Dialogue isn’t about suppressing culture. It’s about knowing how to engage with it.
Last week, ABC aired a new version of the classic show The Muppets. Though the latest iteration of the satirical franchise received mixed reviews after its debut, it was subject to its harshest criticisms before it even premiered—from some Christians.
Days before the first episode aired, Franklin Graham, the minister and son of the famed evangelist Billy Graham, posted the following message on Facebook:
Tonight, ABC is premiering a new, “mature version” of the Muppets that reports say will cover a range of topics from sex to drugs to “interspecies relationships” with no subject being off limits. It sounds to me like the whole show should be off limits! Hollywood seems to be in a frenzy to see what new moral low they can reach in their programming. Their agenda is to promote sin to a younger and younger audience. I applaud the group One Million Moms for speaking out against this and urging parents to call on ABC to take it off the air. The Bible says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” That goes for Kermit the Frog as well!
Despite the strong words from the million anti-Kermit moms and Franklin Graham, the show, did in fact, go on. Shockingly, the angry Facebook rant (that the “interspecies relationship” between Kermit, a frog, and Miss Piggy, a pig, is actually promoting real-world coupling of random animals that will cause the fragile foundations of Western values to crumble) from someone who had never even seen the show was not enough for a major TV network to pull a program it had spent millions of dollars creating and promoting.
Because, let’s face it, Christian pop-culture boycotts never work. Most of the time, “working” isn’t even the point. The campaign from a million moms is only one in a longstanding list of failed boycotts of companies by groups of Christians for a variety of reasons.
Boycotts Never Work
In 2012, Starbucks was one of a number of high-profile companies that were (unsuccessfully) boycotted for having some sort of tie to the support of same-sex marriage. To date, Starbucks, Heinz, Wells Fargo, Home Depot and other companies targeted by the activists seem to be doing pretty well despite a handful of boycotters loudly taking their business elsewhere.
Every year, a “Naughty” list of retailers who use holiday greetings other than “Merry Christmas” is released by one organization, which encourages readers to boycott places that don’t employ the exact seasonal terminology they deem required to do business in the United States. This year, PetSmart managed to stay open despite being subjected to an all-out boycott for not saying the words “Merry Christmas”.
Harry Potter, Disney, the Beatles and Martin Scorsese all have been the targets of organized efforts of some concerned Christian consumers who felt their values or beliefs were under attack by privately held companies that, despite misconceptions, are actually entitled to their own opinions without having to consult groups of angry, offended Christians.
Ironically, most of the time, when a notable Christian or Christian group organizes a boycott, it’s not over labor violations, dangerous working conditions, unethical business practices or environmental irresponsibility. It’s usually because of some perceived “attack” (aka having an opinion different from their own) on a social value or religious belief.
The reason these “boycotts” almost never work is because they were never about principles in the first place. They’re almost always about grandstanding.
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