The Mouse Trap
A look at the Disney Boycott

The widely publicized boycott of Disney, started by the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), has gained a lot of press. As you would expect, by a typically liberal biased media, much of the press coverage has been blatantly negative. Headlines have run from "Anti-Disney Baptists Living in Fantasyland" to "Baptists Shun Gays".

The SBC's resolution called for its members to "refrain from patronizing The Disney Company and any of its related entities." Why did they feel this was necessary? Because Disney now offers health insurance to partners of homosexual employees and hosts a one weekend gay and lesbian emphasis at it's theme parks (i.e. Gay Days). Disney makes it clear that it neither sponsors or promotes the event just permits it.

Many other Christian denominations and organizations have since voiced their whole-hearted, or limited support, of the SBC boycott. Yet, not all Christians support such a move. Is there perhaps any justification for their lack of action? Let's examine the facts.

First of all we must eliminate one faction from this evaluation. That is those professed believers who would not stand for any thing -- one way or the other, or perhaps they despise controversy (even for the sake of the truth), or are too complacent to really care. Beyond these individuals there are Christians that are passionately for, or against, this boycott -- and this is where we will confine our examination.

Both opposing factions would agree that they are concerned about any promotion of a life-style which they hold to be Biblically wrong. But from here, two different courses of action emerge.

Boycott supporters are quick to point out earlier successes through boycotts... Television shows have been canceled or altered due to their action. But often they fail to mention that the majority of past boycotts have been fundamentally different . In previous actions they have targeted advertisers. Getting any conglomerates attention always takes hitting their pocket book. It's fast and effective -- no advertisers, no program -- regardless of how much any corporation stands by it's actions.

Those opposed to this boycott are quick to point out that this boycott is aimed directly at the offending corporation and to date is being completely ignored by Disney. But even more importantly, they cite very real questions that need answers. Like, where were Christians when most major corporations in the US and Canada adopted homosexual benefits in the past? Disney was not even close to the first to enact such polices. So why is Disney being singled out for action now? Some point out the Gay Days at the theme parks. Yet, again, Disney is not the first here either. Paramount has hosted similar gatherings at their parks as well. Why not boycott them? To some, acting now against one selected organization smacks of hypocrisy.

Returning to the possible financial impact of this boycott. Disney can easily ignore it indefinitely. Well into the boycott, one spokesperson, Bill Warren, stated that their attendance at the Orlando park is at an all time high: "Everyone here has asked the question (of possible boycott impact) and discussed it, but we're having record attendance." You see, Disney knows that the majority of Christians (in or out of the participating denominations) will never truly back up their words with actions. They know this even from surveys completed over the last few years, which show Christians' entertainment choices as being no different than those outside the church! This has given them proof that most talk against wrong content, themes, etc., is just that -- talk. So why listen? It's not going to affect their bottom line, like those pesky attacks through the weak-link of advertisers. How many Christians are really willing to give up all their Disney videos and theme park trips, let alone ABC-TV, The Disney Channel, ESPN, Lifetime Television and A&E? And like their networks, the diversity in related production companies and businesses also defy boycotting... Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Caravan Pictures, Mirimax, and don't forget the NHL Mighty Ducks and baseball's Anaheim Angels. Fact is, hardly anyone (excluding those who didn't watch TV & movies in the first place) will go cold-turkey. Disney's counting on it.

Another objection to this boycott comes from two related perspectives. Firstly, why did we wait to complain about Disney only on the issue of homosexuality? Why has the church, by and at large, been silent about other equally condemned sins featured and popularized within this entertainment giants' productions. Perhaps Christians have become accustomed to themes of adultery, pre-marital sex, rebellion, violence and the like?! When we single out one specific sin and ignore many equally vile sins, what message do we give? Secondly, if we're going to boycott Disney for anti-biblical practices, when do we start boycotting the multitudes of additional corporations with similar views and practices? How about those secular giants that own an abundance of "Christian" subsidiaries? When did you, or your church, last buy a book by Zondervan Publishing House, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch -- owner of the Fox television network. This is not one isolated example. Most of the Christian music market is now owned by secular corporations, and in the realm of reading, even major Bible publishers. This argument could be expanded to encompass the host of mainline corporations that are owned by cults (especially the Mormons). A validly raised fact is, if we start boycotting one, where do we stop?

Another voiced concern has been the potential impact on the thousands who work for Disney and it's related companies -- including Christians. And there are a significant number of Christians. (Are boycotters asking them to quit their jobs? -- and if so, are they going to help them with more than words?) If the boycott financially worked (which, so far, it hasn't), who might really feel it's pinch? The high paid executive or the everyday worker?

One final consideration, voiced by a number, raises a valid scriptural concern. Does not God call us -- Christians -- to be salt and light to a world that needs to hear His Truth? (Matthew 5:13-16). If so, how does standing on the outside, throwing rocks (so to speak), work to reach the lost (including the gays) encompassed in this action? Throughout many "Christian" actions this has been the case; from pro-life stands to political crusades. For example, if we're going to oppose abortion (which we should), then we need to reach out to the unwed mothers, etc., with more than angry words -- rather with love, compassion, and material support. In the case of Disney, how does boycotting their theme park and hurling angry words at the participants in their "Gay Days" work to reach these lost? Fact is, both Disney and Paramount host two-day Christian gatherings at their theme parks as well. (Disney Orlando's 14th Night of Joy was held on September 14-15, 97). Others have had the opportunity to take Christian outreach groups into their parks for corporate and personal witnessing (as did two large youth groups, that we know, this summer). Functionally, their policies have been to allow virtually anyone in, on an equal basis. Can we really expect more from secular concerns? (Even many schools are more closed than that).

When the apostle Paul went into some of the most Godless cities of His day, we didn't rally local believers to boycott the owners and corporations which profited from the pagan entertainment industry found all around them. He naturally expected, and advised them, to personally not participate in things that are wrong (as should we) -- but, suggested that they could keep on shopping where they were (1 Corinthians 10:19-31, esp. 25). Most of all, he focused on the real job at hand... proclaiming Jesus Christ in word and deed (1 Corinthians 9:16-23). Sometimes these high profile actions take the focus off of our real purpose.

As another has said, "wouldn't we be more effective, if we attended during Gay Days (as it is open to the general public, just like their Christian days) and witnessed to those attending. We can still take a strong stand against sin, while reaching out to the sinners." Perhaps this would truly be making the most of every opportunity. (Ephesians 5:15-16, Colossians 4:5)

A lot to think about? We hope so. With scripture warning us to "not follow the crowd in doing wrong" (Exodus 23:2) we must be careful to examine all of our actions. Let's be on the side that is doing right... by God's standards.

Written by Brent MacDonald of Lion Tracks Ministries, (c) 1997. Feel free to duplicate as long as the source is cited.