Friday, June 01, 2012

Boycott Burnout?

This afternoon I was listening to my favorite radio show, The Catholics Next Door, on Sirius XM (totally worth the price of the subscription just for this show, by the way!)  Hosts Greg and Jennifer Willits were discussing boycotts.  I wish they'd allotted more time to this issue.

That topic has been on my mind quite a bit lately.  For about the past 20 years, my family has participated in the Life Decisions International boycott of companies that support Planned Parenthood.  That means no Levi's, no Johnson's Baby Shampoo, no Texaco gas--among so many other things.

And then there's the Dump Starbucks Campaign, triggered by their announcement that same-sex marriage is core to who they are and what they value as a company.  More recently, Target announced that proceeds from a line of Pride T-shirts would fund the Family Equality Council.

Now, I don't get Starbucks much; I don't like their coffee.  If I want a $4 fancy coffee, I'll go to Panera and get my latte there.  But Target is right around the corner and it's my go-to store for a lot of things, replacing Wal-Mart, which is farther away and which has boycott issues of its own regarding labor issues, Chinese suppliers and more.

Maybe I'm just wimping out because this is hitting too close to home.  But it's starting to feel like I won't have anywhere to shop if I support all these boycotts.

Do they do any good?  Do the companies really care if I (not a big spender anyway) spend what I do spend someplace else?  Does anybody care?  After all, the American Cancer Society has been linked to support of Planned Parenthood, yet my parish still participates in the local Relay for Life.

So, am I lazy?  Tired?  Wimpy?  Is the devil on my back?  Or do I need to find another way to make a difference?


Denise said...

I think there are several factors to consider. For example, is the company directly participating in morally objectionable actions or is it contributing money and indirectly involved in morally objectionable actions. For example, even though Planned Parenthood does low cost pap smears for poor women, I will not donate money to them because of their abortion activities. On the other hand, I do not necessarily boycott every company that donates to Planned Parenthood. For many years I did boycott General Mills because they donated to Planned Parenthood. We did not participate in the Box Top for Education fund raisers. It was at a time in our lives when many of the General Mills cereals had been a staple in our lives so giving up Cheerios was a big sacrifice. More important than the impact of our boycott on General Mills, was the impact on my children. They learned that we cared enough about the abortion issue to give up our favorite cereal. In general, if I have a choice between an abortion supporter and a non-abortion supporter (or whatever issue is triggering the boycott) I will choose the non-abortion supporter. However, if all the car companies donate to Planned Parenthood I will not give up driving. While boycotts have their place, there are better ways to change the culture.

Ellen said...

I think if we boycotted everything that we should ethically and religiously boycott, we'd be wearing leaves and eating dirt. Sometimes you just have to do what you need to do.

Sarah Oldham said...

My measly $5 coffee every now and again isn't making Starbucks any richer, that's for sure. I quit the store for a while, but most of my coffee mugs in my house are Hawaii-themed Starbucks mugs. Meh. You can only do the best intention, you know?

I quit boycotts altogether. Unless I can do something different. When McDonald's was a problem for some reason way back, I bought at BK or Ruby Tuesdays. Now, we don't eat out much to begin with, but we do try and choose the lesser "evil" - even if that means we're eating a hamburger we grill on our own grill. :)

Barbara said...

I boycotted Starbucks and sent a letter. They sent a really nasty response and it went back a forth a few times (email) and they gave up. They were/are wrong. They can't win. But I am too German to go back on my word. They will not ever get my business unless they change their policy.

Same with Sonic and the hundreds of others that donate to PP. And I write an awful lot to my senators and representatives, locally and nationally. But it would be a full time job to boycott every company that participates in immoral behavior. I wish I knew if boycotts even worked at all.

Bean said...

This is hard to write without sounding kinda preachy.
Christians should be following the teachings of Christ, if we are then we are not participating in evil. If our lives are good witness to non-believers then hopefully they too will one day give their life to Christ and turn from evil.
One thing I have learned in life, people do what they want to do, good or bad. Boycotting Target is not going to change the attitude of the militant homosexual caught up in sin.
Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you." I think this is a very powerful verse, and as Christians we need to heed it, we must live a gospel life and pray for those that are unsaved and living in sin, but we should also understand that most people choose to live in sin and choose to not believe and ultimately it is between them and God to put things right.
I think most boycotts are "feel good" stunts for middle class women, I don't pay much heed to them. I would never actively support anything that promotes evil, but think about it, not shopping some where, or not purchasing something because funds may go to planned parenthood doesn't change the fact that the business will still financially support PP. But, think of those who take time to stand outside of the abortion clinic and pray and actually touch the life of a person who is about to make a life or death decision, and the person accepts Christ, this is what impacts the bottom line of Planned Parent, eliminating their customer base! If we are successful in bringing the light of Christ to as many as possible and many will become Christian and turn away from sin.
The best thing any of can do is to be a good witness for Christ and share the good news with everyone.

nicole said...

This is something I feel so much too! I've decided that I will do what I can, where I can, but rather than worry about boycotting things, I'm trying to be more intentional about supporting causes that offer alternatives to PP and so on. So, rather than worry about my infrequent $5 coffee from Starbucks, try to give regularly to our local pregnancy center. I do know that there have been times when public boycotts have led companies to change their charitable giving, but it is very rare.

MamaK said...

Hi Barb,

I found my way over here thru Aimee at the Mother Lode. I think you've got a great question here, and all the comments make good points (ie. the effect on us/our kids)... and here's what I'm thinking about.

Culturally, in the past, boycotts HAVE made a difference- for example, in the Civil Rights movement here, and in South Africa as well. There's some great stuff over at that goes into details if anyone is interested. And even today, the boycotts of fast food places have helped migrant workers begin to earn more (a penny per pound, first raise in 30 yrs, see

So what I'm wondering... Is the pro-life movement that radically different from these other social movements that a boycott *wouldn't* work? Or did the other movements get enough critical mass to reach a tipping point - a place that the prolife movement hasn't gotten yet (which seems hard to believe). OR is it just that while boycotts WERE effective previously, in today's postmodern world, they aren't? (and then how does the CIW fit in?).

I honestly don't know. While I tend to lean toward the "it makes a difference in OUR lives, no matter the actual result, God is in charge" ...

I think there's something to be said for tangible results, as well. Of course, as you say, there seems to be so many boycotts it does become a matter of choosing (just as we couldn't possibly say ALL the novenas at the same time)... but if that's true in our post-modern world, how do we affect social change?
(I know, if we had that answer, we'd be on Oprah's network!).

I'd be interested to know what you think. Good questions... thanks for asking - Kristi