When Target announced their plans to allow people who identify as a certain gender to go to any bathroom they want, many conservatives threatened to boycott the supermarket chain and then carried it out. Because of this, Target’s stock price has dropped like a rock, and while their corporate headquarters are pretending it’s no big deal, there’s no doubt that they’re feeling it. After all, it’s not like there aren’t plenty of other options for people to do their shopping.
On the one hand, I don’t have much of a problem with people doing this. Liberals have long threatened boycotts on things they don’t like, so they can’t really complain when someone pushes back in like manner. Also, people are certainly not obligated to shop at Target and can choose to shop elsewhere for virtually any reason they want, such as disliking Target’s logo. Such an action is well within their rights.
On the other hand, I think many conservatives, particularly Christian, need to be careful with public boycotts on companies that do things that we disagree with. The reason is rather quite simple: A lot of companies do things that we disagree with, sometimes without us really knowing about it, and it is decidedly impractical to boycott everyone. If we are going to publicly champion boycotting a certain company, we need to be clear with our reasons for doing so or else we make ourselves look self-contradictory when we don’t boycott another company.
What about ____?
For example, there are many Christians who pay a ton of money on Apple products: iPhones, iPads, iPods (not so much anymore), i-whatever-the-heck-else. Some Christians absolutely love Apple products and will pay a premium price for the slick look of them, even though people who know a lot about computers tend to hate Apple. Well, guess what? Apple has come out publicly in favor of policies that let people go to whatever bathroom they want based upon their subjective gender-identification. They publicly condemned state laws that tried to make a biological distinction in bathrooms and threatened to boycott them. So the question is this: Are these same Christians who railed against Target willing to drop their iPhones and Macbooks?
Oh, and by the way, you’re not off the hook if you use Android (like I do). Google publicly did all the same things Apple did. Hollywood also predictably joined the fray, so I guess we need to stop watching those Marvel movies that keep churning out every year and watching TV shows. The NBA publicly opposed these state laws as well and threatened to boycott North Carolina, so the more we watch the NBA playoffs, the more money we put into the pockets of heathens, right?
And why just stop at the transgender issue? There are many companies that have labor policies that we’d probably dislike if we thought about them (Nike), do business in ruthless ways (Wal-mart), encourage materialism and superficiality (fashion businesses), teach things directly opposed to Scripture (virtually all top universities Asian Christian parents so desperately want their kids to go to), so on and so forth. The next thing you know, Christians would retreat from nearly every facet of society and truly become the stereotypical “fundamentalists.”
After all, this is exactly the type of thing that conservatives rightfully blasted these companies such as PayPal for: They all threatened to boycott North Carolina but then they gleefully do business in countries where there are bad civil rights violations such as Cuba and the Middle East. The inconsistency was so stupid that it was laughable, though the largely left media was silent on it.
Having to do business with people we disagree with
If we are going to take seriously the ideas of freedom of religion, speech, and thought, we have to come to grips with the fact that we are going to have to interact and do business with people that we disagree with strongly. This is an important principle that is being lost on liberals as they champion freedom of thought from one side of their mouths but then threaten to destroy and silence people that think and say things they don’t like. If we don’t want to be silly like them, we should be a lot more nuanced about how we go about boycotting things.
If it is generally true that a country like this requires people to do business with disagreeing people, then that is especially true for Christians who are aliens in this world (1 Peter 1:1). Our citizenship is ultimately in heaven, not here, and because of that, it is no surprise that we are going to deal with people everyday and in every walk of life who don’t agree with us. Our duty as Christians is not to simply retreat but to interact with people in as loving and peaceable a way as possible in order for them to see the truth of the Gospel.
In Titus 3:1-8, I think Paul really encourages compassion for the lost when he tells Titus to instruct the Cretan Christians to be subject to the rulers of their day, to be uncontentious and gentle, to not slander, and to generally have goodwill towards men. He reminds them that they too were once like them until they were saved by the love and grace of God. Keep in mind that the political situation facing those 1st century Christians was much more dire than ours; it’s a big deal that Paul was telling them to be this way in the face of dangerous persecution. Thus, shouting condemnation every time a company does something we don’t like isn’t exactly giving the impression of being uncontentious. As Christians, we need to be able to wisely navigate the world without being unduly corrupted by it and be a positive influence on the world, not simply take our ball and go home when things happen that we find wrong.
Look, I’m not saying that Christians can never, ever boycott anything. For sure, if an offense is serious enough, boycotting can be a viable strategy, and perhaps it is for Target. I’m just saying that we need to do such things with careful reasoning and purpose if we don’t want to be inconsistent angry mobs like the liberals often are. For example, perhaps the reason that we should boycott Target and not some other company like Apple is because Target went so far as to enact such bathroom policies in every store. Many parents have already expressed that they’d rather not take their daughters there and can easily go to another store. Fair enough. Nonetheless, nuance is the key here because we don’t want to give the impression that we’ll just try to destroy any company that does things we disagree with. That is well within our rights, but that doesn’t make it wise or helpful to a pluralistic country and most importantly to our mission as the Church.