Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! – Isaiah 5:20
In an article, selected by an Evangelical magazine which is going the way of the United Church Observer; a missionally-minded blogger serves as proxy to reflect that magazine editors’ disdain towards those who advocate and join a boycott of Target; a retail outlet, which is spearheading a campaign for transgender rights in the use of their public bathrooms. The essence of Aaron Wilson’s argument is that taking a firm, public, and meaningful ethical stand in this manner will undermine efforts to “engage our culture with conversations that gracefully illuminate the reason for our hope.”
For me, shopping at Target has practicably become a moot concern. After entering the Canadian market in 2013 with much hoopla and expectation, it took but two years for Target management’s business incompetence to lose $8 billion dollars, and lead the company into local creditor protection, thereby stranding 17,600 employees. Pandering to the sensitivities and psychoses of such a tiny demographic and their LGBT allies, (the latter who I was under strong impression had a finer aesthetic than to shop at Target), above the safety and modesty concerns of a far greater number of customers, is more of the same kind of business sense by its current management. Target, in the name of a spurious cause célèbre du jour, has forgotten the basic premise of retailing; namely to provide goods and services for their customers at a competitive price in an environment which is safe, convenient, and pleasant.
To invalidate safety concerns, namely of opportunistic predators posing as transgenders, manifests a naivety, at best, of the same kind of Sheldon Cooper psycho-social cluelessness as Microsoft’s brain trust with their ‘Hitler-loving sex robot,’ or Starbuck’s “Race Together” campaign. True accommodation operates bi-directionally, not one which exalts the fantasies of narcissistic queen bees, around which everybody else must operate. In balancing between safety and sensitivities, the choice should be a slam-dunk. Even more “liberal” institutions and jurisdictions have had the good sense to scale back on ideologically-based obtuseness.
Refusing to shop at Target, if and when it decides to return to Canada, is not a matter of political boycott. I simply canl never consider shopping at their stores, due to their blatant disregard for the larger public good. Signing onto AFA’s boycott pledge would merely be publicly proclaiming that permanent personal decision.
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My first thought after reading the Christianity Today article was to inquire as to whether the writer had children. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. The Wilsons have twin four year olds. Therefore, I could not excuse the article as the product of a foolish zealotry in a newbie convert. For while Christians are commissioned to winsomely present the Gospel, they also have ethical responsibilities to protect those under their wing. “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Timothy 5:8); how much more so are those who do not protect their relatives and especially members of his household? Life is full of tensions, as Scriptures itself acknowledges. In suggesting that we should put our children in greater than necessary peril, in order to make the Gospel more palatable, one can plausibly foresee some future child victim intractably forsaking Christianity because its purported ambassadors failed to attempt to register real, effectual, and strong dissent to his/her endangerment. And this will happen, perhaps not at Target, but in some public washroom if this change of bathroom policy becomes widespread.
Aaron Wilson presents the reader with several specious arguments.
You have a leak in your basement. Instead of fixing the dripping pipe, the plumber sets up various containers and buckets to contain it. But it’s only a provisional fix. Because the source of your leak hasn’t been addressed, your new bucket will eventually fill again. The plumber has only disguised the root problem.
Herein, he solicits a false either/or dichotomy, suggesting that one must necessarily sacrifice addressing the long-term cause in order to deal with the immediate symptom, or sacrifice addressing the immediate symptom in order to deal with the long-term cause. Or in setting common grace necessarily against special grace. But “these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23).
There are times when the symptoms seriously obstruct the addressing of root cause. Preaching the Gospel to a deliriously starving child without addressing the hunger; or psychotherapy with the mentally distressed who cannot maintain their focus in this world will hardly prove fruitful. In my days as an IT professional, it was normal and prudent practice to first provide a stopgap fix, so that operations were not inordinately affected, before seeking out the long-term solution.
Aaron Wilson alludes to the ineffectuality of such boycotts in past. But doing the right thing, if it is the right thing, is not conditional upon its probabilities for practicable success and effect. Upon that same criteria, most pastors and preachers might as well sleep in on Sunday mornings.
The success of a boycott largely depends upon the substantiveness of the issue, perceived threat to the persons involved, and the measure of moral and civic virtue in the populace. I doubt that the “gay days” boycott against Disney in 1997 sufficiently met the first two conditions. And if “Christians are dressing their kids in Frozen, Avengers, and Star Wars gear—properties all owned by Disney,” which they had once ostensibly boycotted; my actions remain independent of the fecklessness of modern Evangelicals, more concerned with their peace and prosperity than commitment and loyalty to principle and Person.
Bleeding heart arguments about economic harm to single moms and college kids who constitute the front line staff are likewise bogus. A boycott at one set of establishments merely shifts total consumer demand to other stores; and with it, employment. Except at the margins, a retail job is not going to be outsourced to foreign countries. No one is going to fly to China, especially Target shoppers, in order to receive great deals on basic necessities. If Target goes belly up, roughly the same number of jobs, which would be lost at Target, will open up in new or existing shops to cover the diversion in consumer demand.
Living within the Truth
I am irked by the implicit trivialization of the issue by the writer and his journalistic sponsors. The issue of gender neutral bathrooms is but a finger and toe manifestation of a far deeper and critical set of issues; one which would undermine the very rational underpinnings of the Gospel which this blogger purports to zealously pursue.
