Should Christians Boycott Secular Companies

Christian Life & Theology, Podcast Episodes

In this episode Phylicia discusses whether Christians should boycott Target or other secular companies when their values differ from the Christian worldview. We look at a history of pagan marketplaces and 1 Corinthians 8 to answer the question!


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Welcome to Verity podcast. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer. I’m here to teach you how to know what you believe, to live it boldly, and to communicate it graciously to the world around you. I believe that women are ready to go deeper in their faith than ever before and they don’t have to go to seminary to do it. I am so glad you’re here. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey because every woman is a theologian.

Hi, friends and welcome back to Verity podcast. Today we’re diving into a very controversial topic. We’re going to be addressing the hullabaloo surrounding Target and whether Christians should boycott Target and stores like it. So, when I was researching for this episode, I had several things I knew I wanted to address and of course, wanted to look deeply at scripture in terms of how to understand its passages about things like this and because scripture doesn’t speak directly to boycotting, since that term did not exist yet, we have to think about the principles that are at play. What’s the principle behind this boycott and how should we think about that as Christians? So, if you are not aware, want to quickly just give you a little bit of an overall update on what we’re talking about here.

So, a couple of weeks ago, before Pride Month launched, Pride Month is in June, which celebrates the LGBTQ community. Target came out with a line of Pride items. Now, this is not new. Target has come out with Pride items every single year. They are known for supporting LGBTQ causes but what’s different this time is that they specifically were marketing bathing suits that were designed for transgender individuals. On top of this, they also were promoting some items in the children’s section that were designed to align with Pride Month, such as a rainbow bathing suit. And then they also partnered with designs by Abprallen, which was a London based company that designs and sells occult and satanic themed LGBTQ items. So, these three things caused a national outrage, primarily among conservatives and some Christians who wanted to boycott Target because of their attempt to, what many people are saying, “Force people to support the LGBTQ causes.” So, knowing this, we’ve seen across social media a variety of opinions and we’ve also seen a lot of outrage on both sides.

One from the Christian or conservative community, I want to be clear that those two are not equivalent. You can be conservative politically without being a Christian and as a Christian, our allegiance is not first to a political affiliation, it’s to the Kingdom of God. So, conservatives and some Christians were very upset about this. On the other side, of course, the LGBTQ community was also very upset about this. And then there were Christians who felt like this shouldn’t even be an issue at all. People should not be boycotting anything. Target is Target, it’s a secular company. It can do what it wants. And so, knowing that this is the situation that we’re dealing with, how do we discern through this biblically? That’s the question we’re going to address in this episode. But to do that, we have to get to that underlying principle at play. And the question that we’re really asking here, is should Christians buy from a secular company that promotes anti-Christian causes?

Now, if you’re listening to this and you do not believe that promoting transgenderism or LGBTQ relationships and sexual acts, if you think that that is not an issue, you’re probably not going to agree with my perspective on this episode. I do hope you’ll still listen just so that you learn this perspective and the reasoning behind it. The history might be interesting to you. As I’m addressing the history of boycotting, I’m not going to get into a defense of the historically orthodox sexual ethic. If you want to learn more about that, I can give you some resources through my website or through my Instagram @phyliciamasonheimer. As we are looking at this question of whether Christians should buy from secular companies that support anti-Christian causes. So, in this case, the anti-Christian cause would be a sexual ethic that is opposed to covenant sexuality and covenant sexuality is sex between a man and a woman who are in covenant before God for life. So, this of course eliminates also premarital sex, extramarital sex, pedophilia, pornography and all of those things, as well as LGBTQ sex. So, we’re not narrowing in on only one sexual act here. It’s all sexual sin and that’s important for consistency.

