I just read this article by Russell D. Moore, which I thought was fantastic about the nature of boycotts, and the question of boycotting Starbucks in particular. The comments were also largely well thought out and worth reading as they give a more complete picture of the hearts of people truly trying to follow Christ, but nevertheless landing on every side of the issue.
Boycotts. I so appreciate Moore’s explanation of why boycotts (as an organized movement) may not be best. I also see that we should probably make a distinction between a public boycott movement and an individual’s call to boycott/abstain from something for personal conviction. Lots of people feel strongly that now that Starbucks has made their position on marriage so public, they personally cannot support the institution in good conscience. This is different than demanding that all Christians respond in kind in an organized movement (which is really what Moore addressed).
There are a few things that I don’t think are ultimately very helpful which keep coming up in the discussion. They seem like good arguments, but I am afraid they are deceptive and have some long term problems.
The first is the idea that ultimately, almost all companies support causes that are contrary to the Christian cause, so to boycott Starbucks for this reason opens a floodgate that makes living nearly impossible, or at least is very unrealistic. Practically, I totally agree. The thought that I have to research every thing I do or eat or buy to ensure that money is not supporting something I don’t agree with is overwhelming. HOWEVER, I don’t think convenience is a good argument, mostly because of where it takes us. The Bible indicates that there will come a day when we have to have the mark of the beast in order to do business. It won’t be very convenient, practical, or even realistic, frankly, to think that we can survive without it—but that doesn’t make it right. God will call us to the narrow road, and know, friend, that it will be a difficult, impractical and terrifically inconvenient road. Nonetheless, it will be the better road…it will be the RIGHT road. SO, when we base today’s decision about boycotting Starbucks on whether or not it’s practical, we are setting up a lousy precedent, one that will do us harm in the end if we stay that course.
Additionally and similarly, I hear people saying that while other items which may also come from companies which fund gay marriages, or other causes which Christians don’t agree with, are necessary (such as toothpaste), coffee is not. Therefore a boycott of coffee is called for, but boycotting a toothpaste company for the same reason of conscience is not. Again, I have a concern that we are saying that we must follow God in areas where it isn’t costly, in the superfluous, but in the things which are (according to our western mindset anyway) necessary, He will understand that we don’t follow the same rules of principle. And again, I ask you – where does that lead us when things really do get rough…when the “necessary” items are truly matters of compromise as well? We either follow God in every area, or we don’t. We can’t set a precedent for picking and choosing when it’s convenient to obey.
Our decisions have to be made on more uncompromising ground. It can’t be about convenience or practicality or even necessity as we see it—it has to be about obedience. What is God asking us to do, and how can we obey Him, 100%? Not only that, but how can we encourage our fellow man in the same course? While my course of conviction doesn’t generally run towards boycotts, I need to prayerfully ask the Lord, as always, how he would have me steward my money. I may find that I have freedom in this, or that for me it’s not so much about avoiding one place, as supporting another. Or I may find that my conscience truly does lead me to abstain. Any of those courses, if led by the Spirit and if done with a heart which truly has obedience and love of Jesus as its core, can and will be used by God to further His Kingdom.
No matter what course obedience may take me, I also need to respect that it may take another in a different direction. And if they are motivated by love and obedience to our Heavenly Father as well, then I can trust that God will use their variant level of freedom for the same glory that He uses mine. We ought to encourage each other to obey Christ, not to follow our own convictions.
I’m also a little curious whether the public nature of Starbucks’ stance should really be the issue. I mean, clearly awareness is part of the issue. Now that people know, they can’t pretend they don’t—that changes things. Also, there is the idea that if they make a stand so publicly they are more passionately committed to – that’s another reason Christians are opposed. However, I question if possibly some other companies who are quieter about their stances could actually be just as passionately committed. In fact, they might be even more dangerous because of their deception. If I make my decisions purely based on how vocal a company is about their varying positions, I run the risk of being very much deceived, or of thinking that as long as I’m ignorant, I’m excused.
Again, I am brought back to the issues of wisdom, discernment and obedience…and humility as I work those out in my own life and give others the grace to do so in theirs. I really appreciate that so many Christians are trying to live according to their convictions, especially when those convictions are difficult, costly and/or inconvenient. As I read the comments on Moore’s article, I could see how sincere many of the believers were in their decisions on both sides of the argument – those who boycotted and those who walked in freedom. Many, thankfully, were not making a light-hearted decision, but were prayerfully asking God how to best be like Jesus and how to best live His Kingdom on earth. Let us in this issue, as in all, run whole-heartedly after Christ. And let us encourage others to do the same—and have patience when their convictions lead them differently from our own.
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Philippians 3:15-16