So as we are being treated to the spectacle of the South rising again, challenging the authority of the Feds again, and this time doing it when they have the manifest moral high ground, it is time to examine some of the secular freak-out reaction to it, not to mention some of our reactions to their reactions. I mean to talk for just a few moments about boycotts.
In the very recent past, three states of the Old Confederacy have passed strict anti-abortion measures, with Alabama leading the way with the best bill of the lot. On top of that, the border state Missouri followed close behind.
Yeah, Well Take That
After Georgia passed her heartbeat bill, both Netflix and Disney made some threatening noises about refusing to film in any place that is so welcoming and inclusive . . . to the unborn. In response to this saber-rattling, some activists on the pro-life side have responded with a boycott of their own.
This is because Georgia has been giving away beaucoup bucks in order to lure movie makers there, a move that was largely working, and so the threat to stay away is a significant one. You know how municipalities like to ignore the true function of government in order to build stadiums as a way of juicing their local economies? Well, Marvel (with parent company Disney) has a monster studio there in Georgia, but if they move out to keep themselves all clean and pure like, Georgia could acquire the studio at a bargain rate, and bestow it on Kirk Cameron and those boys who made Fireproof.
Two Kinds of Boycott
There are two ways to understand a boycott. One kind of boycott is undertaken for the sake of moral purity, and the other kind of boycott is simply a tactic. The first occurs when someone believes that doing business with x, y, z will violate their conscience, and the second occurs when social activists seize on the economic vulnerability of a business or company in order to steer society in a direction more to the protesters’ liking. And in order to keep things confusing, sometimes organizers in this second sense will appeal to the first sense in order to generate additional support for whatever it is they are doing.
Let me illustrate it this way. Suppose I live in a small town of 600 people, and one day the only gas station there starts to sell porn behind the counter, just like the boys in the big city do. Let us also say that this ticks off the traditional residents of said small town, and somebody suggests that everybody should start buying their gas at the next town over (just a few miles away), and the idea catches on. This is a tactic that is being used to keep porn out of a small town. It is not a moral necessity. If the small town boycott were organized by an energetic fellow who had to drive over to Seattle one weekend, he is not a hypocrite if he gasses up over there at a station that sells porn.
Another way of saying this is that there is no moral necessity for Christians to detach themselves from a sinful economic system. We can see this important truth in how Paul handles the question of meat offered to idols. He teaches us there is nothing wrong with the meat; the meat is not demon-possessed. The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof (1 Cor. 10:26, 28). At the same time, there may well be local relational or personal reasons for abstaining from eating such meat (1 Cor. 8:13), and the stronger believer should cheerfully forego for the sake of his brother. But if he eats a hamburger that was offered to Baal over in Seattle, nobody should care.
This is to be distinguished from those circumstances where the secularists are demanding that believers use their expertise in such a way as to glorify a sinful activity—cake bakers, photographers, florists, etc. That is a place where the totalitolerant are demanding that we participate in the sin directly ourselves, which is not lawful, as opposed to participating in an economy which has markedly sinful elements, which absolutely is lawful. “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world” (1 Cor. 5:9–10). Doing business with a fornicator is fine, unless the business concerned is helping him fornicate. A Christian app developer can build an app for a widget company that is owned by someone who is immoral. But the app developer may not build that guy a plug-in for his Tinder app to help him score more often. This is not complicated.
Now as soon as the purity advocates get hold of a boycott, they are rapidly entangled in a host of contradictory and hypocritical positions. This is true of the Christians, who have a true and biblical idea of what purity is, and it is true of the secularists, who have a demented view of what they think is purity. Whatever your idea of impurity is, you will not be able to detach from it in this life.
For example, say Disney pulls out of Georgia, in order to maintain their secular street cred. Shrewd pro-lifers could simply concentrate on the next state down, Florida, to get them their very own heartbeat bill, and then wait to see if Disney shuts down Disneyworld. If it were a moral purity issue, they would have to. But, it turns out, they were just trying to yank Georgia around. They can’t make movies in Georgia because that backward state is showing up Massachusetts on a human rights issue, but they can continue to film in places like Saudi Arabia? They can build a theme park for the Chicoms, the rulers of the land of forced abortions, but care for the unborn in Georgia is a bridge too far?
But this principle applies to our side as well. If it is a purity issue, there is something incongruous about organizing a boycott of Netflix on Facebook. Facebook is every bit as bad as Netflix on any number of counts. Shall we use all our Apple devices to tell Google how bad they are being?
Back to the secularists. Say the NCAA says they have to pull their resources away from any states that are fighting for the lives of little black children. They simply cannot tolerate actual compassion getting in the way of their pretended compassion, and particularly when it is compassionate southerners showing up yankees with pinched faces. Now preseason rankings can be pretty squirrely, but it is striking to me that a bunch of the top-ranked football teams—Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Missouri—are from heartbeat states. Let’s have somebody ask the NCAA if they are going to refuse to sponsor anything from those states.
Now if it is a purity issue for Christians, then we simply have to do it, regardless of the inconvenience. But if it is simply a tactic, then we should measure it by another metric. How likely is it to be effective? How influential are the generals who are calling for the campaign? How likely is this to work? The secularists need to confront this distinction also, and all the early returns indicate they have a far bigger problem with this than we do.
But this distinction is particularly important because of the common confusion concerning the purity boycott and the tactical boycott. There is no shame in having an assault on the enemy’s fortress fail, but if they were persuaded that you were deploying that tactic as a moral necessity, as soon as you drop it, they can tag you as compromised.
Say you are persuaded by all the foregoing, and yet you still have yen to boycott something. Is there anything out there that you could boycott, and boycott with a clean conscience? Sure. If you have children in the government schools, then 10 out of 10 of you need to get them out now. And if you have kids in the government university and college system, then 8 out of 10 of you need to get them out now.
Getting that kind of boycott under way should keep us busy for a while.