At the same time, though, we should recognize that these are secular companies with secular goals. And that’s what makes this complicated for a lot of Christians to think through, because we’re living in a pagan society. Regardless of how you feel about the history of America, the State of America now is not a Christian nation. It’s not. We are living as exiles in Babylon, if you want to put it that way, as people who are set apart for God living in a pagan nation. And that is going to affect how we engage with this topic but it’s also a great advantage for interpreting scripture on this topic because this kind of a culture is exactly what the early church was living in. And these kinds of questions are the same questions the early church was asking. So, because, you know, I love church history, we have to go back to go forward. And I looked up the history of boycotts in the American church and learned that the most successful and organized boycott that church in America ever participated in outside of prohibition most likely was the Nestle boycott at the end of the 70s and the early 80s.

If you’re not familiar with the Nestle boycott, it’s really quite fascinating, and I will link an article from Relevant Magazine in the show notes about it. Basically, Nestle owned a formula company in the 70s and 80s, a baby formula company and this formula had some significant problems in terms of its nutrition. And it was being marketed in third-world countries to people who were underprivileged, didn’t have the funds to adequately feed their babies and they were marketing it to people who really should have been breastfeeding their babies because it would have been better and more sustainable for their children. But instead, they were told to use Nestle’s formula and because they couldn’t afford a lot of it, they were diluting the formula and babies were dying of malnourishment. Well, this became known in the United States and the American Church was actually at the forefront of boycotting Nestle and this formula in order to push them to make things right overseas in these countries. The church actually partnered with secular organizations, including feminist organizations, to accomplish this boycott and take a lawsuit to Nestle. And you can read the rest of the story in the Relevant article.

But basically, what happened in the Nestle boycott was a concerted organized effort to stop something that was causing direct human suffering. And when we turn today and the more frequent boycotts that we hear about boycotts of Target in 2016, boycotts of Starbucks during the Happy Holidays craze and boycotts of many other establishments that are participating in cultural ideologies. We have to ask ourselves if the way we’re going about boycotts is effective and if boycotts are what we should be pushing towards as the American church. Now, before you think you know my answer, keep listening because we’re going to go to scripture on this. And I want to look at a comparable situation that we find in ancient Greece and Rome in order to make an educated decision about how to handle this in modern day.

Now, you might be thinking ancient Greece and Rome are pretty different from America and I would say, “Actually not that much.” Back in ancient Greece and Rome, you obviously had your pagan gods, open visible idols and temples everywhere to these idols. If you studied Greek mythology in high school or Roman mythology, then you know some of their names Athena, Minerva, Juno, etc. And these gods were central to the good of the community in the eyes of the Greeks and Romans. In fact, the Greek and Roman religion was seen as an important part for the good of the state. And so, to question these gods or refuse to participate in the rituals to these gods was enough to get you questioned and to question whether or not you could be trusted or whether or not you as an individual were for the good of the state. And this is actually what caused most of the persecution of the early church in those first 300 years, because Christians would not participate in the gods and the sacrificial rites, and the sexual celebrations of the gods, their character and their devotion to the state was actually questioned.

Now, today we don’t have idols in temples. We don’t have on every street corner a big temple to a pagan God like they did in ancient Greece and Rome. But we do have something else, and it’s an invisible God of identity, specifically, sexual identity. We live in an era that will tell you it’s nonreligious, atheistic, agnostic, spiritual, but not religious. They don’t have a visible God, but they still have a God. They have something they worship. And sexual identity is a God of our age, very, very similar to how God worship occurred in ancient Greece and Rome. Sexual celebrations were a really big part of celebrating the Greek and Roman gods. And this is why the New Testament repeatedly warns against participating in sexual immorality and drunken orgies and things like that. Because the integration of worship and sex was happening then too.

Now, if you’re kind of resisting the idea that sexual identity is the God of this age. Here are some questions to ask. This is from the National Library of Medicine, PMC, PubMed Central. “A worldview is a collection of attitudes, values, stories, and expectations about the world around us which inform our every thought and action. Worldview is expressed in ethics, religion, philosophy, scientific beliefs, and so on. A worldview is how a culture works out in individual practice. When you encounter a situation and think that’s just wrong, your worldview is active. We have a natural tendency to think that what we believe is normal. His views are backward and superstitious. Your views are a result of how you were brought up. My views are rational, balanced, and true. We’re largely unaware of the wheels moving on our car until there is an abnormal noise. Similarly, we become aware of worldviews and their corresponding values only when there is a clash or crisis.” So, if we use this definition of a worldview, we can look at the sexual ethic of today and ask, does it have an attitude? Does it have values, stories and expectations about the world? Yes. Is it expressed in ethics? Yes. Is there a philosophy of today’s sexual ethic? Yes. Does it have scientific beliefs about gender and identity and the ability to change from a man to woman? Yes. How does it work out in individual practice? It works out in that your view of sexual identity in today’s world is the primary lens through which you view yourself, your purpose, your mission, your value, other people and how to treat them and how you should be treated.

