When I was young, one of my parent’s primary shopping places was K-Mart. It was always a big deal when I got to go and roam the toy aisles, try to find all the blue lights and smell the popcorn at the food bar on the way out. It was bliss! Then around the age of 8, I was notified that we would no longer be shopping there. I didn’t understand why. I heard the word boycott for the first time. Apparently, the word had been spread that KMart was somehow funding pornography and it was believed by the Christian community that if we boycotted, enough of a financial impact would occur that would cause them to stop. I wondered if I could start a boycott against school giving homework…
For the next decades of my life, this activism would arise time and time again. It was why I wasn’t allowed to attend movies (it obviously funding porn too), eat in at Pizza Hut (they sold alcohol) or go to Disney World (they supported gay pride). This idea became ingrained in me, and even after some of the companies I was boycotting would give up their wrong activity, I still wasn’t inclined to shop there. And it’s not just me. The church, in general, has had their boycotts. From Starbuck’s cups to Finding Dory to Monster Energy Drinks- each has enjoyed a season of boycott from Christians.
I do believe at times there is a need to stop supporting certain companies for biblical reasons. However, boycotting has become more of a running joke to those on the outside and a war cry for those on the inside. Is boycotting really changing anything?
Here’s a hypothetical example of a boycott.
Group A has certain held beliefs. Group B does not share them and is intent on making money. Group A declares a boycott on moral grounds and withdraws money and support. Group B feels some financial impact, but if anything they worry more about bad PR. Time passes. To appease Group A, Group B concedes. Group A celebrates victory. However, Group B hasn’t changed. Finances may change but a heart has not. More time passes and the organization does another mortal sin and Group A starts another protest. The cycle continues.
If what we are seeking by boycotting is a genuine change of an opposing group, then perhaps there are some other things that we should consider doing. First off, separating yourself from opposition doesn’t help change a heart. It builds a wall. The longer the boycott goes, the thicker the wall gets. It would seem to me that Group A would have a greater impact if they chose to draw closer to Group B and appeal to them. Might I even say- try to love and befriend them? In postmodern America, people change as a result of personal investment more than in the past. I believe those that boycott miss a huge opportunity.
Example: Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors refused to appear at the White House for the ceremonial celebration of their championship. They had a problem with the perceptions and positions of President Trump. By refusing to go, they made a point. But it resolved nothing and it only fueled fires on both sides. What might have happened if instead, the Warriors said they would go and requested a sit down private meeting with the president to express their concerns? What if they sought to actually do something to bring change rather than build a bigger wall?
Some final opinions:
I find hypocrisy in boycotting. Both sides attempt to claim a moral high ground over each other. Yet arrogance, pride, and divisiveness is not a moral high ground. I find a Pharisaical piety in boycotting. It may make you appear holier by separating yourself, but there are often similar or worse sins in your life that you pay no attention to. I find division and bitterness in boycotting. Obviously. I have yet to see a boycott lead to anything positive and unifying. I find damage to evangelistic efforts. What part of a boycott would cause an opposing party to want to be like us? If anything, they will run further away from us.