Monday, May 16, 2011

Should Christians Boycott Businesses That Don’t Think Like Us?

There was a big ruckus when I was in high school over Procter & Gamble supposedly being a company that gave some of its profits to the Church of Satan. I knew it was true because my cousin knew a guy who saw company officials admit it on “Phil Donahue.”

The story hinged on the company’s logo, a man in the moon with long flowing hair and beard that looked out onto 13 stars. The company denied any devil-worship – and has sued Amway multiple times over the past three decades for allegedly keeping the story alive.

The point some Christians latched onto was that buying products from a company that donated part of its profits to the Church of Satan was furthering the work of the enemy.

In the P&G case, evangelical apologist Bob Passantino, said that Christians risk discrediting their faith in the eyes of others with such behavior. “It's not just a stamp we're wasting. It's our credibility. Our credibility is on the line. People might think if Christians are stupid enough to fall for this falsehood, maybe early Christians were gullible enough to fall for the resurrection story.”

But the question remains: Are we wrong to knowingly give money to people who do things with it we find objectionable?

The Apostle Paul, though previously having told early Christians to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, wrote that he felt perfect freedom in doing so. Why? Because an idol isn’t really a god, and he gave thanks to the true God for providing the meat before he ate it. Whatever anybody else did or thought wasn’t his concern.

Well, to a point. He did note that people of his day should feel free to eat meat without asking where it came from – but if someone specifically told them it had been sacrificed to idols to leave it alone “for conscience sake.” And that wasn’t for your conscience, but for the other guy’s – so he wouldn’t think you were endorsing his idol.

So that seems to clear up one thing: If you buy a product and some of the profits go toward something objectionable – but you don’t know it – there’s nothing to worry about. But what if you do know about it?

There’s no real guideline here. But look at the opposite circumstance: preferring Christian-owned businesses over non-Christian ones. I’ve seen Christian business directories and ads and signs containing the icthus (Jesus fish) – but would God want me to prefer those companies over any other?

After all, Jesus was criticized by religious leaders for associating with sinners: IRS agents, whores. (So if you ever wore one of those wristbands asking “What Would Jesus Do?” – there’s your answer. And point of clarity: I am NOT saying you should “do business” with hookers.)

How will people who don’t know God’s love ever find it if someone doesn’t show it to them? If all the Christians in a community agree not to use Larry’s Transmission Shop because Larry doesn’t believe in God – or heaven forfend! – believes in a different god, poor Larry’s got no hope of ever meeting this God that all the good Christians talk up so much.

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