Friday, August 3, 2012

Boycotting Convenience


      Boycotts. I've talked about them just as much as everyone else. I may have talked more about them than I needed to, maybe not enough, maybe just the right amount. I figured at least one more time wouldn't hurt. Boycotts are all of the rage these days, whether they come from the liberal activists, conservative activists, Christian, non-Christian, heterosexual, homosexual, and anything else you can think of. The only thing more popular is probably that boy band Misdirection, or whatever they're called. Most people who read what I post on Facebook know that I'm not a big fan of boycotts, but I do support at least one boycott, the boycott of convenient Christianity. This blog post might rub a few the wrong way, so I will do my best to be as kind as I can, to not make blanket statements and not judge the hearts of individuals. I will have to reject the easy way dealing with things though. In my opinion, boycotts are just a way to take the easy route in dealing with things. I'll try my best to explain myself. Before I do that, I will note that I also consider the "Chick-Fil-A (CFA) Appreciation Day" a boycott, not in the usual sense, but a show of support that in essence proves we'll boycott the companies that don't fall in line with our beliefs, and show immense support for those that do. 

      I want to preface my explanation by saying that I don't believe there is anything inherently wrong with choosing to not shop somewhere. As another has said, and I share the sentiments, I don't eat at Hooters because the clothes that the waitresses wear can very easily cause lust, and is probably designed to do just that. I'm like that with a few other places too. I have personal boycotts that I personally uphold, so for me to condemn someone for choosing not to shop somewhere, or choosing TO shop somewhere based on their moral beliefs would be highly hypocritical. The one thing I've yet to notice though is a great public outcry against Hooters, whether it be a call to boycott them, or a call to visit a restaurant that has modestly dressed waitresses in support of their dress by Christians. Along with that, our scruples are rarely consistent. That almost seems to be the nature of scruples. We boycott Target, Home Depot, and J.C. Penny. Then we support Chick-Fil-A, but show our support by uploading a photo from our computer that has an operating system produced by a company that openly supports gay rights, and post it on a social media site that also openly supports gay rights. openly supports gay marriage the day of the CFA Appreciation day and I've yet to see an uproar about it and the companies that followed suit. Our scruples aren't consistent, and no one has asked them to be consistent, but when we make them into a public issue, and moral stance, that scruple opens itself up to judged by the world, and one might want to consider how the enemies of the cross would use such inconsistency. 

      The personal choice to not shop somewhere is certainly Biblical as far as I'm concerned. Romans 14 is the foundation I'd give for that stance, so go read it. Paul's writing though calls for one to make the decision and go on living their life. If you don't support a place, avoid it and move on. It's no one else's business. It isn't my business to ask people what places I do and do not support, and it isn't my place to tell other people what places I do and do not support. If I'm asked to go somewhere that offends my conscious, certainly I can decline and explain why, but is that the same as making a public announcement of it? Certainly not. That's why I personally have come to the conclusion that the boycott trend, specifically in regards to the Christian life, usually tends to be more of a lazy form of Christianity rather than a committed life of discipleship and service to God and the world. That sounds harsh, I know, and I don't want to pretend that I'm not guilty of lazy Christianity as well, as there are certainly more ways in which it manifests itself outside of the mass boycott movement. 

      As far as I've observed, this approach seems to do more with distancing ourselves from the work of a Christian, rather than embracing the life that God would want us to live as a disciple. It's much easier to stand to the side, complain about the current culture's lack of respect for God, and claim, "Well I won't shop anywhere that supports this sin" than to actually reach out to people who struggle in whatever sin it might be, get to know them, talk to them, love them, and help them. Certainly there were SOME who disagreed with Chick-Fil-A's stance and protested on the CFA Appreciate day. My question is which is easier? To stand in line, get your food, post a picture of your food on Facebook and exclaim how much you love CFA and good family values, or to perhaps find a protester and say, "Hey, I know you're not fond of this place, so let's go to Jimmie John's. I'll buy you lunch and we can talk about our beliefs and ourselves. I'm sure you're hot and tired after standing in this heat anyway." Certainly the first situation is easier. We don't have to be involved. We don't have to face someone we believe is living in sin and deal with them as a person. We instead get to sit inside a cool place, eat our tasty food, and be glad that we get to stand against evil. 