It gives you a lens through which to view all of life and a way of forming a community. It includes rituals like pride parades or if you combine it with New Age rituals, you have a spiritual sexual ethic, none of this is new. The sexual ethic of today is a religion, but it is not new. It existed among the Greeks and the Romans, and it existed in every sexual form between men, between women, between men and women, between adults and children, it existed. None of this is new. Now, that might be discouraging, but it should actually be encouraging because it means that the church has faced this before. And it also means that the New Testament gives us guidelines for how to discern through today’s God of sexuality and how to make decisions about how the world behaves as Christians living as exiles in Babylon or exiles in Rome. We’re going to get to the biblical discernment process in a moment. But first, I want to circle back around to Target specifically. Why are conservatives and Christians outraged about this?

Well, obviously, when you’re marketing something overtly to children, that is a valid reason to be upset. If Target were marketing specifically Christian materials to children as a secular company, people would be outraged because it’s a specific worldview that’s being marketed to children without the consent of their parents. Well, the religion of sexuality is doing the same thing. So, it is understandable to be upset about some of what Target’s doing. But what I want to put forth is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you think Target is the only target, you’re mistaken. And I think a lot of Christians aren’t even aware that most of the corporations that they shop at and buy from are participating to some degree in the exact same things that Target is. Target is just more overt about it. If you go to Target’s website on the section, April 19, 2016 right after the bathroom episode, they posted an article called Continuing to Stand for Inclusivity. And they said, “Inclusivity is a core belief at Target. It’s something we celebrate. We stand for equality and equity and we strive to make our guests and team members feel accepted, respected, and welcomed in our stores and workplaces every day. We believe that everyone, every team member, every guest, every community deserves to be protected from discrimination and treated equally. Consistent with this belief, Target supports the Federal Equality Act, which provides protections to LGBT individuals and opposes action that enables discrimination.” 

Now, I should be clear. All Christians should agree that regardless of who someone is, they should not be discriminated against in getting a job. They should be protected from being treated poorly, being abused. At the same time, that means that people who disagree with a specific worldview should also be included and respected as well. But my point in bringing up this article is that this is from seven years ago and it hasn’t changed. Nothing has changed. If anything, Target has continued to say, “This is who we are, this is what we do.” And then if we choose to shop there, we’re choosing to participate in their mission that they have clearly stated and have never not stated. But they’re not the only ones. If you go over to Walmart at, you can find an article called Pride Every Day supporting and the communities we serve. It says in this article, “Our support of LGBTQ+ associates is also reflected in some of our recent programs and initiatives focused on well-being, inclusion, and giving. Walmart partnered with included health last year to provide health services for LGBTQ associates. They encourage associates to bring their authentic selves to work every day and often begins with something as basic as a name. A person’s name is the greatest connection to their own individuality and should be recognized consistently across all parts of the company.”. So, this is Walmart as well. So. you can’t just switch from Target to Walmart and think that you have somehow evaded this issue because Walmart also has the same commitment. 

Let’s go over to Starbucks. Starbucks has a long history of LGBTQIA+ inclusion and openly participates and welcomes the community and yet many Christians, including myself, go to Starbucks. I get asked frequently on my Instagram each week, “What’s your favorite Starbucks order?” And yet they have supported the National Center for Transgender Equality. They have an advocacy statement on this topic. They donate $50,000 to Lavender Rights Project, to the National Center of Transgender Equality, they also donate money. They receive 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index based on their policies for LGBTQ equality for 11 years. So, Starbucks too, is participating in this cultural God of sexuality. Home Depot, Home Depot expands its partnership with the Human Rights Campaign Foundation June 30th, 2022 on The Human Rights Campaign Foundation works to make transformational change in the everyday lives of LGBTQ+ people.

