After I wrote my last post, I started thinking more about the question of “what next?” After all, once the delicious intoxication of outrage has passed, we must actually decide where to buy our toilet paper and toothpaste with a side of cute candle. I have mixed feelings about boycotts. I remember the old days when Christian homeschoolers boycotted everything from Disney cartoons to Christmas trees, and to be honest, it never seemed to me to do much of anything for anybody. I’m more of a “celebrate the good” person than a “hate the bad” one, especially when it comes to culture. For all of the supposedly nefarious sexual undertones or subliminal messages in Disney movies, there are plenty of very overt messages of chivalry, kindness and courage, which I think might be a titch more important. (Before you tar and feather me, there is such a thing as appropriateness. Just because I, as a grown-up gal, can find redemptive themes in Game of Thrones doesn’t mean that my baby needs to watch it, and Disney movies are not blameless nor babysitters.)
So I am unconvinced about the power of boycotts. That said, I am a very vocal customer. I am the girl who sends lattes back, asks about menu ingredients and complains to management about bad customer service. This has almost never been a bad thing. Usually, the store or restaurant makes it right, the server gets a healthy tip or the establishment gets a loyal customer out of the deal. I much prefer speaking my mind and letting the entity in question respond, rather than engaging in passive-aggressive gossip about the lousy service or grunting cashier. If they can’t/won’t/don’t care to make it right, I consider that my cue to pick a new store. If I go back, I have no place complaining, because I know what I’m going to get.
I also think that Christians need to get over believing that we still have a “Christian nation”. I’m sorry, guys, but the party’s over. It’s probably been over longer out here in the West than it has in places like Texas or Iowa, but it’s still over. Our majority culture is no longer based in Judeo-Christian values, and therefore, we will find little solace in that culture, and to expect it will lead to almost endless disappointment and a false sense of entitlement.
Also, just as we staunchly defend Hobby Lobby’s right, as a private company, to not provide Plan B, so Target, as a private company, can make whatever bathroom policy they choose. Because they are irresistibly charming, Hobby Lobby is happily playing praise music and selling “As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord” yard signs right here in my little Western quasi-progressive town. If you want to change culture, start your own, better Target and you can do whatever you want with it. Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby are great examples of how to influence culture through better products, better ideas and better companies, and Christians should take notice.
I also think that there’s a difference between actively participating in something you disagree with and simply being a bystander to it. For instance, it’s one thing to shop at Target and another to help facilitate a transgender person’s transition. I realize that this is a grey area – after all, the argument is often made that supporting a business which supports things you disagree with is tantamount to supporting the thing itself. That may be, but it seems a rather tough line to walk. After all, Costco, Starbucks, Apple Computer and countless other companies all support things that don’t align with my worldview. It seems to me that the only way to be truly ethical to that standard is to go “off the grid”, raise all of one’s own food, make all of one’s own power, and certainly don’t pay your taxes, since Heaven knows our hard-earned tax money goes to all kinds of unholy things.
This is not to say, however, that you can never make an inconsistent decision, simply because it feels right in your own conscience. Consistency is important but is not the highest good; by contrast, a thoughtful, ethical spiritual and moral compass is rather high on the scale. Also, we make decisions all the time to protect our kids, this seems no different. If it doesn’t feel safe to you to go to Target because your kids might need to use the restroom alone and that is uncomfortable for you, don’t go to Target. Certainly, it’s a valid choice and aren’t we lucky that we have so many other options. It even seems to me that it’s a good idea to tell Target about your decision – who knows, they might install more “family” bathrooms or other options that would make you feel safer.
On the note of boycotts and consistency, of course the argument has come up that Christians should shop at Target to avoid seeming “angry” and further harming the reputation of Christianity in our culture. I think this is only partially valid, and not because of where you choose to buy toothpaste. As I said before, Christians need to give up the entitlement narrative – our culture does not like us, it is not on our team. Period. You cannot be honestly upset when TV shows which tout the joys of multiple sexual partners and a humanistic ideology don’t portray Christians as positive role models. If you want to change culture, start with art. Watch the rare shows (Blue Bloods is a great current example) which do exemplify positive family and faith stories and leave the rest, or recognize that you will have to sort the wheat from the chaff if you’re going to have a broader palate of cultural fare. Recognize that Modern Family may make some good points about the importance of loyalty and trust, but don’t be surprised if they include a joke or two at your expense – this is not our culture and the expectation that it is leads to tunnel vision and a dangerous obsession with legislation. But – going back to where you buy toothpaste – honestly? It doesn’t matter. This whole thing will blow over and no one is checking your receipts to see how “loving” or “angry” you are with your dollars. What they will notice is how loving or angry you are toward them.
Over the years I’ve worked closely with people who do not agree with me at all, yet somehow we still manage to debate and agree on some things and not others. One particularly lovely woman and I work together right now, and we have vastly different worldviews and lifestyles, which you would probably assume (if you listen to the culture) would make us instant enemies. But we’re actually (gasp) friends! We agree on some things, we disagree on others. We vote differently, we purchase differently, we spend our Sunday mornings differently. I hope that she sees me as a real-life Christian who really cares about her, and maybe, just maybe, that would lead her to defend my worldview (even if she doesn’t agree with it) when she gets into a conversation about the mean Christians who hate transgenders and unwed moms and gay people and Target shoppers.
Because, at the end of the day, it’s much easier to hate the idea of people, isn’t it? The vitriolic outcriers against those “fundamentalists” boycotting Target have never actually met the sweet mom from Dallas who’s just trying to live out her conscience and protect her kids, and the conservatives who let a pushy agenda-driven minority overshadow everyday people also need a reality check.
Christians, this isn’t our culture. Like Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby, we can start making culture of our own, but don’t insist that a culture that neither knows us nor loves us will behave respectfully toward us. That’s our job.