Should Christians Take Part in the Target Boycott?

Posted on May 12, 2016 in Public Policy, Sexuality, Theology by

target-bathroomPart of the sub-debate surrounding the Target bathroom issue is whether or not Christians should join the boycott. The question is whether or not boycotting a local business is the right way to “show Christ” to a lost world.

Christians are having an intra-faith debate on social media about whether or not it’s right and appropriate to boycott a business for the cultural position it takes. In one sense it is an interesting discussion as intelligent conversations discuss the pros and cons of boycotting. On the other hand it’s frustrating and tiring as angry accusations and sinful threats are hurled across social media platforms. You know, the old “if you don’t…un-friend me now.”

One recent blogger lamented: “is boycotting a corporation the best way to reflect Christ in light of the issues at stake? I worry that a strategy of cultural engagement centered around boycotts is doomed to undermine the true effectiveness of biblical evangelism.”

I find this interesting because the author suggested that boycotting is not really a good strategy for evangelizing the culture in the face of these difficult issues. (And by difficult, I mean difficult for lost people. The transgender issue is easy for a biblical Christian adhering to the clear teaching of God’s Word.) The author correctly points out that the underlying issue is the fact that people need Jesus. Lost people act lost; and Target is adhering to an unbiblical worldview because people that don’t know Jesus run it.

The author also wonders if Christians are acting like lost people by boycotting when he points out that Bruce Springsteen and other musicians are “boycotting” North Carolina over its newly enacted policy. I don’t think this is a fair comparison as just about anything could be turned around in the same manner. Consider, should Christians go door to door inviting people to church? Why no, we shouldn’t because the Mormons (lost people) do that.

But while this author made it clear that he does not believe boycotting is the best strategy and that “we have the opportunity to engage our culture with conversations that gracefully illuminate the reason for our hope,” he failed to explain how we do that.

The author correctly points out that expecting lost people to act like Christians, or to hold a biblical worldview, is not helpful. And I agree. But, as I’ve discussed previously, this is not merely a biblical issue this is bad policy. Allowing men into the women’s restroom and locker room is a policy that will be exploited by disturbed individuals for their perverted pleasure. So from a common sense standpoint this is a bad idea. Setting that aside for a moment (though it’s a critical point in the discussion) we need to determine how we are supposed to be “salt and light” amidst this cultural battle.

The author of the above referenced article suggests that we:

“grow comfortable explaining why we trust the Bible. This then gives us the opportunity to share the Bible’s greatest story, the gospel. The gospel lends itself to a conversation about the cost of discipleship and the Lordship of Christ…Boycotting as a sole strategy for culture engagement bypasses these helpful conversations.”

My question is, “Where are these conversation happening at?”

For me, this article misses the point. I get it that we can’t expect lost people to act saved. I get that boycott’s have limited success. But how is continuing to shop at Target going to help? There is no practical advice on how we are supposed to be “salt and light” at Target while we shop. Unless we plan to wear a sign that says “Christian: ask me about my transgender views” on our backs while we are shopping, I don’t see how our presence qualifies as “evangelism.” In all my years of shopping at various venues no one has ever asked for my views on a cultural, social, or political issue. In fact, except for conversations with people I have a relationship with, I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation on one of these issues while shopping. So how will my presence at Target make me “salt and light” or qualify as “evangelism”?

One account from the life of Jesus has been stuck in my mind during this whole mess. It’s when Jesus went into the temple and found people selling things. He made a whip and drove them out of the temple, overturning their tables and throwing out their goods. (John 2:13-17) Now, some would say, “well, sure, but Jesus only did that because it was the temple. A Target store is not a church.” And I would agree. But don’t forget that the people Jesus threw out were LOST people. They were not Christians. Nowhere does the Bible indicate that these were Christians being thrown out of the temple, they were lost people plying their trade.

Was Jesus being “salt and light” to those lost people in the temple? I wonder what Christians would think of a pastor running people out of his church for their activities? And yet that is exactly what Jesus did. Why didn’t Jesus preach to them? Why didn’t He share the Gospel and have an altar call?

I’m not saying this account is perfectly parallel to what is happening with Target. But I do think it has some similarity and some wisdom for us. Jesus took a stand in plain view of the lost people around Him. He drew a line and refused to bend or break. At what point do we as 21st century Christians do the same?

The author of the previously mentioned article says that he will keep shopping at Target because he’s concerned about the local impact. Specifically he’s worried about the single mom and college student depending on their job at Target and the impact it will have on them if they lose their job thanks to Christians boycotting. Let me ask, should we support the local strip club to make sure the college student working her way through school gets a good education? Should I patron the local abortion clinic to make sure the single mom can continue paying her bills? Is money really the foundation and extent of our Gospel concern? Why is this author not equally worried about the money Target will use to further promote sin and a lifestyle that is patently unbiblical?

My question is “What do we do?”

I’m fine admitting that I don’t think a boycott is a long-term, permanent solution. Yes, immediate impact can be made. But the long-term effects are questionable. (Although, I’ve not shopped at Target for years due to their very public support for same-sex “marriage.”) But I will also admit that I think a boycott is a starting point. If enough people refused to shop at Target you can be sure that things would change.

And could it be that by refusing to shop at Target we could begin some of the Gospel conversations the author of the previously mentioned article was hoping to start? What if everyone in our circle of influence knew that we were not shopping at Target and we began having conversations about biblical creation, personhood, male-female gender roles, and God’s sovereignty (that’s important because if God doesn’t make any mistakes then no one can be born in the wrong body)?

To dismiss a boycott entirely is to ignore biblical stewardship and an opportunity to oppose sin and bad policy. But to believe that a boycott is the means to the best end result is to miss the eternal picture because we are too focused on the temporary image. So it seems to me that a boycott might be a good place to start our conversations with those that can’t figure out what all the fuss is about. Maybe when they hear that we are no longer shopping at Target it will prompt them to ask why. That will be our chance to share the gospel and how it drives our decisions, even our decision about where to buy our paper towels.

Our boycott doesn’t have to be one of yelling and anger. It can simply be about refusing to support sin and further entrench people in their confusion. We can speak the truth with love and grace in humility, as we explain why we will not shop at a place that so publicly supports bad policy. That starting point should lead to a conversation about God’s sovereignty in creating every person male or female, sin, and the glorious Gospel. Our boycott could very well result in Christians being salt and light in a dark conversation, a conversation that could end with us sharing the Gospel.

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