      How was it that Jesus dealt with the unfair and unjust publicans? Well he called one to follow him. Another we meet, well Jesus called him out of a tree and invited himself over to eat with him, an act that wasn't anything simple in those days. Jesus led the way by setting the example, by finding those who needed the Gospel and approaching them face to face. The way of the world seems to be dealing with problems through a distance. These days, when we go to war, we use guns, they distance us. We use bombs and drones which distance us even more, as do missiles and rockets. When we want to debate (and here is me calling myself out) we get on Facebook and find a post to comment on back and forth. A situation where we can sit on our couch or in our office and never have to deal with the person face to face, simply respond to a screen and their still picture. That's not to say that written responses are bad, because the majority of the New Testament is just that, but simply to note that we live in a day and age where we enjoy the ease of being able to face issues at a distance instead of dealing with someone as a person.

       I've heard some make the cry that we're being persecuted and we have to win the culture war. We have to stand up for free speech. As one brother pointed out, "The mission of God is about reconciliation of all people to God and each other (Eph 2:14-16) and not winning a culture war." Brethren, we cannot "win" the culture war. The truth it, it was won long ago. Jesus already won the culture war through a sacrifice of his own life and freedoms. Revelation makes sure to constantly point out as well that as long as the earth stands as it does, the culture war will not be over. You can read through the book and find that God brings justice against Rome, but John continues on to write, pointing out that even though that nation fell, more will come and will be just as evil, and it will continue on until the final judgment day. From start to finish though, John's writings tell us to patiently endure. 

      About persecution, I wouldn't go as far as to say that Christianity faces no persecution, but could it be that maybe we're exaggerating it just a bit? On CFA Appreciation Day, I saw some talk about how Christians were bravely standing up to ungodly morals. Bravely? Really? Not to be to critical, but at what point were we in danger by going to CFA to eat? Did we think we might be arrested for going? Beaten? Killed? Some may call us hateful, bigots, homophobes, or any other amount of things, but should we really consider ourselves as brave for standing in line for an hour, only to sit down among fellow believers and supporters and peacefully eat our $7 a person meal? Persecution comes in all shapes and sizes, but to call this persecution, and going on to pretend we are being brave in eating chicken or not shopping somewhere, at least in my opinion, should be considered an insult to those in the world that have and still do face real danger in standing up for our heavenly King. Nigerians are currently being murdered for their faith, and yet we're outraged and feel persecuted because someone tells us we're hateful and judgmental, and we fight back by eating chicken. 

      Let's deal also with the topic of free speech. Many people stated they were simply standing up for freedom of speech, or working to protect that right. I enjoy freedom of speech. It allows me to post this. Sometimes I think we expect too much from that right though. Some mayors said they didn't want CFA in their towns. They may not have the right to do that, but they have the right to say it, and to encourage people to resist a CFA planted in some town. Free speech does not promise that there are no consequences, and if we get to enjoy it, so do other people. When companies come out as pro-gay rights, we feel like we have the right to say almost anything we want in response to them because "we're speaking the truth." Yet when someone speaks against what we believe, it almost seems like we can't believe that it actually happened. So let's enjoy free speech, but let's be balanced on our approach to it as well. And should we be expected as Christians to defend that right? In my opinion, not especially, no. They are nice, but think of the "rights" we already have in Christ. Jesus didn't die so we could say what we wanted without consequence, but so we could preach the truth despite the consequences. I was told recently that if we don't stand up against this, then we're going to be silenced in the pulpit when it comes to preaching about these issues. That's simply not true. If one is silenced from teaching the Gospel of Christ and all that it comes with, it isn't because any government agency said to stop preaching, but because the preacher was too afraid of what consequences his actions might bring. Do we NEED to protect our civic rights? Not at all.

