Religious freedom is an impediment to the progressive agenda. Of course, it only seems like yesterday that Christians were being assured that religious freedom was not at risk from progressive overreach. “We’ll leave you alone if you leave us alone,” was the mantra that many progressives were selling and that many conservatives bought. How quaint and innocent that yesterday now seems. Probably especially so to Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia.
Proving that the progressive agenda isn’t satisfied with mere capitulation, but instead has the end-game of the full and active involvement of all citizens, threats of boycotts rained down on the head of Governor Deal. The Free Exercise Protection Act that sat on Governor Nathan Deal’s desk until today was designed to protect clergy members from being compelled to officiate weddings that violate their religious beliefs. Of course, the liberal media has been referring to the bill designed to protect religious freedom as an “anti-gay bill.” And companies like Walt Disney threatened to stop production in the state if Governor Deal signed the bill.
The Disney threat was no small matter. The right-to-work state of Georgia has done an incredible job of coaxing billions of film and TV production dollars from union-dictated states. Local businesses have profited from Hollywood’s expansion in the state, and communities have rallied around the productions. I have several actor, production assistant, and crew member friends who benefit from the many film and TV roles and jobs currently available in Georgia. But because Georgia lawmakers wanted to protect the First Amendment and their state’s clergy, Walt Disney threatened to pull up stakes and close shop. Presumably, more production companies would have followed suit.
I prayed that Governor Deal would have the moral fortitude to stand up to the progressive bullies and sign the bill. Unfortunately, just today, he caved to the strong-arm tactics and promised to veto the bill. I will now pray that the Holy Spirit changes his mind and causes him to see Jesus in the midst of the fiery furnace of progressive ire. And I will still continue to pray that the decision-makers of Walt Disney will repent of their sins and withdraw their boycott threat, giving Governor Deal the “courage” to sign the bill into law. Regardless of how this plays out in the political arena, I will also continue to pray for wisdom for myself and my fellow Christians in light of Disney’s sinful bullying of the state of Georgia.
The easy and gratifying response would be to issue our own evangelical fatwa of sorts against Disney and any other companies that bullied the state of Georgia. I understand and empathize with any fellow Christians who choose to boycott Disney. But my family and I will not be joining in. This isn’t an easy decision, and I even second guessed it after pitching this article to my editor. However, I don’t believe that boycotts are a legitimate form of communication for the followers of King Jesus.
Not long after I began working on this article, I texted a filmmaker friend who has work in Georgia and complained, “I’ve been asked to write an article about why my family won’t be boycotting Disney over this Georgia thing (‘asked,’ because I pitched it). It’s much harder to write than I imagined. Boycotting would be easier.”
And that’s the rub. Boycotting Disney is easy. It’s a hurt, angry, and possibly unthinking response to sinners acting like…well…sinners. I understand that the natural inclination is to strike back at those who are hurting you. However, in this situation, boycotting back will not affect Walt Disney. While an evangelical boycott of Disney won’t noticeably affect the company’s bottom line, it will continue to drag this discussion into the vitriolic pit of suspicious anger. The Great Commission left us by King Jesus is to preach the gospel and make disciples. Boycotting Disney will not aid us as we seek to fulfill the Great Commission; in fact, it may very well hinder it.
Disney is not one individual. Obviously. Callously disregarding that many in the company do not share the values or beliefs of the ideologically short-sighted leadership is running the risk of placing rhetorical stumbling blocks in the path of our gospel witness. In fact, there are many non-believers who are rolling their eyes in scorn and disdain at Disney’s economic bullying. How will they respond to the same tactic from conservative Christians? If my family boycotts Disney, it will have zero impact on those who made the decision; we will, however, run the great risk of alienating ourselves from those whom the Holy Spirit has placed in our lives in order for us to share the gospel with them.
I’m afraid, too, that the quickness with which many conservative Christians respond in kind to sinners reflects where their identities and hope truly are. In the American South, especially, Christians like to sing a song that includes the lyric, “This world is not my home. I’m just a-passing through.” Yet the fear and anger with which they respond to the slings and arrows of unbelievers suggest that many American evangelicals do believe that this world is their home, and they’re not simply passing through. As Christians, our identity and hope are in an eternal King who will one day return. In the meantime, the important question should be, “What has our King tasked His followers with?”
Ultimately, God has called us to share the gospel. Calling sinners to account for their rebellion is His job, and He can do that much better than any of us. I take great comfort from the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 2: “Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain? … He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision. Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury.”
It’s not my job to call the executives of Walt Disney to account. I am free in Christ to rest in the assurance that one day King Jesus will return and right all wrongs. One day, King Jesus will speak to the Disney executives in his wrath and terrify them in his fury. We are not called to the sword or the tactic of economic warfare. We are called to spread the gospel, and a counter boycott of Disney will not aid us in making disciples.
Once again, I truly empathize with my fellow Christians who believe that returning boycott for (threat of) boycott is the right thing. But I can’t get past the fact that boycotting Walt Disney may be a hindrance to the very thing that King Jesus has asked of me. Sharing the gospel is far more important than making an ideological (and probably vacuous) point in reference to Walt Disney’s decision to plot in vain against King Jesus.