the cause of Christ?

What would cause you to boycott a company or product?

Would you ever publicly boycott a church if they failed to do as you think they should?

What boycotts come to your mind when you think about this issue?

Share your opinion on this issue.

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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Join the discussion 51 Comments

  • ronedmondson says:

    Thanks for the illustration

  • ronedmondson says:

    Thanks for joining the conversation

  • @Bryankr says:

    I have to agree with some and say that boycotting on a personal level, like as Chris Donato mentioned, is an important and almost inevitable thing to do. I think we need to remember one thing before we get onto doing this on a larger or corporate level: There is no such thing as BAD publicity! If you decide to go after someone like Disney for their "gay days", you might want to keep that in mind! Hey! I'm just saying they tend to look for people like us to demonstrate against them so they can get the press to come…… do the math.

  • Lou says:

    What comes to my mind? The first one I knew about was my dad who had always bought the same kind of tooth paste. They came out with a commercial that said it gave you sex-appeal. My dad said never in this house again. My dad was a very calm loving man who did not get upset about very many things. At the time I was a very young teen and I thought he was being way to old fashioned. Now I know my dad had integrity and did the right thing!
    The public one that sticks out in memory is Walt Disney world.
    Knowing balance in life takes a lot of prayer and Bible study!
    God has used non Christian people to help me in many ways when Christians who should have helped me did not. But He later showed me I had to break off contact with those non Christians because the influence was to tempting.

  • Lou says:

    A church? YES! God warns us to stay away from some people. I boycott the biggest B church here in town because the pastor told me he knew what God says and wanted him to do about something and was going to do it, but then he did not do it. Do I publicly boycott that church? I tell people why I left and will not go back there when I am asked. I do not go stand in front of it, but maybe if all the many people who have been horribly abused by that church did a public boycott the pastor would have to humble himself and that would be what is best for him and the people of that church. But then if all the people that worship him instead of God stood by him it might make him more prideful

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks for sharing your heart in honesty. I appreciate it…really. Interesting thoughts.

  • Lou says:

    Should we boycott? Does God tell us to stay away from some things and some people? Yes

    Do they work? Many have, some have not. Is it how many people do it, how much publicity, or something else?
    Should we base weather we do it on if we think it works or what God says?

    Helps or hurts the cause of Christ? Depends on how it is done? If I am not right with God is someone else boycotting going to make me even more not right with Him? I do not think so! If I am right with God it might help me have the strength I need to join in. If I am a babe and see someone else do it am I going to get pulled into it or is the Holy Spirit going to protect me?

    What would cause me to boycott? I have before for the wrong reason! Selfish things like they did not do what I wanted when they never agreed to. I would if not boycotting could influence me into sin…

  • Reagan Lynch says:

    Consider the rhetoric around the Home Depot boycott in July. The AFA attacked the corporate office, for what is under our ideal of business a private business choice. They ignore the fact that Home Depot via its foundation has given millions of dollars to build affordable homes for people with low income. Something the church should be taking an active roll in.

    Is what they did biblically wrong? Sure, but we as Christians can use such an opportunity to minister to those people be they Home Depot employees, or shock a GLBT person.

    I also don’t support boycotts because for all I know the person who sits next to me on Sunday morning might work at that store, his sister might work their, or her dad, and so what the boycott is doing is telling that person that as a Christian my personal ideals out way the teaching of the bible.

    Remember we love the sinner and hate the sin. Jesus worked right along side the same people we today shun in society and it is the fault of organizations like the AFA that we get a bad wrap.

    Instead of supporting the boycotts we should be asking ourselves how can we minister to these people or this company.

  • fiercegrace says:

    News flash for ya: Hugh Hefner doesn't care whether you buy his magazine or not. Beyond that, I'm not sure making personal choices based on preferences, even moral ones, is quite the same as a boycott.

    The bottom line for me is that followers of Christ are called to influence, not protest. You cannot influence anyone with a megaphone, a picket sign, or a chain forwarded email. Political, social, or even moral, activism does little to open hearts and win a hearing for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    If we want people – and every company is run by them – to stop acting like sinners, we'd better find a way to reach them with the Gospel. And somehow, a boycott doesn't strike me as a way to open that door.

  • ronedmondson says:

    Good points. Thanks for joining the discussion.

  • ronedmondson says:

    I like the logic you are using here.

  • ronedmondson says:

    Thanks Brandon!

  • ronedmondson says:

    Thanks Catherine. I'm not completely sure though whether you are using these to say boycotting is good or not. Great Scripture though…

    I could see how both sides of the discussion would use these same Scriptures for to make their point. Can you?

  • Rocco Capra says:

    The first image that comes to mind with the word "Boycott" is a group of villagers with pitch forks and scythes running down the road screaming incoherent absurdities. The sad thing is, most if not all, Christian "Boycotts" I've heard of are just that.

    With that in mind, No, Christians shouldn't "boycott".

    I can't picture Jesus "Boycotting" anything, except maybe, the Religious Establishment.

