Should Christians boycott woke companies?

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Target loses $10 billion over Pride-themed kids clothing: Should Christians boycott “woke” companies?

May 30, 2023 -

Pride month merchandise is displayed at the front of a Target store in Hackensack, N.J., Wednesday, May 24, 2023. Target is removing certain items from its stores and making other changes to its LGBTQ+ merchandise nationwide ahead of Pride month, after an intense backlash from some customers including violent confrontations with its workers. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Pride month merchandise is displayed at the front of a Target store in Hackensack, N.J., Wednesday, May 24, 2023. Target is removing certain items from its stores and making other changes to its LGBTQ+ merchandise nationwide ahead of Pride month, after an intense backlash from some customers including violent confrontations with its workers. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Pride month merchandise is displayed at the front of a Target store in Hackensack, N.J., Wednesday, May 24, 2023. Target is removing certain items from its stores and making other changes to its LGBTQ+ merchandise nationwide ahead of Pride month, after an intense backlash from some customers including violent confrontations with its workers. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Target recently lost $10 billion in market valuation over ten days as its Pride-themed clothing line for children provoked a massive backlash. Nonetheless, CEO Brian Cornell has defended his company’s LGBTQ advocacy: “It’s helping us drive sales, it’s building greater engagement with both our teams and our guests, and those are just the right things for our business today.”

Target is not the only retailer making such headlines: Kohl’s is now selling Pride clothing for three-month-olds. The retailer is also marketing a children’s shirt with the words, “Ask me my pronouns.” Critics are calling for shoppers to boycott the retailer.

As Pride month begins this Thursday, these stories raise an important question: Should Christians boycott “woke” companies?

Are we to be culture warriors?

We can begin by identifying what not to do.

Target reports that since introducing this year’s Pride collection, “we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work.” The retailer is therefore “removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior.” Clearly, any threat to stores, employees, or others violates the biblical command to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).

Demeaning people, whatever their sexual orientation, gender identity, or support for “woke” policies, likewise violates the biblical command to relate to others “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). We are not permitted to say about someone what we would not first say to them (cf. Matthew 18:15). We are to “put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander” (1 Peter 2:1).

In short, we are not to be culture warriors doing battle with those with whom we disagree. Such antagonism hurts those we are called to help and reinforces the narrative of “hate speech” so often associated with evangelical biblical morality.

When I served as a college missionary in East Malaysia, those I sought to reach were not my enemies. To the contrary, they were people for whom Jesus died who deserved to know the One I knew. I was simply a beggar helping other beggars find bread.

In the same way, in cultural conflicts, our opponents are not our enemies. Satan is the enemy; those who reject biblical truth are his victims: “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Consequently, “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

This is why “speaking the truth in love” should be our daily aspiration and mantra (Ephesians 4:15). Rather than fighting our opponents as cultural warriors, we should love them as cultural missionaries sharing God’s word and grace in the place and time he has assigned to us.

Voting with our dollars

In The World: A Family History of Humanity, Simon Sebag Montefiore observed, “History is made by the interplay of ideas, institutions, and geopolitics. When they come together in felicitous conjunction, great changes happen.” Note the order: ideas change institutions, which change geopolitics, which change the world. John F. Kennedy was right: “A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on.”

To win the battle for minds in the context of “woke” capitalism, we must stay so close to Jesus that his Spirit can guide us and speak to and through us (cf. Matthew 10:20). Charles Spurgeon observed: “The first thing for our soul’s health, the first thing for his glory, and the first thing for our own usefulness, is to keep ourselves in perpetual communion with the Lord Jesus, and to see that the vital spirituality of our religion is maintained over and above everything else in the world.”

Then, as Jesus leads us, we are to use our possessions in ways that honor him and support biblical morality (cf. Colossians 3:23). In a democracy, we vote with our ballots. In a capitalistic economy, we vote with our dollars.

Target’s CEO was clear: his company’s LGBTQ advocacy has been “helping us drive sales,” at least until recently. The bottom line with for-profit companies is profits. Supporting companies that advocate unbiblical immorality will only encourage such advocacy. Supporting businesses that stand for biblical truth, such as campaigns to support Chick-fil-A after its CEO affirmed biblical marriage, sends similar signals in a positive way.

“The chief danger that confronts the coming century”

I am not writing today to support any particular boycotts or other economic actions against any particular companies. I will leave such decisions to you as the Spirit leads you. But I am advocating a biblical worldview that includes our use of personal finances as we declare and defend biblical morality (2 Timothy 4:2; 1 Peter 3:15–16).

This is one way we join God at work in our broken world. The stakes could not be higher.

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, died in 1912. Consider his prophetic prediction for the twentieth century: “The chief danger that confronts the coming century will be religion without the Holy Ghost, Christianity without Christ, forgiveness without repentance, salvation without regeneration, politics without God, heaven without hell.” Has his warning come to pass?

Lest discouragement win the day, let’s close with Edward Everett Hale’s injunction: “I am only one, but I am one. I can’t do everything, but I can do something. The something I ought to do, I can do. And by the grace of God, I will.”

What is the “something” you “ought to do” today?

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