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Don’t be afraid to say ‘no,’ sometimes

September 8th, 2020 / By: Gary Ledbetter | Editor / comments

I was reminded this week of the 1997 SBC resolution “On Moral Stewardship and the Disney Company.” In popular parlance it was “The Disney Boycott.” We were ridiculed by some within and without our fellowship for this move. While I don’t have a great deal of faith in boycotts as change agents, I do observe that this likely the most counter-cultural thing we had done, in the eyes of outsiders, since our 1982 resolution “On Abortion and Infanticide.”  Most of the criticism of the Disney resolution was that it was embarrassing. 

The memory was prompted by an article I read this morning about the new Disney movie “Mulan,” a live action version of an earlier movie. The criticism of Disney in this article is different from the earlier concerns expressed by Southern Baptists. In this case Disney is being accused of praising, supporting, working in regions of China in which more than a million Uighur people, Muslims, have been imprisoned, starved, forcibly sterilized and even killed. This, someone pointed out, is the same Disney that threatened to no longer work in Georgia if that state implemented a 2019 prolife fetal heartbeat bill.  

It’s not just Disney of course. I’ve had these frustrations with the NCAA and their threats against Indianapolis over a pro-family initiative, and Toyota over their pressure for cities to endorse same-sex marriage. Boycotts are not terribly effective these days; companies are interwoven and almost universally amoral in their pursuit of profit. But sometimes an offensive act or policy is made known to us, even shoved in our faces. What do we do then? 

My point is that there should sometimes be a “then,” an occasion when we will not buy or go or partake. This is a “Corinthian Principle” matter I think—a place where all things are lawful but not all things are expedient. Some things are not negotiable in my opinion. Those who spend years with me have heard me speak of the alcohol industry, all casinos everywhere and the multi-million dollar, taxpayer-funded abortion industry. There is no virtue in them and no need for them to exist except greed. But I’ll be in heaven with those who aren’t as adamant about these. My convictions on alcohol are unyielding for me but patient with you, for example. So I’m not telling you what to do about Disney or Toyota or the NCAA. But I am saying that our Christian convictions should now and again inconvenience us relative to where we shop or what entertainments we consume. It should happen … sometimes. 

But we aren’t just “us” are we? When there is a movie, restaurant or company that we can’t in good conscience support, do we have the conviction to explain to our kids or grandkids why this one thing we will not do? That should also happen.

I’d go farther and suggest that some of us are hesitant to own our convictions. All of us are hesitant sometimes. We’d never say that “anything goes,” but we are more cautious to say what doesn’t go for fear of sounding judgey. We hear that younger generations are far more liberal than older generations, and sometimes it makes us fear their disapproval by sounding old-fashioned. It becomes a loop of moral confusion. We soft-pedal our own convictions because we want to sound hip so our younglings go elsewhere to form their morals. We see the great and unexplainable gulf between us and it makes us even more fearful of widening it. If we won’t be leaders we shouldn’t mind much that our followers go astray.  

Go see “Mulan” if you like. Your decision is not personal to me. But I might ask you the last time you told yourself or your kids “no” for a convictional reason. Maybe it was about something that others in your church would find more acceptable. There’s an aspect of leadership in taking that stand, even about something as vaporous as entertainment, but there is also an aspect of followship in it. We have indeed been called to live in this world for a time, but we were not called to conform to its ways.