  • Ashley Elizabeth says:

    This is a great discussion! From a public relations stand point, there are times a gathering of people united publicly against an item or business can have a great impact. A recent example being the Huyndai boycott by large group of Catholics. Huyndai aired a commercial during the World Cup that was offensive and blasphemous. A boycott was organized for the purpose of having the commercial removed. Success! Boycotts can be a good thing if well-organized and if the particular purpose is well known. Boycotts for the sake of general disagreement in philosophy typically give us as Christians a bad rap without any good outcome (the Disney boycotts of the 90s).

  • Jon says:

    I think we also need to differentiate between a boycott and a boycott. A boycott not necessarily be a raging protest in front of the media. For example, in my post above I boycott Playboy by not buying their products. My friends boycott a major fast-food place by not buying their food.
    First and foremost we need to follow scripture. Scripture clearly states in many places to avoid immorality. I think that the majority of Christians would agree that magazines like Playboy fit that description.
    Second, as I also pointed out above one voice can make a difference. Should we get 10,000 Christian and descend on the Playboy mansion? Probably not. But what we can do is perhaps write a letter to Mr Hefner or the head of Disney or whomever and state our case and let them know why we are displeased and that we won't buy their product. Then we follow through with that and when friends and acquaintances ask why we explain our Christian position. Perhaps that will have an impact on someone who will later be in power somewhere. And we never forget to pray for God's will to be done.

    A boycott can take on many forms.

  • Scott Smith says:

    I think boycotts are ridiculous. If you don't like a product, or something a company stands for, then by all means don't give them your money. But picketing, FB posting, spreading the word at church are all entirely unclassy and ineffectual. Does Proctor and Gamble really feel the pinch when a few churchgoers stop buying soap? I doubt it.

    Better question: Do people spend as much time spreading the good news of the gospel as they do spreading the bad news about a company? Sounds to me like a sanctified version of gossip.

  • @T_Amazing says:

    I believe that’s the most important way we can boycott, by living right and trying to uphold the standards Christ put before us and I say try because we are all not perfect but it has to start with how we live and treat each other. But if it matches up to the word of our Father than I see no problem!! Great Question Sir!

  • @T_Amazing says:

    My view is simply this we cannot disconnect ourselves from the world and then only come out of our buildings when there is something going on that we don’t like and if our actions are not in or out of love than we are wrong from the beginning. And yes we are not of this world but we are still in and living in this world but that is no reason for disconnect from the very people Jesus wanted us as Christians to effect with our words but I believe mostly with our actions and the life we lead.

  • @T_Amazing says:

    Hey Ron, this is my first time joining in on one of your discussions but it is not the first time I’ve read some of your topics and discussions. So here we go, I think first of all in order to answer this question or any question we are faced with as Christians is to first look and see if we as Christians can parallel our actions with the life of Christ. We must study and see how He lived and interacted with people when He was here on earth.

  • @LeaMoja says:

    Honestly, i think each of us Christians should be discerning instead of mimicking other people's opinion. We should ask God's wisdom for every decisions we make. Some Christians, however, are very influential and sometimes have deeper reasons why they lead people to boycott.

  • davepatchin says:

    Boycotts? Three quick responses:
    1. Boycotts are normally ineffective. How have Disney and Starbucks fared after "major" Christian boycotts? Often the publicity helps the company more than a few folks not buying hurts.

    2. Boycotts are extreme. Like protest marches, should be reserved for only aggregious issues. Christians look foolish calling for boycotts of multi-nationals over silly things.

    3. Boycotts undermine relationship. Would you boycott a friend's company? What about your neighbor? You wouldn't because you want to maintain relationship, if nothing else, for the sake of the gospel. We should think this way about our neighbors before we go public.

  • Chris Donato says:

    Should Christians boycott products or companies because of things they are doing that may be seen as “unchristian”?

    I think that as citizens of two kingdoms, both of which come under the rule of our Lord Jesus, the answer is no, if we're talking about the church doing the boycotting. But as individual Christians, with one leg in the civil sphere, we certainly can boycott whatever it is we want to boycott (along with secularists, for the greater good of society). And this can be in response to the "unchristian" practices of, say, Disney World's "gay days" just as much as the "unchristian" practices of Caterpiller, Chevron, Coco-Cola, Dow Chemical, etc. and their plundering of both people and the environment.

    From a civil perspective, boycotts can work, but I'm pretty sure the church (as an entity, an institution, understood as the one body of Christ) shouldn't be engaged in such practices. If they do, they probably would hurt the cause of Christ.

    What would cause you to boycott a company or product?

    I haven't been to Wal-Mart in 15 years. I do not frequent fast-food restaurants. I buy local produce whenver I can. Basically, indirect boycotting that is really thinking locally, because that, it seems to me, is the greater good.

    Would you ever publicly boycott a church if they failed to do as you think they should?

    I'm not sure what that would look like. Do you mean protest against a church? Possibly. In the cases of the Dove World Outreach Center or the Westboro Baptist Church, sure.

    Thanks for providing this great forum to discuss these issues, Ron. It's invaluable!