We can go over to the advocate, which tells us that there are many companies that are just like these. That Walmart, ExxonMobil, BP, Abercrombie & Fitch all saw improvements in their rankings in terms of their perception with LGBT buyers. Target, Kindle, HBO, and M&Ms have been on this list before. So why do I share all this with you? It’s not to be the person saying, “Well, look, everything is secular. Everything is supporting the “agenda,” so who cares?” We’re going to get to this in a second. We’re going to look at what scripture says but I want to point out to you that directing all your rage at Target may be a misplaced outrage. And it may be misplaced because it believes the lie that America as a nation is in submission to God and it is not. America as a nation is pagan and it is just showing you its cards at last. This should not be something that makes you want to run and hide in a hole. This should be something that makes you want to live more on mission for the gracious and loving truth of Jesus Christ. This is something that connects you with every Christian who’s ever lived in the history of the church and should connect you with the Christians who are currently living in China and Iran, and the United Kingdom, where they are a minority. Welcome to living in Babylon. Welcome to living in Rome. This is what the Romans do. They worship the God of sex and they put that God in their marketplace which brings us to what we’re going to talk about now.

1 Corinthians 8 and sacrificing food to idols. A little bit of context for 1 Corinthians. This letter was written by the Apostle Paul to the church at Corinth. This is a Greek city and so most of the people he’s speaking to would most likely be gentiles, non-Jews who had become believers in the city of Corinth. And the context of what he’s dealing with are a variety of relational issues in the church and the problem of immorality among Christians. So, these Christians had become believers. They’d come into the church body and they were still living as if they were a part of the culture. But at the same time, they had new believers constantly coming in, converting to Christianity and being brought in for discipleship and now you had a mixture of maturity levels. You have some who’ve been Christians for a while, you’ve had some that are newly saved out of paganism and you’re trying to integrate them all into a church body while discipling them effectively into godliness. And Paul had been at this church Acts 18 outlines that Paul had been there and now he’s gone. He’s on a missionary journey and he’s writing back to the church at Corinth because Chloe’s household has tattletaled [chuckles] and the church at Corinth is a mess. And so, he addresses a wide range of topics from sexual immorality, to marriage and singleness, to spiritual gifts, and the proper use of tongues, to whether or not Christians should eat food that has been sacrificed to idols.

Now, you might be going, “Why would that be such a big deal? What is it about this food? or why is this being referenced in 1 Corinthians 8?” Because we don’t deal with this particular issue today. We don’t have big idols in at least in America, we don’t have them in our big plazas where there’s food being left for them that is then sold in a market. But in Greece and Rome they did. Basically, how this would work was they had these temples that were the center of life, social life, and even economic power. The temples of the pagan gods had incredible power and control. They could act as banks, libraries, estate management and shelter to people who needed asylum. So, sacrifices would be brought to the Gods on a regular basis, usually goats, sheep, or cows. Sometimes depending on the God, it could be a bird like to Aphrodite or even a dog, but generally sheep, goats and cows. And they were sacrificed on an altar outside the main temple area. So, there’d be an altar in this little courtyard and the pillars or portico and then the internal temple where the statue of the God often was. If you live in Nashville or if you’ve ever visited Nashville, there is a replica of the Parthenon there, and inside is a massive gold statue of Athena, and it was built for the world fair. But we got to see it when we were in Nashville earlier this year because my girls have studied Greek history and thought it was really cool. But it’s a great example of the model that I’m speaking of, where there would be this temple with an idol, but right adjacent, right nearby, around the corner, is where the marketplace would be. 

