The Dancing Puritan

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Starbucks or not? That is the question.

As far as I know, I have never joined a boycott. That does not mean that I necessarily think that folks ought never to boycott.  I have simply not found compelling biblical or other evidence to suggest that boycotting is something that I ought to be doing.

Boycotting products and their producing companies may have some limited impact on the financial well-being of the company.  However, I am not sure that those gains are worth the time and effort nor am I sure the message that is communicated about the Christian faith through such boycotts is usually helpful.

It is disheartening when Christians "chest-bump" over small (or perhaps large) cultural victories. Such bragging diminishes us.

Is that how we impact our culture? Do we fight our enemies and then when we win a battle think that we are strong?  We blow our guns while walking off into the sunset?  We look over our shoulder and chuckle at our enemy trying to breath while eating our dust?  And when we win a cultural victory, what have we won?

Christians (and others) are being encouraged to boycott Starbucks over recent statements from company leadership regarding their support of equality in marriage.

Some people heard the statements from CEO Howard Schultz and ran for the heavy ammo. He basically stated that it was a core conviction of Starbucks to support diversity of all kinds among their 200,000 million employees.  He was addressing a shareholder's concern that sales of Starbucks were down over the past quarter due to their support of gay marriage.  This shareholder is also the founder of an anti-gay marriage group.  He attributed the loss in sales to a national boycott by the National Organization for Marriage.  Schultz responded with these words: If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company. Thank you very much.

The statement by Schultz was misinterpreted by some people as meaning, If you support traditional marriage we don't want your business at Starbucks. This is what often happens in the heat of the moment.  Rumors get started as collars are heated and the truth is lost. The Christian's witness is diminished when he runs with the rumors.

If boycotting businesses, that have core convictions that differ from ours, is a focus of our attention then we have a heavy burden to carry in our shopping cart. There are some businesses that are so obviously corrupt that our very presence in the place would be damaging to our witness and corrupting to our heart. I am thinking of the local pornography shop a few miles down the highway from where I live.

However drinking a coffee at the local Starbucks generally does not carry corrupting associations. In fact a cup of coffee at the local Starbucks might provide opportunity to strike up a conversation that leads to the gospel.

Forbes: Column about Starbucks