Should Christians Participate in Boycotts?

by Joe Plemon on July 1, 2011

Boycott”, according to Wikipedia, is “an act of voluntarily abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with a person, organization, or country as an expression of protest, usually for political reasons.”

Of course many groups boycott for a number of reasons.

  • PETA boycotted KFC as an animal rights issue.
  • After the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, many consumers boycotted BP.
  • Gay and lesbian groups boycotted advertisers of the “Dr. Laura” talk show.
  • The American Family Association boycotted Home Depot because of their involvement in promoting gay marriage legislation.
  • Gun owners have boycotted the Rosie O’Donnell talk show.

It seems that if a group cannot get a business to willingly change their objective practices, they may be able to affect that change by hitting in the pocketbook. It is change by coercion, not agreement.

Biblical boycott?

I have never been a big boycotter, but an event that happened 2000 years ago in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41) has caused me to scratch my head. When the Apostle Paul’s preaching began hurting the profits of the silversmiths — whose livelihood depended on creating silver shrines to the goddess Artemis — they started a riot which nearly cost Paul his life. According to the ringleader Demetrius, “this man Paul has persuaded many people that handmade gods aren’t really gods at all.” (see Acts 19:26). Obviously Paul’s preaching was making a difference: fewer people were purchasing the silver shrines and the silversmiths were seeing their profits diminish.

Was Paul boycotting the silversmiths?

If Paul specifically instructed his hearers to quit buying the silver shrines, he was boycotting. However, if his listeners quit purchasing the shrines because they had come to believe that they were idols – and therefore wrong – then it wasn’t a boycott. The difference is setting out to hurt an industry because you don’t agree with what they do or having such an influence with the consumers that they choose not to buy the offending products. My guess is that Paul did not intentionally harm the silversmiths for producing the shrines; their revenue loss was a side effect of Paul’s message, not a direct effect from boycotting.

Should Christians boycott?

All of this brings me back to my title question. Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t have a clear answer. The good side of boycotting is that it draws attention to relevant issues that we would often otherwise ignore. A successful boycott will sometimes help the advertiser or merchant realize that his actions offend a group of people, and that he is best served by changing that action. On the other hand, boycotters often give the impression of being extremists or even kooks. As a Christian boycotter, I could easily be dismissed as “another one of those.”

Direct or Indirect Approach?

I believe the best way to change the world is to bring people to Christ. Once a person is changed on the inside, he will automatically begin making changes which will hurt the pocketbooks of the offending businesses. The “Men’s Club” near my home town, for example, would die a natural death if the men who frequent it would come to Christ and begin loving their wives as they should.

But here I equivocate, for I know myself: I have a tendency to allow this “indirect” approach dull my conscience on specific issues. Perhaps the direct approach — some healthy boycotting, especially on deep felt issues such as abortion, would be better than turning my head.

What do you think?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

yayebong July 3, 2011 at 9:42 am

Of course! a true christian always rebuke if their is anything bad that is being pronounced.

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joeplemon July 3, 2011 at 6:22 pm

@Austin,
Great example. I just wish there was a way to get people/companies to change their objectionable practices because of conscience and not economics. However, I totally agree that the A & F boycott was a great way to demonstrate your convictions. For some reason, A&F used to send us their sales magazines. My wife wrote them explaining that we do not want pornography in our house. They quit sending them to us.

Years ago, I told the owner of a small, neighborhood grocery store that I was not going to continue to shop there because of his sleazy magazine display. Amazingly, he removed the more risque magazines and I still shop there today.

@yayebong,
You are right of course. Christians should take a stand. Our other option is to do nothing…not a good option.

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Carol@inthetrenches July 3, 2011 at 8:04 pm

Good subject to raise concerning personal finance. I once saw a gum commercial that contained homosexual lifestyles. I immediately emailed the company expressing my offence. I must have been one of many because I did not see the commercial aired again. Professing Christians have a huge amount of buying power and also political power. Boycotting and/or expressing our viewpoints can make a difference. We may be only one but we are one of many.

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Chuck July 27, 2011 at 7:44 pm

The question is: Should Christians boycott or should good decent citizens boycott Christians? I can not tell you how many stories on people being told “Oh, you can trust me, I’m a Christians” and then get taken advantage of. Time and time again. I’m telling you, NEVER trust anyone who profess to get your votes or business by telling you that they’re a Christian. One deeds should provide you with enough information, but when one has to tell you, then watch out.

As for boycotting businesses. Sure, why not. I believe in the Golden Rule, treat each other as you would expect to be treated yourself. Do unto others, as you would have done upon yourself. It really is that simple.

When Target supported the Republican Governor candidate this past year (thankfully he lost) my family and I stopped shopping at their stores and haven’t step foot in there since, same goes for Best Buy. I purchased a new keyboard today for my computer, and I drove right past a Best Buy store in order to get it. Literally, 20 past the store and thinking about what they’ve done and went to the computer store 1000 feet beyond to make my purchase.

My wife and I strive to teach our children right from wrong and wonder how Jesus would handle a situation and I can assure you, Jesus would boycott Target and Best Buy as well. (Not to mention Marriott hotels)

We just came back from a beautiful week in Scottsdale Arizona. We booked on-line through Orbits and had many choices, and as we looked through the 4 and 5 star hotels, we took Marriott hotels off. I refuse to spend a dime in a hotel, in which a portion of my dollars could benefit the Mormon Church. There is simply no way that is going to happen. We owe are children better example and have educated them to know why we’re boycotting them! What the Mormons did in California with Prop 8, should shock most moral, decent, law abiding citizens. And I can assure you, God will hold these people accountable.

Will I ever visited these stores or hotels again? I’d supposed that would depend on the business and their future actions, but as for now… three that are on my list would include: Target, Best Buy and Marriott hotels. (and too bad about Target, because we use to spend $1,000’s of dollars yearly in that store and I’m not going to lie, it was hard at first, but months have now gone by and I don’t get Target a second glance these days.)

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