      I know this is long, but there is one more issue I feel needs to be discussed, and that is our method of dealing with issues. I can't know the heart, intentions, or motivations of anyone but myself, but our motivations don't always justify an act or make it the best way to react to an issue. I've been told that Christians were orderly, nice, kind-hearted, and all the other good things one should when participating in CFA Appreciation Day. That's good, and we should act that way regardless of where we are, but consider this illustration. As I write this, my wife is pregnant and suffering greatly from morning (read "All-Day") sickness. She's miserable, and I want her to be happy. I can, and have, tried many things, and though my intentions are good, sometimes I just make it worse. This issue has been addressed many times by other authors, and the reaction always tends to be the same. "God already spoke on the issue and we have to stand up for truth!" You're right, no one is claiming otherwise. It isn't a question of SHOULD we take a stand, but HOW we take a stand. There is no one right answer, but consider how all of this CFA mess has played out over the last few weeks. A man known for running a business based on a few Biblical guidelines is asked his stance on a hot-button issue and he responds to it. The opposing side responds by calling for a boycott, and calling the company evil and immoral, trying to prove that they have the loudest voice and the most power. Our response is to come in waves to Chick-Fil-A to prove that WE have the loudest voice, the most power, and more influence. Their response then is to come a few days later and practice homosexual PDA at Chick-Fil-A's to show that they aren't giving up, and that they are actually the ones with the most power and people. I then received invitations to reenact the events of CFA Day to try and shut out the PDA'er's so that we can prove that we have the most power and are the majority. Brethren, where does it end, and what does it accomplish? 

      Let's think about things for a moment. When they called for a boycott of CFA, how did we feel? How did we react? Did we suddenly wish to consider their viewpoint? Did we want to sit down and talk to them about it? No, we wanted to strike back. And when they decided to strike back against our strike back, what was our reaction? Did we want to sit down and talk about it then? Did we want to consider their point of view? No, instead we started to devise MORE ways to strike back. Now consider the reactions to our boycotts and strikes. If we don't like it when they, in mass, boycott our beliefs, and try to publicly strike against them, what makes us think that we are doing good, and reaching out, and working towards their reconciliation to God when we act in the same way they do? I hear nonstop from Christians, complaints about having the non-Christian lifestyle shoved down our throats, so why do we think that shoving our beliefs down their throats is going to be an effective strategy? Why do we think that filling up the Facebook news feed with crowds at Chick-Fil-A, and bragging about how much we've eaten there and how much we've spent there, and how it proves that "bad people" aren't as in control as they want us to think is going to be effective? This doesn't mean that we don't act, and don't stand up for what we believe in, but it does call us to think about what we're doing, the effect it has on others in the short and long run, and if it is productive evangelism. Everything we do is evangelism. Paul wrote to the Colossians that all that we do, in word or deed, should be done in the name of Jesus, giving glory to God. What we do matters, and has an effect on others and their thoughts about Christians and Christianity. The only way some people may know what God or Jesus is like is though us, our speech, the way we react to difficult issues, the way we face sin, and work on reconciling people with God, and so yes, our boycotts and support rallies might be done with the best of intentions, and they might be done with good attitudes, but those things don't always make an action right. I'm not saying that the support rally or any boycott was sinful, not at all, but that we should at least be willing to take the time to consider how the side we're trying to reach out to will react to what we're doing, and be patient enough to wait if we don't have a perfect way to handle something right when it comes up. Don't take the easy way out.

      I'm all for boycotting simplicity. I don't always do it perfectly, but I'm all for it. For dealing with people instead of sin. For trying to win souls instead of the culture war. For using the free speech that Jesus won for me, rather than the free speech a man thought up for me. It isn't easy at all, but Jesus called us to take up a cross, not a pillow, and follow him.


  1. Thank you for using your freedom of speech to articulate a reasonable argument rather than "using" your freedom of speech to stuff food in the name of telling a rich man you agree with him.
    -Caleb G.