And so, the Greeks would bring a sacrifice to the gods. And this was often a social event where they would offer up a part of the sacrifice, often the bones and the liver to the gods. Examine these things for omens and then the priest might get a portion, and then the rest was either given to people to eat in the temple courtyard, which Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians or the priest or temple could actually sell the meat that’s left over from the sacrifice on the meat market. According to David Guzik in the Enduring Word commentary, the meat at the temple meat market was usually cheaper, probably because there’s an abundance of it. So practically speaking, as someone living in the city, as a Christian, you want to save a buck. You want to go get your meat from the temple meat market because that’s where it’s the cheapest. You want to save some money. It’s maybe more convenient because it’s right in the center of town or everywhere there’s a temple, there would be a market, and so you would have access to this much more easily at a better rate. And yet the meat that is being sold there has been offered up to a pagan idol. And this is what Paul’s addressing in 1 Corinthians 8. I’m going to read this passage to you and then we will break it down. 

Now, about food sacrifice to idols. We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know, as he ought to know it. But if anyone loves God, he is known by him about eating food, sacrifice to idols, then we know that. “An idol is nothing in the world.”. And that, “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, as there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is one God, the Father. All things are from Him, and we exist for Him, and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ. All things are through Him and we exist through Him. However, not everyone has this knowledge. Some have been so used to idolatry up until now that when they eat food sacrificed to an idol, their conscience being weak is defiled. Food will not bring us close to God, but we are not worse off if we don’t eat, and we’re not better if we do eat. But be careful that this right of yours in no way becomes a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone sees you, the one who has knowledge, dining in an idol’s temple, won’t his weak conscience be encouraged to eat food offered to idols? So, the weak person, the brother or sister for whom Christ died, is ruined by your knowledge. 

Now, when you sin like this against brothers and sisters and wound their weak conscience, you are sinning against Christ. Therefore, if food causes my brother or sister to fall, I will never again eat meat so that I won’t cause my brother or sister to fall. This is the entirety of chapter 8 of 1 Corinthians. Now, he goes on to talk a little bit more about this in chapter 10. So, we might look at portions of that in a minute. But right now, I want to concentrate on the content of 1 Corinthians 8. Remember that meat being sold, being sacrificed in the temples. This is a common cultural act, it’s totally normal, it’s totally acceptable. Nobody thinks anything of it in the culture. But for Christians, there was an ethical issue here. The idol that this is being sacrificed to isn’t real. It isn’t true. The idol of Athena isn’t associated with a real God and that’s what he says at the beginning of this passage. He says basically, “Look, we know that idols represent gods that don’t exist. An idol is nothing.” And to translate that principle today, you might say, “Look, we know that men are men and women are women. This idea that sex is fluid isn’t true. So as a Christian, it doesn’t affect me, it doesn’t matter. I can shop at Target and not be affected by this because I know the truth.”

That’s kind of what the Corinthian Christians were arguing. And that’s the attitude that Paul is going to address this idea that because the idol is nothing, because the God of sex, I don’t believe in it, then I’m free to participate in this. Leads Paul to talk about knowledge and the responsibility we steward when we have a maturing faith and knowledge of the truth. And the way he does this is found in 1 Corinthians 8:1-3. He says, “We know that, “We all have knowledge.” Most likely what Paul’s doing here is quoting the Corinthians back to themselves. This is a practice that he does frequently. It can be a form of Socratic discourse and debate. So, he’s quoting them back to themselves. “We all have knowledge.” And then he responds, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” If anyone thinks he knows anything, he does not yet know as he ought to know it. So, if you are assured of your knowledge, if you’re like, “I’ve got it figured out. I’m confident in my faith, so knowing what I know about the world and the idols of this world, it doesn’t affect me.” He’s saying, “Yes, you have the knowledge but you don’t steward it the way you’re supposed to steward it.” And then he goes on to say, “If you love God, you are known by Him.” Then he goes on, in verse 4 to quote them again. He says, “An idol is nothing in the world.” Quoting the Corinthians and there is no God but one. This quote is scripture. It’s taken from the Shima, which is, the Lord our God, the Lord is one central teaching of Judaism and a central teaching of Christianity. He quotes, “We know an idol is nothing. We know there’s no God but one.” And he then moves into verse 7, arguing, “Hey, you have this knowledge that the idol has no power. You have this knowledge that the God of culture can’t affect you. But not everyone has this knowledge and that’s why he brought up the issue of love.” Love, Paul says, “Builds up, whereas knowledge puffs up.”

