With the recent rise in "nonviolent" protests within the Christian community including ones directed toward J.C. Penny, Disney, and other corporations, veteran journalist and editor Joe Carter questions the effectiveness and godliness of boycotts.
Though many Christians in America associate boycotts with civil rights or other notable movements of the 1960s, giving them an "air of romance," nonviolent resistance, he felt, could be considered a necessary evil like just war, indicating a turn away from righteousness.
"As political philosopher Glenn Tinder has explained, the concept of nonviolent resistance never would have occurred to any of the ancient Hebrew prophets," the editor at The Gospel Coalition wrote in a blog.
"It is worth remembering that while Martin Luther King Jr. was a Christian, he learned his principle techniques from the Hindu leader Gandhi rather than from the founder of his own religion."
The practice adopted by Jesus was nonresistance, the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator stressed, which differs from nonviolent resistance, a tactic that was often "stained by the moral impurities inherent in the use of power."
While boycotts assume that human evil could be overcome by a display of profound moral courage, Carter noted, Jesus asserted that the only thing that could transform human evil was his death and resurrection on a cross.
"The way of Jesus requires a willingness to be weak, reliance on his redeeming power, and a realistic eschatological hope."
The online editor of First Things, however, noted that sometimes boycotts are necessary, but only when they are against a government or other institution that had a "coercive control over a people" (such as boycotting public busing in Montgomery during the 1960s).
But when boycotts are used against a corporation – specifically defined by Carter as the act of refusing to use, buy or deal with a business as an expression of protest or as a means of economic coercion – they are not as necessary and "almost always an improper abuse of power."
"While Disney and J.C. Penny may be in the wrong, they are not committing evils that justify the use of coercion for their correction," Carter contended. "Unless we think that Mickey Mouse and Ellen [DeGeneres] are legitimate combatants, we should carefully consider why we believe it is necessary to use such a drastic coercive measure."
For Carter, who also serves as adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College, boycotts are a form of moral extortion.
The better approach is to lovingly rebuke, instead of protest and cut off economic ties with a corporation or business.
"The boycotters are using coercion to force people to do something they would not willingly do on their own," Carter shared, distinguishing between group boycotts and a person's own decision to refuse to associate with an individual or business, which is not considered a boycott.
"While Christians may have legitimate reasons for not using a certain product or associating with a particular business, banding together to cut off commerce to an otherwise licit venture has no obvious biblical warrant."
Pastor Steven Andrew of USA Christian Ministries wholeheartedly disagreed with Carter's opinions about boycotting and called the editor's claims that boycotting is a form of moral extortion "ridiculous."
Andrew is currently involved in a boycott against Starbucks after the coffee company began supporting a gay marriage bill proposed in Washington State. He recently added a few others to the list as well, including Nike, Google, Microsoft and Amazon, asking Christians to no longer provide business to those corporations, which he claimed promoted homosexual sin.
For Andrew, his nonviolent protests did have a "biblical warrant."
"Boycotting anti-God companies is one way a Christian lives out the First Commandment," the author of Making a Strong Christian Nation, told The Christian Post. "If you love Jesus, you won't give your money to those working against Jesus, our Savior."
He believed that if the stores in Sodom and Gomorrah that openly mocked God were boycotted, they could have possibly been saved.
"God calls Christians and churches to not share in the sins of others. To love God is to flee sexual immorality. If we help the wicked, then God's Word says God judges us (2 Chronicles 19:2). God calls Christians to 100 percent love Him and to 100 percent oppose sin."
God also called the United States to have the fear of God as a nation, but complacency with sin did not indicate fear of God, Andrew asserted.
"Ungodly politicians, Starbucks, Nike, Amazon and others are doing the devil's work ... trying to 'change' our Christian laws into non-Christian laws ... Every Christian and church should boycott companies making light of Jesus Christ. It is unwise for a Christian to give their money to those working against Jesus and leading people to sin and to possibly go to hell."
The San Jose pastor prays that every Christian would love Jesus with all their hearts, which means to obey what God said.
"Let's follow our loving God in righteousness (Matthew 6:33). It isn't loving God to give your money to a company that promotes sins without shame," he said. "I love every American. That is why I want to see each person turn from sin and to follow God. Anyone can repent. Jesus blood forgives all sin. Jesus said to make disciples of all the USA."
Andrew previously created "God's State of the Union" following President Obama's own address. He is currently planning a network of pastors to pastor the U.S. and lead the nation to repentance.
Joe Carter is a 15-year Marine Corps veteran and previous managing editor for The East Texas Tribune and Culture11. He also served as the director of Research and Rapid Response for the Mike Huckabee for President campaign and as the director of online communications for the Family Research Council.