Do Boycotts Work?

Most of us know this story.  Back in January, Starbucks issued a statement that said that a core part of their identity as a corporation is to support the redefinition of marriage into one that would include same-sex unions. In more recent news, tens of thousands of people have voiced their decision to “dump Starbucks” as a result, expressing their disapproval of Starbucks’ most recent business decision.  Unfortunately, if this were a numbers game, those tens of thousands of people didn’t quite make the same point that the hundreds of thousands of people did when they thanked Starbucks for taking this stance as a company.

Ok then.  This post isn’t about why I disagree with what Starbucks is doing…mostly because I think that, despite how we may have each reacted to the news, we probably all agree to disagree with Starbucks for choosing to state that the redefinition of marriage is core to who they are as a company (since this is a blog for young Catholics, who are presumably at least trying to live in accordance with the faith).  This post is rather about what the faithful Catholic is called to do in situations like this, as well as what we should try to avoid doing…

“Boycotts Don’t Work”

I know.  If we boycotted every company or organization that had any sort of questionable tie, then we would probably have to grow our own food, make our own clothes, and stop paying taxes.  I know that we can’t control where every dime of money we spend goes (after all, who is to say that the drive-thru cashier, whose paycheck we help supply by being a customer, is not going to use his or her money to do something terrible?).  And no, I do not perform a thorough background check of every single company I ever happen to give money to in order to make sure they won’t misuse my money.  Apparently from this follows that it would be hypocritical of me to ever intentionally decide to withhold money from a corporation over a moral issue.

Still, while it unfortunately may not be practically possible to boycott every company or organization that contradicts our faith, I personally feel that when a company goes so far as to make a public announcement stating that it is core to who they are to advance the goal of something so contradictory to our faith, we don’t have a choice but to respond—and that going on as if nothing happened is in itself a response.  Going on as if nothing happened says that this specific part of our faith—of the truth that ought to transform every part of our being so profoundly that we cannot help but share it— this part of it just isn’t something worth making a fuss about over.

Ok, so we have to respond in some way.  The question is, “how?”  I want to be clear here: Boycotts can be an effective way to get a message across to a company or organization (Need I remind you of Susan G Komen for the Cure who, merely days after cutting funds to Planned Parenthood, crumbled to the masses that boycotted, and tragically reversed their decision?).  HOWEVER, I think that in the excitement and righteous anger that occurs during these boycotts, we as Christians often have this terrible tendency to forget a crucial part of the story: the ending (you know…what we celebrated two days ago and are still celebrating today?).

Spoiler Alert: Jesus wins.  No matter what the petition counts or the voting booths tell us, Jesus wins in the end.  I say this because as terrible as it is to not say anything when your favorite coffee shop decries your faith, it’s almost just as bad when we work ourselves into a frenzy and allow ourselves to be fooled into thinking that such an act is a legitimate threat to our Church or to God Himself.  Jesus has triumphed over death.  I think He can take this one, too.  So, boycott all you wish and encourage others to do the same, but never make the mistake of thinking the battle is anyone’s but the Lord’s (and remember that He already won).  We’re not fighting with other people to win an argument.  We’re allowing Christ to transform lives to win souls.

Now, that doesn’t excuse us from standing up and being heard.  We have a responsibility as Catholics to profess our faith.  That includes professing our faith when it is unpopular and in the face of opposition.  Personally, I chose to respond to Starbucks’ announcement by making the decision to #dumpstarbucks.  I shared a link on my Twitter account inviting others to do the same, and I am writing this post now.  I’m ok with people thinking I’m silly for doing so.  I realize that Starbucks as a company will probably continue to do just fine, and I’m not condemning those I see on the street with Starbucks cups to Hell.  But I know that my response was heard; and I am proud to stand up for Christ and His Church.

Of course, as with anything in my life, it is a work in progress.  What are your thoughts?