  • Jon says:

    I think that there is nothing inherently wrong with boycotting something as a Christian. We do it every day. A Christian should never be out buying pornographic magazines, for example. So in effect Christians are boycotting things like Playboy and Hustler. I have friends who boycott a well-known fast food restaurant because their parent company supports some issue that they, as Christians, have a problem with. Now in the first example, we as Christians should support not buying pornographic magazines because they would stand directly against most Christians' tenets. In the second example, that could be more of a personal thing. They might see the stand that the parent company has taken as anti-Christian or anti-"goodness" while another Christian family might not see it that way.

    I think that a boycott can both hurt or help Christ's cause. On the one hand if someone comes to my house and on the coffee table I have a Bible and Playboy, that definitely sends mixed signals and would not be in the best interest of Christ. So boycotting Playboy would be putting my money where my mouth is, so to speak, and could be a good example of how a Christian actually should live. On the other hand if I stand out in front of a dress shop and make a scene boycotting it because they sell dresses where the length is two inches above the knee, that probably does more to harm Christ's cause. I might have a personal opinion that a dress like that is immodest, but I'm not sure that would be supported Biblically.

    I think we also need to remember that as futile as we might think a boycott is, sometimes one person's opinion does make a difference. Many years ago when we had small children, my wife was in a local grocery store and there were magazines at the checkout that she felt the kids really should't be looking at. She spoke to the store manager and politely made her case and she was told that she was the first person to complain about it, but that something would be done. The next time she was there, the magazines were still on the rack, but were placed in such a way as to hide the more explicit parts of the cover from young eyes.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Good feedback.

    • Adam_S says:

      I think I understand what you are meaning, but let me push back a little. According to some research that I saw in Christianity Today, as much as 50% of men and 30% of women (self described Christians, not general population) have looked at some version of porn in the last month. So while we may publicly say we are against porn if privately we are actually buying and consuming it then that defeats the purpose and just shows that Christian say one thing and do another.

      I think there is something different between actively boycotting and just not buying something that you would not have bought anyway. It is not boycotting for me to not buy a pregnancy test. I don't need a pregnancy test, I would not buy a pregnancy test regularly. That is not a value judgement, it is basic economics. For most Christians porn is the same thing. They would not purchase it regularly so it is not a boycott to not purchase it, it is a purchasing decision based on their values.

      While I disagree with the SBC boycott of Disney, that was a boycott because presumably there was a loss of sales from people that would have purchased something. In many ways this is like discussing fasting. I hear all kinds of people that want to 'fast' from things that are not essential to their daily life. They will fast from a dessert that they don't normally eat or from an activity they only occasionally do. This seems to me like the point of the story of David insisting on purchasing the field where he built an altar. The owner offered it to him for free, but David said (my paraphrase) "What good is it to give a gift to God that I didn't pay for. I am going to pay full price so I will feel the weight of the gift".

  • ArtieDavis says:

    Hey Ron, great Q! Let's see…Should a Christian boycott? Yes. privately mostly. Publicly… Rarely only if a grave injustice is being committed that is undeniably harmful to many. To many "boycotts" give Chirst-Followers a bad rep, it tells everyone we are against more things than we are for.

    • ronedmondson says:

      Thanks Artie. Look forward to seeing you again soon.

    • @mbortowski says:

      I was going to leave a comment, but I see that @ArtieDavis said what I was going to say. I agree that it seems like Christians are against more things than we are for.

      • @mbortowski says:

        It lost half my post! The other half said:

        The battle is whether we are hurting or helping Christianity. For instance, I wonder if the current AFA boycott on Home Depot hurts peoples views of Christianity. I personally do not shop there because of hypocrisy that I have seen within the company, but in all essence, is not a boycott just trying to force someone or something to "act" Christian? Do we really expect the world to act like Christians or act like the world?

      • ronedmondson says:

        Thanks…Artie is a wise friend.

    • I'm with Artie here. I don't see much value in public boycotting. I have personal convictions that I keep to myself. I'll refrain from supporting something in my home without having to broadcast it to the world or on my blog.

      Boycotting companies publicly is ignorant. Really, what good can it do? How does that show that Christians are any different than people in this world. We just look nasty, belligerent and self-righteous (i.e. ground-zero mosque). It's hard to follow that up with a message of love and grace.

      I would personally boycott a company or product that is acting irresponsibly or openly wrong. For example, I would boycott BP gas because of how they have responded to the whole oil spill situation but I wouldn't post a blog rallying people to boycot them.

      I would never publicly boycot a church. That is just irresponsible and makes us a house divided. If asked, sure I would give my opinion but some people just get on these missions to blackball churches. Sure there are plenty of churches with which I don't agree with their theology. However, most of those churches do a lot of good as well. I'm not afraid of the people that are hurt by bad teaching. God is in control of that. It makes me sad but I don't have personal relationships with any of them so it is not my place to speak into their business. It's not my place to be a "heresy hunter". I have enough work to do in my own community.

    • I am glad I decided to read the comments – ditto what Artie said – exactly.