Boycotting seems to be all the rage these days among Christians. A popular boycott last year was against Target for their transgender bathroom policy (I wrote an earlier blog titled Would Jesus Boycott Target?) The trending boycott today is Beauty and the Beast for their inclusion of a gay character, La’Fou (I wrote about the hypocrisy of boycotting Beauty and the Beast yesterday).
The goal of yesterday’s Beauty and the Beast post was to create a conversation, and by all means it did, and a lively one at that. There is genuine and justified angst on the part of conservative Christian parents who have an emotional attachment to this movie and to the Disney company and yet want to protect their children from influences contrary to biblical teaching. So, they feel the need to protest and perhaps boycott, but how to do that? How do you boycott like Jesus?
First, and this was highlighted by a few of the more poignant comments yesterday, if we boycott Beauty and the Beast, let’s not be selective in our boycott. The entire plot centers on witchcraft and an evil spell that is cast, a significant portion of the movie centers around a girl falling in love with a beast/animal, and several of the bewitched servants in the castle make sexual innuendos. There’s much more than just a portrayal of one character that doesn’t conform to biblical standards. The hypocrisy is singling that one issue out while papering over the others.
Which leads to a bigger issue: the reason I believe so much ire is directed against Disney is because of the emotional attachment we have towards it as a company. For most of the adults now planning on boycotting, Disney was “wholesome” and “family-oriented” during their childhood, a vanguard of morals. Now it seems like they’re betraying that trust. And yet it’s non-sensical for condemning Disney for failing to uphold a standard it never agreed to uphold. Disney was never a Christian company. It’s not Chick-fil-a or Hobby Lobby. Playing to and portraying family values was a smart business strategy for decades, but now their business strategy has changed. And as much ire as it might create, they have every right to because they’ve never been a Christian company.
We as Christians get in trouble when we judge the world for not living up to a standard to which they never agreed. That’s when it’s important to see how Jesus operated and who he boycotted against. Here’s what I wrote in the earlier post about whether Jesus would boycott Target:
In the first century, there would have been any number of issues for a good Jew to protest against and boycott. Israel was under foreign occupation by the city of Rome, and many Roman cultural and religious ideals offensive to the Jews were foisted upon them. So our first clue is that Jesus never led a protest against Rome or Roman policies, even though many of those policies were decidedly anti-biblical.
If there was a group to lead a protest, it would have definitely been the Pharisees. The champions of the people and the guardians of conservative orthodoxy, boycotting would have been right in their wheelhouse. We actually see the Pharisees protesting against Jesus because they saw him compromising the oral traditions that had been in place for centuries (Matthew 12:1-2). They saw him as a sell out to a corrupt culture. In their zeal to protect religious orthodoxy they had strayed from the intent of the Law of God and turned Judaism into something twisted and corrupted. So in fact Jesus did protest against something, but it wasn’t Rome. He protested against the Pharisees (Matthew 23) and their corrupting of the worship of God.
Look at the gospels, and you’ll see absolutely no condemnation for the Roman occupation by Jesus. That was one of the things that drove the religious leaders mad with rage. Here was the elephant in the room, the one driving topic of conversation among the Jews: the occupation by Rome, and Jesus refused to wade in. Even when they tried to force him into picking a side with the controversial tax issue (Matthew 22:15-22), Jesus refused to take the bait.
Here’s my conclusion: if you want to boycott like Jesus, then let the Holy Spirit condemn the world like Jesus says in John 16:8-10. Or as Paul wrote the Corinthians, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). That’s why you see Jesus save his ire for the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, the temple system. You never saw Jesus lead a protest march against an offending Roman practice, although there were a bounty to choose from. That’s not to say he compromised his beliefs or values, but neither did he publicly condemn the Roman Empire for not living up to standards to which they never agreed to maintain. Jesus’ boycotting and public anger was directed towards his own house and its religious leaders for failing to live up to the biblical standards to which they agreed.
In our own house, we have more than enough to boycott and protest. Politics, greed, sinfulness, heartlessness, a lack of practical love towards the community, turning away the lost and hurting because they’d be too much of a hassle, churches doing nothing to stem the tide of divorce, pornography, addiction, you name it. Let’s direct that ire inward. The Holy Spirit will take care of judging the world. Let’s get our own house in order. That’s how you boycott like Jesus.