How Boycotting Can Change the World

Shortly after the Planned Parenthood videos started appearing on social media, a public cry was raised to boycott all corporate Planned Parenthood supporters. It made sense: Stop funding evil!  But some on Christian internet responded with arguments opposing boycotting, citing various arguments against charity and efficacy. I read the objections (nothing new) and remained confused as to why a pro-life person would object to boycotts. Even if there is little chance for small boycotts to alter practices of big business, there is only good that can come of following through with the promptings of informed conscience and withholding funds from evil. We live in a (first) world of options. No one is going to starve if they put down the soda (or whatever). We can incorporate those small acts into our prayerful fasting. Without judging the choices of others, we can still change the world by changing our habits and cultivating a greater focus on little things that build and support a culture of life. 

Boycotting is not necessarily a solution; it is, quite simply, a protest. It says, "Hey, if you're going to send money to help people murder unborn children, I'm not going to buy a candy bar from you. I'm not going to advertise your name on my sleeve. I'm not going to vacation at your resort. Until you stop."

While I don't think that abstaining from a general boycott is necessarily immoral, I'd like to take a look at a few ways that boycotts can (and do) change the culture and the soul...

1) BOYCOTTS CAN WORK

I didn't say they always work, I said they CAN work. Just like the people of the United States of America CAN rise up and end the depravity of abortion but haven't done it. We have consistently passed over that opportunity for at least 50 years... but we could have done it. We just chose not to. We choose not to. To stay silent when we ought to speak. To waste money when we should be using it purposefully. To hold on to it when we should be giving it...

Our money, time, talent, voices... not our own. It all belongs to the Lord and it is to Him that is should be returned. In a free market first world nation, we can make it work. And perhaps we are obligated to try.

2) BOYCOTTS DO WORK

It is easy to make a boycott work. And it is difficult to make a boycott work. The reason both are true is because we live in a free market system in which the consumer ultimately dictates the rules. If we sometimes feel that the opposite is true - that it is the industry which drives the consumer - it is only because we have given away our control in the service of our pleasures.

Can one person have an impact on a gigantic corporation? Of course they can! It depends how many people that one person can reach and if those people can be convinced to act and spread the word. It is a matter of percentages. And the history of American boycotts tells us that when organizations see their bottom line affected, they usually respond.

The difficulty with holding a boycott in contemporary America is that the cultural impetus has shifted against Christian principles. So most consumer values are not going to reflect yours and mine. In order to cut into a company's bottom line, we have to work together. Can it be done? Absolutely. 

Check out the Life Decisions International web site for more information on why and how to boycott... and examples of how it can and does work. Fight Planned Parenthood

N.B. When considering a boycott, please make sure you do the following:

- Check updated boycott lists. Companies do pay attention and will often respond to public outcry, ending their contributions. 
- Determine whether the contributions are being made personally (i.e. CEO) or by the corporation. And then determine whether this makes a difference in your decision to boycott the company. 

3) BOYCOTTING AS FASTING

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that there's no way a boycott of Disney (for example) will impact the way they give to Planned Parenthood. This is a great example, by the way, because Christians have been boycotting Disney for at least 20 years, and frankly, Disney doesn't seem to care. We haven't been loud enough... because we like Disney. We aren't willing to forgo the latest princess movie to make a statement. So we know that Disney has not been impacted by boycotts. But that doesn't mean that the Church and individual hearts have been unchanged by the act of boycotting.

When we forgo earthly pleasures for a higher purpose (prayer, witness, generosity, sacrifice), we participate in a form of fasting. Nobody cares when I keep my kids home from the latest Disney flick. Disney certainly doesn't care. But I'm making a quiet choice based on an informed conscience and my love for Christ and His people. Your fasting will not look exactly like mine but ideally, the cultural fasting of Christians should start to become more uniform. For Christians, boycotting is not primarily about punishing others... but about being good stewards and bringing our spending into line with our principles.

Why do we fast? We fast in order to strengthen our will. To offer a sacrifice in prayer to the Lord. To identify our attachments and root them out. We fast to clarify our love and to simplify our distractions in pursuit of greater love. So when we take up a boycott list, we hold a list of potential... How can I simplify my consumption for a purpose? How can I pursue a greater love?

