Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Boycott Bug

What is it, when people boycott a product or service, that they hope to accomplish?  What are the end results of a successful boycott?  There are two possibilities:  1) the person who is responsible for the particular product or service being boycotted loses so much business that he or she is forced to change or 2) the company is destroyed.

Charles Boycott

In the many definitions of the word "boycott" that I found online, the words "coercion" (see also "to combine in abstaining from, or preventing dealings with, as a means of intimidation or coercion"), "punishment," or "force" predominate.

There were several times when Jesus had the option to use force or coercion. The first took place when he went into the desert, after having been baptized in the Jordan River. There he was approached by an affable fellow who suggested three distinct ways in which he could apply his power toward eminently reasonable ends: the end to world hunger, ironclad self-protection, the adulation of all directed where it ought to go. Why did he instead choose physical hunger, vulnerability, and that most fragile and ill-used gift: human freedom?

Later, during his active ministry, Jesus could have either rearranged the thoughts of those who wanted to kill him, or he could have simply forgotten about them for a moment, and they would have vanished. Or think of what it must have been like, his body skewered to the wood by those iron spikes, and his enemies taunting him to save himself if he's so almighty powerful. And he was perfectly capable of doing so, of ending the torment there and then and showing those idiots whom they were mocking.

At the very least, he could have instructed his disciples to boycott the Pharisees, the scribes, and the Romans!

Or after he'd risen from the dead, he could have given some instruction on how to punish those who disagree with you and to force wrong-headed people to change their minds.

Could there be another way to respond to those with whom we disagree, or are coercion and punishment the only options available to us? Somehow, Christianity grew and became an international cultural phenomenon even while those who followed Christ had no power. Somehow, without coercion or punishment, those who came into contact with Christians were convinced.

In place of power, those early Christians had love. Christianity spread, like a raging fire, through envy. People looked at those early followers of Jesus and they wanted the same beautiful lives that they saw the Christians living. More than anything, Christians led attractive lives.

If we want to coerce and punish those with whom we disagree, it means we've given up entirely on Christ's method, which is attraction and embrace.

Dumbstruck by the Mystery

...our temptation is always to impose our prejudices or our measure on reality -- except when we are faced with a fact that leaves us dumbstruck, and instead of dominating the fact ourselves, we are dominated, overcome by it. If there were no moments of this kind, the Mystery could do anything, but in the end, we would reduce everything to the usual explanation. But not even a Nobel Prize winner can stop himself from being dumbstruck before an absolutely gratuitous gesture. If there were not these moments, we would find answers, explanations, and interpretations to avoid being struck by anything. It is good that some things happen that we cannot dominate, then we have to take them seriously, and this is the great question of philosophy. If the conditions for the possibility of knowledge (see Kant) impose themselves on reality or if there is something that is so powerfully disproportionate that it does not let itself be "grasped" by the conditions of possibility, then the horizon opens. If this were not the case, then we could dominate everything and be in peace, or at least without drama. Instead, not even the intelligence of a Nobel Prize winner could prevent him from coming face-to-face with a fact that made him dumbstruck -- instead of dominating, it was he who was dominated. Here begins the drama, because I am called to answer. It is the drama that unfolds between us and the Mystery, through certain facts, certain moments, in which the Mystery imposes itself with this evidence. These are facts that we cannot put in our pocket, which we cannot reduce to antecedent factors.
-- Julian Carron in "Friends, that is, Witnesses."