So, when we get infatuated with our spiritual maturity, our spiritual freedom and we lose our love and our compassion for those who are convicted, especially those who have come out of a culture that worships sex, that have come out of a culture that is materialistic and they’re freshly convicted about separating from those things. If we take our knowledge, our freedom, and we elevate that above our love for our brother, Paul calls that a sin. And what’s interesting, I’ve looked at several different commentaries and perspectives on 1 Corinthians 8. One of them actually argues that Paul is never saying in this entire passage that it’s okay to eat meat sacrificed to idols. That’s a common misnomer according to this thesis that I read. Instead, he says, Paul’s not saying, “Oh, go ahead, do whatever you feel free to do as long as you are taking account for your brother.” He’s saying, “No, eating food sacrificed to idols is forbidden.” in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem Council. It’s also forbidden in the extra biblical document the Didache, which outlined basically the moral values and the model of the early church in about 150 AD. And so, if the early church was adamant against eating meat sacrificed to idols, why is Paul making it seem like maybe it’s permissible? 

Well, the angle that I had studied and specifically, the person who wrote this was David Garland in his dispute over food sacrifice to idols submitted to George W. Truett Theological Seminary. He argues that what Paul is saying here is that basically, “Love conquers all.” Like you are not to participate in idol worship at all because of your love for God and for these individuals. And it’s not like, “Oh, sometimes I can and sometimes I can’t.” He says, “Paul’s arguing that you can’t participate in this idol worship or meat sacrifice to idols at all.” This is what he says, “Paul expected Christians who turned from idols to create boundaries where there were none before. The pressure on Christians to conform to cultural norms, however, was enormous. When clever converts could construct abstract theological arguments that would make such costly dissimilation seem unnecessary, Paul has his work cut out for him to convince them otherwise. He explains why his argument starts by trying to find common ground with their perspective and is seemingly so roundabout. His expectations demanded of converts something that no other religion except Judaism required, avoiding anything that might hint that Christians sanctioned idolatry. Failure to repudiate all idolatrous associations, he maintains, would have dire spiritual consequences. If this exegesis is correct and if Paul is to be followed as a model, the belief in one God cannot be compromised. Becoming Christian means to turn away from idols, and anything that smacked the syncretism, no matter how it might be rationalized is to be rejected.”

Now, you might be thinking, “Okay, but would shopping in a public marketplace in today’s culture really be syncretism?” I think the case could be argued that, yes, it reflects the syncretism of today’s culture. Today’s culture says there are many paths to God. It says that my sexuality is God, that self is God, and that’s going to be reflected in the things that are sold in our marketplace. And so, we as Christians need to decide if we wish to fund and participate in that, especially if it’s a company that openly is saying, “We’re not just a part of this culture, we are furthering this cause, or if we need to completely separate from that.

Now, there’s another perspective this is the more common interpretation of 1 Corinthians 8 that gives a little bit more wiggle room on this. The first one that I’ve shared with you by David Garland, that one is a little bit more stringent, and I think it makes a pretty good case but here is an example of the other argument that is found in 1 Corinthians 8 and this is from Baker’s Illustrated Bible Commentary that says, “Paul applies what he has said to the situation in Corinth, some have already accepted invitations to dine in pagan temples in public view and are in danger of leading those of the weak conscience to disregard it and act insincerely. Thus, the weak for whom Christ died will be led to abandon action that matches their convictions and perhaps even to depart from any attempt at morality, a path that leads to destruction. See 1 Corinthians 5:5. When this happens, those who have encouraged it will be found to have sinned against both the weak and Christ, who cares for even the weakest believer, Mark 9:42. Therefore, Paul chooses for himself to restrict the actions that he might legitimately take according to the criteria of love and concern for his fellow believer.”

