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The Radio Shack boycott

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The American Family Association (AFA) has called for a boycott against RadioShack during the holiday selling season.

In the interest of disclosure, I have spent a great deal of time in RadioShack stores since high school. I built and repaired musical equipment including speaker cabinets from parts off the shelf, and while the selection is not what it was it is still the place to go for wire, jacks, cables, fuses, components, and the other paraphernalia that the electronics home hobbyist needs. Of course, there are no longer many electronics home hobbyists (I hardly qualify myself anymore), so they have shifted their focus more toward consumer electronics. WalMart and Best Buy probably are not worried about the competition there, but there are quite a few items in the store I would love to find in my oversized stocking.

It may also matter that one of my sons works for a RadioShack franchise--and that is an aspect of the situation that has to be considered, that with RadioShack there are company stores and franchise stores, and they are not the same.

The AFA's complaint is that RadioShack, nationally, refuses to mention "Christmas" in any of its materials or advertising. It refers to the holidays, but avoids being religiously specific. The AFA thinks that all of this "holiday" spending is attributable to the Christian celebration of "Christmas", and that if RadioShack is unwilling to say so then Christians should not patronize RadioShack for their Christmas gifts. Yet, is that the Christian thing to do?

I worked one high school winter for a privately-owned pharmacy. The owners generally wished their customers a happy holiday, and sent holiday greeting cards to many. No one ever wished them a merry Christmas, although some who knew proprietors Joe and Saul would wish them a happy Chanukkah. I have had quite a few Jewish friends over the years (difficult to avoid in the New York metropolitan area), and eventually I learned the appropriate Hebrew greetings for at least a few of their holidays. It would be rude to wish a Merry Christmas to someone you knew was Jewish. It may even be rude to assume someone is Christian.

Besides, we can say without qualification that "RadioShack" is not a Christian. The AFA might like to believe otherwise, but no corporations are themselves Christians, nor even Christian. They are corporations, and they have no souls. This or that one might have been formed by Christians, and/or with objectives the founders consider to be Christian. However, they exist as vehicles for conducting business, to make money for large numbers of investors who own small portions of them. To expect them to be "Christian" is silly. You might as well expect your dog to be Christian. We might reasonably hope that corporations would act in ways that we call "Christian", and indeed if RadioShack, across the board, was found to be treating customers (or employees or suppliers) unethically or immorally, Christians would have reason to boycott. What, though, is the point of insisting that RadioShack offend all its non-Christian customers by attaching a Christian label to its products? What does it get?

Baptist theologian Thomas Helwys gave us the doctrine that if Jesus Christ was the only mediator between God and man, the King could not usurp that position by dictating the religious beliefs of his subjects. Although King James jailed him for writing that, it is the foundation of our concepts of freedom of religion. I do not know how many RadioShack stockholders are Jewish, but is it right for Christians to demand that they, through their employees, promote our holy day in their sales papers? We Christians, on other fronts, are demanding that our religious beliefs be respected, such as in regard to health insurance. On what basis can we argue that people who are not Christians should promote our religion? Let RadioShack sell its goods to those who celebrate any holiday, whether Chanukkah, Kwanzaa, Mummer's Day, Saturnalia, Yule, or any of the dozens of other midwinter holidays including Christmas, and let us not dictate their conscience in what to call their sales (a particularly anti-Baptist attitude) as we insist that they not dictate ours.

This country has been through several significant "revivals", times when Christianity was ascendant sometimes to the point that there was little work for law enforcement. None of those had its roots in Christians trying to force others to pretend to be Christians; all sprang from Christians recognizing our own faults and failures in prayerful confession to God. Nothing in the Christian faith calls us to press anyone to act as if he were Christian. Getting RadioShack to include the word "Christmas" in its advertising is a worthless victory. Boycotting stores struggling for survival already in a high-competition market and so putting people (some of them, at least, Christians) out of work and in debt is not going to win any converts to the faith, either. I'm sure the AFA means well, but perhaps they should think a bit more about what it is they really need to achieve.

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