4) DISCIPLINING OUR APPETITES

Boycotting for most of us means forgoing our privilege and our preference, not really giving up something of substance. We are a wealthy nation with an abundance of options. It may occasionally be a challenge to find a suitable replacement for the item/s that we are boycotting, but it's almost always a non-essential. Reviewing the current Planned Parenthood supporter list, we'll find many things that we know we can do without...

expensive specialty coffee
soda pop
theme park vacation
movies
restaurants
software
banks
snack bar
name brand clothing
colleges
hotels
alcohol
airlines
credit cards
television stations
supermarkets
dance studios

There is a large percentage of the world that is struggling to provide the basics for their families. That doesn't mean that we should not enjoy our material blessings but we must not lose perspective. We often inappropriately elevate luxury items to need status. And we don't have to live that way.

Is it impossible to live in American culture and boycott all services and goods that support evil? For most of us, it probably is. I am not suggesting that we can do that, only that it would benefit our culture and our souls to choose to do without at least some of them.

5) CONFORMING OUR HABITS TO CHRIST

When I boycott, it is generally a private decision to withhold money from an organization that directly funds or promotes evil. I am not consistent but I think those small decisions make a difference; if not in the larger corporate context, at least in the development of my own conscience. It is similar to periodic fasting. If I want a soda and have the opportunity to buy one when no one else is around to see me do it, I can offer up that sacrifice for the victims of abortion. At the same time, I also withhold my measly buck from the company that made the soda. Is it effective to boycott that way? I don't suppose it is if one means that it will change the direction of the company. But as consumers, we shouldn't separate our moral lives from our purchases. 

I compromise all the time to satisfy my tastes and preferences. But a list is a kick in the pants. It reminds me that "Yeah, it's a pretty darn big deal that anyone at all donates money to the cesspool that is Planned Parenthood. And I don't want to be a part of it in any way." The world doesn't care about those little sacrifices but I imagine that Jesus does if they are offered with pure intentions and a spirit of reparation. 

One can of soda pop isn't going to change the way the company does business. Even if you added up all the cans of pop you've ever purchased, it still won't make a dent. But... it can change you...

And that is how culture's change... one person at a time.

I'm not going to have that soda today. I'm going to make a small sacrifice and offer it up for the unborn babies and mothers who are desperate enough to consider abortion. Maybe I'll have a water and an apple instead and break my unhealthy habit while I'm at it. And then... maybe I'll drop a quick email to the company and let them know what I did. 

That's what boycotts look like. They change us before they change the culture. Instead of remaining a "boycott," it becomes a pattern of awareness in our lives wherein we practice dying to our preferences, our desires, and our unhealthy habits. 

6) BOYCOTTING IS NOT ABOUT EVANGELIZATION

Boycotting is not primarily about evangelization but about effecting cultural change. We gotta be salt and light. Got to. We evangelize the people within the organizations, but we boycott to change policy, customer service, product line-up, etc. by voting with the dollars that we spend or withhold. Evangelizing a CEO by representing Christ with charity and virtue is one thing. But sometimes, we just pray for his soul while we do what we need to do to STOP HIS COMPANY FROM FUNDING THE MURDER OF CHILDREN.

It has been said that pro-life boycotting is unjust because it attempts to take the livelihood away from another person, which is untrue. The intent is not to rob someone of their livelihood but to stop the funding of the horror of child murder. The hierarchy of values places the right to life above the right to make money. If that causes someone to lose income, then perhaps they will change their actions. And that is the point. 

Conversion is the slow work of faithful, plodding love. While we must do that necessary work of love (generally in the environment and context in which God places us), we must seek immediate protection for the unborn. Christians must have ZERO tolerance for abortion. Even if it makes people feel unhappy. Even if it makes them hate us. It's Christianity 101. 

6) YOU CAN'T DO IT ALL {But you CAN do a little}

Most people who undertake to boycott an entire list all at once quickly become overwhelmed. It seems like the same 5 companies own the whole world and a shopping trip can become incredibly complex. Can we boycott the whole list? Modern American culture makes that almost impossible but that doesn't mean we shouldn't boycott anything

Start small. If you only choose one company, service, or product to eliminate, it is one more thing than you were doing before. If you can drop a note to the company telling them what you did, even better. If you are still struggling with a feeling of helplessness - feeling that what you are doing doesn't make a difference, do this:

Try using the word "fasting" instead of "boycotting"... and it won't take you long to understand how one can of can of soda can change the culture and bring the light of Christ to the world.

Posted on August 25, 2015 and filed under pro-life, culture.