Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Yahoo! The Boycott's Over!

Two days ago I was thumbing through the stack of magazines on my desk, most of them from Christian publishers. I noticed that most of them have some article or content relating to the upcoming Disney release of The Chronicles of Narnia. Like all of you who have read the Narnia series in your younger days, I’ve been waiting anxiously for this movie to come out. After the success Peter Jackson had with depicting the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I can’t wait to see what Disney does with The Chronicles of Narnia.

But then it occurred to me that two of the magazines were from Focus on the Family. Both Magazines prominently feature publicity shots from the movie on their covers. My first thought was “cool.” But then it occurred to me that Focus was one of the larger Christian organizations that only a few years ago spent much publicity, radio time, and pages in their print publications calling on the Christian public to boycott Disney. So was the Southern Baptist denomination, the American Family Association (AFA), and a host of others.

A quick search of their website revealed to me that I was right. But then I discovered that sometime in the summer all of these organization called off the boycott on Disney. Most all sited changes in their leadership as reasons for calling off the boycott. They felt the boycott had made significant enough impact on Disney to warrant the end of the action. One of the below listed articles (the one on the Southern Baptist’s site) stated that the fact that Disney was going to finance and distribute C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was a big reason why the boycott was called off.

Check out these related articles on each of their web sites detailing what I’m talking about:
Focus on the Family
American Family Association
Southern Baptist Convention

OK, so Disney dumps a few leaders (Michael Eisner and the Weinstein brothers who led Miramax) and then they decide to release one of C.S. Lewis’s classics on the big screen and they are suddenly OK? Are you kidding me? Have they taken a look at the movies that Disney’s Miramax is going to be releasing in the near future? Most are no better than their past releases that the Southern Baptists, Focus on the Family, the AFA, and others were calling for the embargo of Disney in the first place. And just because the leadership has changed do you really think that the company as a whole has?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bashing Disney. I never have. The are a large entertainment corporation. The vast array of their holdings no doubt might eventually mean one of their companies would produce a product or entertainment option that would differ with the values we hold as Christians. It’s inevitable. But to their credit, they also produce an awful lot of stuff that’s completely wholesome and perfect for my four year old to watch, listen to, and fill his young mind with. Kudos to Disney for that! I supported them during the boycott and I still stand by them now that the boycott is off.

Now I’m not upset that the larger Christian organizations have called off the to boycott of Disney. I say it’s about time! And good for them for getting behind the Narnia film. I hope it is a smashing success.

My indictment comes on the leadership of the large Christian organizations that called for the boycott of Disney nine years ago. Ironically, as these same Christian organizations recently called off the boycott on Disney in time for the Christmas season, they have called for a boycott on any company (Target stores mostly) who says “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” to its customers. How ironic that we now are being asked boycott Target store for something so silly as that, yet Disney’s boycott is off and their Miramax film company is still cranking out movies that are definitely not family friendly.

The problem lies in the fact that the boycott should never have been called for in the first place. When we as the Christian community begin acting as a political or economic force to be reckoned with, then we are acting less like the Church and more like conquistadors. Aren’t we supposed to be about loving people into the kingdom. We aren’t supposed to be legislating Christianity. We aren’t supposed to be about threatening the financial stability of legitimate secular companies just because they function in culturally acceptable ways, even though those culturally acceptable ways differ from what the Church teaches.

When the leadership of the major Christian organizations function like this they are acting in the same way as that of the Pharisees, the Jewish leaders who led Israel, in Jesus’ day. They used their considerable political weight to try to sway the Roman government. They squashed anyone who operated contrary to their manmade rules and plans. They turned the economy so that it functioned around their world, not the other way around. And as a result, Jesus condemned them and their self-righteous ways. He accused them of making rules that no one could live by, of tying the people down with heavy burdens they never were intended to carry. In fact, Jesus outright condemned them for it.

In a very real sense, that’s exactly what the leadership of these organizations has done to Christianity in North America. They should never call for boycotts in the first place. When they do that they put unrealistic burdens on the Church. They ask our people to speak with their wallets, to not purchase products from companies that might produce some sort of product that seems counter to our beliefs, or that might have donated money to an unwholesome non-profit organization. And isn’t that an unrealistic task? Who could keep up with that? For instance, should we not drink Pepsi® or is it Coke®? Both have donated funds to organizations that I would consider questionable. So then that means we only drink RC Cola®, right? Has anyone checked them out? Maybe we just go with a generic brand (if we can stomach it). No wait, has anyone checked out the generic brand to make sure they aren’t donating to unwholesome organization? Oh, then maybe we’ll just drink iced tea or juice or bottled water. Oh, but wait. Lipton® and Aquafina® are owned by Pepsi® and Minute Made® and Dasani® are owned by Coke®… You get the picture. It’s a mind field trying to navigate a boycott of a major corporation like this. And it’s an unnecessary guilt trip.

Furthermore, doesn’t it smack a lot of hypocrisy to have had a boycott going for nine years (which, realistically, not many in the Christian community where buying into) and then suddenly it ends? And the end is being justified because a few executives parted ways with Disney, and because they are now releasing the Chronicles of Narnia into theaters? Come on! As I said before, Disney hasn’t changed it’s stripes much from how it was operating when the boycott was in full swing. What’s the real reason for the change? I’d really like to know. But it sure looks suspicious that as soon as the marketing hype started this past summer for Chronicles, suddenly the boycott is ended.

In the end, calling for boycotts makes the Church look stupid, narrow-minded, and out of touch with reality. And then repealing them after nothing’s really changed and, oh by the way, there’s a really great movie coming out that we’d all love to see looks contrived, hypocritical, and suspicious.

Wouldn’t it be far better to make change in the world by overwhelming it with unconditional love? Call me crazy, but I think so.


At 2:55 PM, Anonymous Matt Slawson said...

love the blog keep it up, goin to see Narnia thursday at midnight

At 4:22 PM, Anonymous Katie Roach said...

Politics and the church shouldn't mix, I agree. In my opinion we are taking away from the enormous celebration this season brings by arguing over "happy holidays" vs "merry christmas". I know in my heart what the season means to me as a Christian and no sign can take that away.

At 6:51 AM, Anonymous Brandon Hill said...

Fantastic comments Jeff. Great read, and I applaud you for finding a context to use the word "conquistadors".

At 8:51 AM, Blogger J.R. said...

Great post Jeff,
It's funny how wishy-washy this whole things seems. I mean, if you are going to stand up for something, atleast have the guts to pull it off. Moves like boycotting and then calling it off when an organization starts appealing towards your own interests do nothing but make Christians look bad.

At 10:25 AM, Blogger Freddy Wright said...


wow, you write a lot. I hear ya on the boycott thing, drives me nuts. I believe the original boycott was about the issue of how Disney was handling homosexual issues and the Southern Baptist Convention went berzerk about it. I struggle with Focus on the Family too. Seems Christians are always in the shadow of this Negativity that our so called leaders are spreading. Let's be positive about what our faith stands for. Let's let people know God is for us, not against us. I bet Jesus would have gone to disney with a Coke in hand!

At 8:13 PM, Blogger MattSlawson said...

new blog

At 8:08 AM, Anonymous Sherry said...

Wow, Jeff! I loved the blog. I think you have found a great place to voice your opinion...and I agree.

While I am driving to work on most mornings I turn on Focus on the Family. If they are being political, I turn them off. I will listen when they actually have a good speaker or something good to say about Christianity. I think they have taken the political stand too far.

Way to go! Would love to



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