The Mailbag: Should Christians Participate in Boycotts?

I’m taking a few days off. Please enjoy this selected article.

This article was originally published on September 19, 2014 as part of my In Case You Were Wondering series, which was the “beta version” of The Mailbag (our regular Monday feature). 


Should Christians boycott businesses or charities that financially support abortion, homosexual marriage, or other unbiblical things?

This question has gotten a lot of attention lately because of the ice bucket challenge and the ALS charity that funds embryonic stem cell research. I think whether or not to boycott a business or charity is something every Christian needs to decide for herself based on Scripture and her own conscience. Some good Scriptures to study to help with your decision are 1 Corinthians 8 and 10:23ff, and Romans 14:5-12.

Since there’s no one right answer to this question, I’d like to just share with you how I have come to handle it in my life, in case it might be helpful.

I used to do boycotts (I was on an e-mail list that was basically a constant call to boycott this or that business), but it got to the point where there were so many companies and subsidiaries of those companies that donate here and there to unacceptable causes that it was impossible to track all of them down and keep up with them all. Since I would have felt like a hypocrite for boycotting one company but not another, I amended my “policy” on boycotting:

1. I don’t boycott places where I get necessities for my family–phone company, grocery stores, gas stations, etc. If there were a very big public splash about one of these places supporting something unacceptable and I had another option, I might reconsider a boycott.

2. If there’s an alternative to a “boycottable” business, I take it. For example, I would not donate to Komen because they support Planned Parenthood, but I might donate to another cancer/breast cancer charity that doesn’t.

3. If it’s not a necessity and there’s no alternative, I probably wouldn’t donate/buy/shop there. For example, within the last 5 years, Starbucks has, among other very publicized pro-homosexuality actions, filed a brief against DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act) and worked to support legislation in Washington state to legalize same sex “marriage.” Starbucks isn’t a necessity, and if there weren’t an alternative coffee place in my area, I would just do without. (Full disclosure- Starbucks is expensive and several miles from my house. My coffee maker is cheap and only several yards from my bed. So, I don’t go to Starbucks, but it’s because I’m broke and lazy, not because I’m boycotting.)

My way isn’t the perfect way, and there’s probably still some hypocrisy in it that I can’t see or reconcile, but it works for me.

For further reading:
Should Christians boycott companies that support anti-Christian policies? from Got Questions
Should Christians Boycott Boycotting? from The Gospel Coalition

Do you boycott any businesses for certain reasons?
How did you arrive at your decision to boycott?

1 thought on “The Mailbag: Should Christians Participate in Boycotts?”

  1. I tend to agree with your line of reasoning of the necessities vs. non necessities. Also, another way to look at it with large national companies is that “probably” the local stores and employees of that store do not always agree with the company policies that we would find objectionable. So, in theory, by boycotting the company to prove “our” point, would we be putting a local wage-earner at risk of being laid-off due to decreased business? I know this is somewhat theoretical because, for a large company to lose that much business would have to be a huge boycott. Does that make sense?

    Often the company’s policies are adapted over the years and they may become more liberal and intolerant of Christian beliefs. So the man or woman who has working steadily there for years, maybe even toward retirement, shouldn’t have to be negatively affected by this.

    We know that unbelievers are going to do things that we don’t agree with. That’s the nature of the depraved condition. So, trying to “Christianize” these companies, to me, is not the best use of our time. Instead, our time should be spend sharing the Gospel by prayer, word and deed. SDG


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