In plain language, he’s saying that, “Paul’s argument is again love conquers all. Love comes first.” Your love for your fellow believer and His convictions should guide how you behave when it comes to the marketplace. What you’re buying, where you’re buying it, how you’re talking about it, what you’re participating in. Today, we aren’t always seeing each other in the store. But you know what we are doing? We’re posting about stuff on social media. And I think this is a very relevant conversation given social media and the nature of it today, because I have seen on both sides of this spectrum the outrage of those who are proboycott and the dismissal and condescension of those who are not. And what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians 8 to the church is, “You must choose love for your brothers first.” For your brothers and when he says brothers, that means your fellow Christians first. How you behave towards your fellow Christians on this topic tells us everything we need to know about your heart and your allegiance to Christ. If you are outraged at the world acting like the world and condescending and mocking and attacking Christians who still shop at these stores, or if you are content with your “knowledge” and you’ve become puffed up with your own spiritual maturity. And so, you mock and dismiss people who are convicted to not shop at one of these corporations. You also are in sin.

And so, when we look at this issue in scripture, we look for the principle about God. What do we know? God is one. There are no other gods. There is only one God. There is no sexuality God. What else do we know that’s true? There are only two genders, male and female. You might feel like you’re a different gender, you might struggle with same sex attraction, you might experience the fallenness of this world, its impact on your sexuality. But objectively, there are two genders, male and female. So, when we look at a company that is in the world, buying into worldly ideas, promoting worldly ideas, we take the principle that we see in 1 Corinthians 8 which says, “My love for the church comes first, my love for my brethren comes first.” And regardless of what I am convicted to do, I am going to think about the people around me first. I’m not going to think about my freedom to shop at Target or my conviction to not shop at Target first. I’m going to think about the people around me first. So, what this might mean is that you’re convicted not to shop at any of these corporations, that you do believe it’s syncretism, that you do believe it’s the God of the age and you don’t want to participate and you’re going to instead shop locally, somewhere else, shop small. 

There are other issues with these corporations by the way, ethically speaking their manufacturing techniques, the fast fashion, the child labor that’s involved. Like there’s a lot we could– this is not the only issue with these corporations by the way. There are many reasons a Christian might abstain from shopping at them. But say you do, but you don’t stand on the street corner like the Pharisees praying loudly, advertising how awesome your convictions are and social media makes this very easy to do. And you also don’t go on to the other side and become dismissive and mocking of people who have real and valid concerns about the syncretism of worldly ideologies into Christianity. Listen, seven years ago, people who were talking about their concerns about New Age practices in the natural living community, so holistic medicine, etc. People were concerned about it and they were dismissed. And people said, “You’re stupid, you’re seeing things. It’s dumb.” Now over and over and over I am seeing people who’ve been in the natural living community for the last seven years becoming Reiki instructors and getting into energy healing and using crystals to connect with the universe completely leaving Christianity, walking away completely. Why? Was it because they used essential oils? No. It’s because somebody told them that the syncretism that they were dabbling in was okay.

Somebody put their freedom above their love for their fellow believer and there is a great cost. And so, I’m serious about this because I don’t think that everybody has to boycott Target. I don’t I don’t think that Christians overnight are all going to withdraw from every corporation they’re currently shopping at. And I also think a lot of them aren’t aware at the extent of involvement and intermingling that’s happening between the God of our age and the economic powers of our age. They’re completely intertwined just like in Greece and Rome. You really can’t escape it. So, the question then becomes how can I live well in this culture and how can I love my brothers well in this culture? And how can I walk in godly witness in this culture? Think about that. Ask that question. Have you been talking about Target in a way that is winsome to unbelievers? Have you been using your freedom in a way that honors your fellow Christians who have different convictions than you? 

