Let’s all take a deep breath. It’s time to put down the pitchforks. The brouhaha over Phil Robertson has, for now, subsided. Cracker Barrel has restored the mugs with his mug on them. A&E has apparently lifted the “indefinite” suspension. I guess they weren’t sure they could survive with such hits as Rodeo Girls, Beyond Scared Straight, and Storage Wars. So in the end, the cammo crew can chalk up a win for __ (insert whatever Constitutional amendment is up for debate, likely the first or second – we never fight for our 3rd amendment rights anymore, to keep free from unlawful quartering. When was the last time we had an anti-quartering rally?)
But beyond that, and with all kidding aside, let’s boycott boycotts. Twitter the last few days has been nothing but a reminder that we
are prisoners of the moment. Whatever is trending is the most important thing to talk about. And the tenor of the conversation has gone from shock to outrage to disbelief to action. Anyone who removed Duck Dynasty merchandise was in the crosshairs of the Pajama Blogger Army who called for immediate action. First up was A&E, then Cracker Barrel. Next up were Wal-Mart and Bass Pro Shops. Beyond that I think Louisiana was maybe threatening to secede? I was worried cammo-pajama wearing activists would block the doors to every Cracker Barrel in the country, which is a shame because I love their pancakes and would miss them.
But if we really take a step back, we need to recognize a few things about Christian Boycotts and why we should boycott silly boycotts:
They don’t work – I got saved in the middle of the now-infamous Disney boycott by the SBC. Even as a high school student, all I could think was “How do they think this is going to work? I’m pretty sure Disney will be fine.” Last year Starbucks was the subject of a social-media fueled boycott attempt. Unfortunately I dumped my stock in the company shortly after I moved to Kentucky, so I wasn’t able to cash in on the aftermath of that one. To be fair to all sides, when LGBT groups demanded a boycott at Chick-Fil-A earlier this year, they experienced record sales. In other words, when you advertise a boycott, you’re giving the company more publicity than they can afford, and just fueling those both loyal to the brand and those who are neutral to whatever issue you/we are mad about.
They fight fire with fire – Whenever we attempt to flex our economic muscle and make demands of an organization to comply with our wishes, we’re fighting the same battle the world does with the same weapons the world does. This isn’t to say that Christians shouldn’t write letters or express their concerns, but making statements like “We’ll see how they do without my money” makes an assumption that if we fight a global corporation with our limited economic impact, we can make a difference. Cracker Barrel’s annual revenue is roughly $2 billion, Wal-Mart is at $447 billion. In other words, when we attempt to fight mammon with mammon, mammon always wins.
We look stupid – Sadly the only thing that happens when we make boycotts of a group, store, organization, or person is that we become fodder for Jimmy Kimmel and Conan O’Brien. Instead of being viewed as cultural engagers, we come off looking stupid. We get lampooned, and the worst spokesmen get put on TV for all to laugh at. I watched a Larry King episode on homosexuality and Christianity, and the token conservative guy was unable to either defend himself or explain his position against the wave opposed to him. Same thing applies here, when we try to fight publicly and use the media outlets, they turn us into a ratings bonanza.
They distract from the Gospel – In all of this, what has been missing from the discussion? The Gospel. When we declare open season on whatever we are currently mad at, we are removing from the discussion the saving and redemptive work of Christ. We become focused on a narrow point, and allow that to drive the discussion. Instead of seeking to redeem marriage as the representation of the relationship between Jesus and the Church, we hold up signs and think that the goal is being straight. We become cultural warriors rather than heralds & proclaimers of the greatest news of all – that Jesus has come to rescue sinners, regardless of their sin, and give them the free gift of eternal life they could not earn and did not deserve. Perhaps it’s fitting to use a quote from the GQ article from Phil that never got much Twitter love: “the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around”