If a person can legally and socially claim to be of a sex, opposite to what his/her objective pre-surgical morphology, brain characteristics, and DNA indicate, let alone contrary to all the existential experiences, endemic to each sex; it establishes a precedent. The furries, those who claim to be of another species than human, are not far behind on the coattails. If everybody else must accommodate such self-delusion, what of those who claim to be Napoleon and demand obeisance? How long will it be before the subjective right to claim that one is subhuman and that others comply with their delusion, is extrapolated to claim that others are subhuman? Jews really are cockroaches who must be fumigated!
War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength. – George Orwell, 1984
If the “what is” is merely that which is in the eye of the beholder, there exists no perceived truth. Words have no meaning. All others must operate around a subjective “what is,” under threat of socioeconomic denigration or worse, if and whenever that beholder belongs to the faction which currently commands the Commanding Heights of society. Obviously, controlling the Commanding Heights of society becomes all that much more essential in order to survive and thrive, lending to the delegitimization of the civic order in the eyes of the losing faction, and high probability of civic conflagration and war. When the “what is” and the words which identify the “what is” no longer act as common linguistic currency for civic discourse, it precursors the end of free civic institutions, the rise of raw power politics, and the loss of civil liberties and personal security.
The inability to see what is in front of one’s nose, unwillingness to publicly label a spade a spade, the general loss of moral integrity and civic courage, and the timidity of accumulating compromises, even by Christians, to live within someone else’s lie and psychosis precursors a social milieu which the West had just defeated but over a quarter century ago.
The post-totalitarian system touches people at every step, but it does so with its ideological gloves on. This is why life in the system is so thoroughly permeated with hypocrisy and lies: government by bureaucracy is called popular government; the working class is enslaved in the name of the working class; the complete degradation of the individual is presented as his ultimate liberation; depriving people of information is called making it available; the use of power to manipulate is called the public control of power, and the arbitrary abuse of power is called observing the legal code; the repression of culture is called its development; the expansion of imperial influence is presented as support for the oppressed; the lack of free expression becomes the highest form of freedom; farcical elections become the highest form of democracy; banning independent thought becomes the most scientific of world views; military occupation becomes fraternal assistance. Because the regime is captive to its own lies, it must falsify everything. It falsifies the past. It falsifies the present, and it falsifies the future. It falsifies statistics. It pretends not to possess an omnipotent and unprincipled police apparatus. It pretends to respect human rights. It pretends to persecute no one. It pretends to fear nothing. It pretends to pretend nothing.
Individuals need not believe all these mystifications, but they must behave as though they did, or they must at least tolerate them in silence, or get along well with those who work with them. For this reason, however, they must live within a lie. They need not accept the lie. It is enough for them to have accepted their life with it and in it. For by this very fact, individuals confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the system.
Vaclav Havel, The Power of the Powerless, 1978
The set of cultural and social lies may differ from that of the Soviet bloc but a couple of generations ago. Nevertheless, living within another’s surealities and psychoses alienates that person from his authentic self. Over time and habit, it progressively leads to his own detachment from objective reality.
The Threat to the Gospel
If the “what is” and the words which identify the “what is” be whatever is in the individual eye of the subjective beholder, the rational underpinnings of the Good and of sin, of Justice, of Justification, and of the Gospel of the Kingdom are hopelessly undermined. Christ came down from heaven to save some among human kind, in whose form he took. He did come down to save any among otherkin. The principles of Justice satisfied in the Justification are exact and exacting. Linguistic and semantic license makes that effort moot, and obstructs coherent comprehension of the Gospel of the Kingdom. What is it to be a follower of Jesus, if the meanings which define the particulars of discipleship have no objective definite shape? It should be quite easy for sinners to “come to faith” if sexual purity and fidelity can be blatantly transcribed to actually mean their opposite. The existence of realizable Truth is a necessary footing for the Gospel. Paeans to evangelism become empty catch phrases with a Gospel made incoherent by flexible understandings of realities and words.
The North American Evangelical, all too often, disregards the “Kingdom” element in the Gospel. However, if the Christian does not stand for Truth as a noetic conformity to objective realities, rather than as an Existentialist fetish, what is the point of seeking the Kingdom? There exists no substance to a faith upon which to rely. And if the Christian does not stand for anything but is timidly willing to practicably live within the lie and psychosis of others, while mildly protesting that he actually subscribes to another reality, there exists a disconnect in his faith. He is not operating upon the premises of his purported understanding of reality. What is the allure of belonging to an assembly of such compromisers and cowards?
Be it true that general culture and society, even of its elites, have not yet reached this level of irrational incoherence, except perhaps for some in academia. However, transgenderism lays intellectual precedent and conduit towards a cultural milieu of societal-wide rational and semantic dissonance and vacuity, and disconnect from reality. How long can such a society sustain itself, especially against geopolitical rivals who are less disconnected from reality?
One has to ask. Is there any issue upon which Aaron Wilson and Christianity Today will take a moral stand through dissociation? And what is the objective and rationally consistent and coherent criteria which would justify such dissociation in those cases and not in this? If Aaron Wilson and Christianity Today disdain the generally moralistic approach that organizations like AFA take on cultural engagement, then the onus is upon them to proffer some plausible alternative other than mealy-mouth platitudes.
 Vaclav Havel, The Power of the Powerless, 1978, Translated by Paul Wilson, http://vaclavhavel.cz/showtrans.php?cat=clanky&val=72_aj_clanky.html&typ=HTML, Chapter 4.