Let’s conclude with a little bit more about boycotts. What has happened in today’s Christian online culture as we’ve moved from the Nestle model which was organized, focused, had a clear vision and was united to a sporadic model where people just wildly boycott anything that offends them. You could call it canceled culture. It is in a way, but there again there is that scriptural element of discernment and thinking through who you want to partner with financially and your witness to other people. So, it’s not just cancelled culture there’s some valid concerns there. But the problem is if you boycott everything, you boycott nothing. Your power is now decentralized. The impact of your boycott has been destabilized, diluted and so if Christians are to use their dollars in a way to have a cultural impact, I would just encourage three things. Number one. Focus, why are you boycotting this? Get super, super clear. Do understand that you’re working with a secular company. Do understand that other secular companies do the same thing. What does scripture say about this issue? So, if you decide to boycott, if we as Christians were to boycott something, why are we doing it? What do we hope to see happen? Which leads me to vision. So first is focus, second is vision. What do we hope to actually accomplish?

In the case of the Nestle boycott, the thing that they wanted to accomplish was to get Nestle to be honest, A, about how to use this formula in a way that would actually give sustenance to these babies, to price it or the poor could afford it, and to change their unethical practices and what they were putting in it. That was the goal. The second question when it comes to vision and this is so important. Is your boycott vengeful or is it selfless? A Christian boycott should always be selfless. It should not be about getting vengeance on a company for doing something that we don’t want them to do. If you are operating in vengeance in your boycott, you are operating by worldly government standards. That is how non-Christian conservatives operate. That is how non-Christian progressives operate. It is not how Christians operate. Your vision should be very clear. What do you hope to accomplish or change? What do you want to have happen if you boycott this? And are you specific and gracious and compassionate in your communication of this? Or are you angry and wildly riling people up on social media?

Third, unity. Is the Church unified on this issue? The global church unified together taking specific actions. Is it organized in its measures to deal with this issue? Once again, in the Nestle issue, there was an organized front where people were boycotting things, boycotting Nestle in order to accomplish their goal. And the goal was accomplished because there was unity. They weren’t boycotting 100 things. They were boycotting one thing with a specific goal and vision. An example of this would be the pro-life movement is often very unified across many denominations and sometimes they handle it well, sometimes they handle it poorly. But generally speaking, most pro-life movements like Embrace Grace, one company that we’ve supported at Every Woman a Theologian, works overtime to provide resources to single mothers, to provide a baby shower for them, to support them no matter whether they are able to keep their baby or put their baby up for adoption. And the church is unified in its work together to that end.

Now, that’s not a boycott, but in the sense of a boycott there should be a similar unity, similar focus, and similar vision should be working together towards a specific end, not sporadically, just boycotting things and getting angry about it. So, knowing all of this, what do we do. Well, I’m not going to tell you what to do, but I do hope that this information has been helpful to you, that it will inform your decision as you prayerfully seek God about this. Ask the Lord about this. Anytime you’re trying to make a decision about cultural issue, you should be in the word and in prayer. Let the Lord lead you. His holy spirit will convict you. And always keep in mind that you are responsible to steward the weaker brother in front of you. Sometimes the weaker brother is a brand-new believer who’s really sensitive to the things that they were delivered from other times, somebody who is a weaker believer might be somebody who is trapped in legalism for a long time and is undiscerning because they only know lists of rules. Don’t let your spiritual maturity or experience puff you up with knowledge that makes you think that you are free to do whatever you want.

Think about the people around you. Don’t be dismissive, but also don’t live for regulations and outrage. Think about how you can follow Christ into this, how you would speak to somebody in person, not just online, about this issue. And if you do choose not to fund organizations like this because they don’t align with biblical values, think instead about who you can fund, who you can support ethical companies like Sailor Designs or even when you shop with us at Every Woman a Theologian, we donate to companies like Embrace Grace and Voice of the Martyrs and God behind Bars. And we want to support the good work that these people are doing. We have a worldview too. We have values too. And there are companies that you can find that you can support if you wish to do that. If you still feel free to shop at these companies because they’re a part of our economic society, I believe that, generally speaking, if you’re following the Holy Spirit in that, that God is gracious for that too.

Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of Verity podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, would you take the time to leave us a review? It helps so many other women around the world find out about Verity and about Every Woman a Theologian, as a ministry and a shop. We appreciate you and I hope you’ll be back next week as we continue to go deeper into God’s Word and the heart of Jesus Christ.

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