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Thursday, July 10, 2008

You must agree with the Christians… OR ELSE.

What happens if you don’t agree with the Christian agenda? They’ll do everything they can to defame you, shut down your business, and make sure you are never heard from in public again. People aren’t allowed to have a difference of opinion when it comes to “Christianity and God”, see. If you disagree with the Christians, then they’re coming after you.

The latest offender is Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials books for young adults, is going to be the victim of a Christian rights protest. His “crime”? He doesn’t believe in the benevolent God of the Christians! Therefore, these “Christian” advocates think he should be boycotted and his business shut down. How open-minded and tolerant of them!

Roman Catholic groups in North America are calling for a boycott of a forthcoming film adaptation of the first in Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy, arguing that it is bait to ensnare children in his “atheist agenda”. Bill Donohoe, the president of the Catholic League in the United States, has said that the British author’s His Dark Materials books are deeply anti-Christian and promote “atheism for kids”.

He said he feared the film would prompt parents to buy the books, unaware that the third in the series, The Amber Spyglass, climaxes in an epic battle to “destroy God”.

The conservative league’s call for a boycott of The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, has been taken up by a growing number of Catholic leaders.

The Catholic school board in Ontario has ordered Northern Lights, the book on which the film is based, removed from library shelves.

See, if you don’t support the Christian God, then you don’t deserve to make money. You don’t deserve to have a successful business. From these people’s perspective, you aren’t allowed to have a different opinion than the one they hold.

And yet somehow, atheist authors are the ones painted as intolerant and close-minded.

What’s that you say? What am I going on about? I’m going on about this strange and, in my mind, misguided attack on the idea of using boycotts as a political tool to support personal causes.

Cassy Fiano paints boycotts as a terrifying act of economic oppression when, in fact, boycotts are supremely democratic in nature. A boycott with enough support will succeed in either changing the behavior of a company or organization by causing economic hardship, it’s true, but without much popular support a boycott will surely fail. Indeed, if the boycott is in itself repugnant to most citizens, they may well support the target organization even more to fight the effects of the boycott. A boycott is very simply people voting with their dollars and their business.

Do I agree with either of these boycotts? That’s an irrelevancy: I support the concept of groups of citizens refusing to do business with companies that they find politically or socially repulsive. Be it Dixie Chicks, Ben & Jerry’s, the new GI Joe film, or the Manchester Grand Hyatt (be sure to read Cassy’s post linked above), I won’t always agree with the cause--ferGodsake, don’t even get me started on the talk of boycotting Dunkin Donuts a bit back--but I believe that the boycott is a practical tool used in any healthy, open society and act as another manner in which we hold these larger conversations about our own society.

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I rarely agree with the agenda of most boycotts, but do consider them to be the basic political choice. We have precious few events which lend us a bit of the righteous satisfaction of political power writ small… and effective.

I think the Dixie Chicks scenario a good one because there was no real organizational effort--by a group --to boycott, but much shared sentiment that got a lot of publicity led the charge. I am personally pleased to have inflicted a return of betrayal onto a music group that I enjoyed for their music and paid for their music. They’re the ones who betrayed my expectations of entertainment and soured it with political crap. The personal boycott came long before anyone called for it. It was effective simply because the reaction was universally similar. Same goes for most entertainers.

So, I think the underlying structure has to be there; the offense or danger has to be real and immediately identifiable-- without stretching credulity. The organization calling for boycott has to be a sympathetic entity and equally as identifiable.

Normal people don’t want to shut down “people” from making money. They want to end bad ideas. In the case of the Dixie Chicks, however, the girls made themselves even more noxious and unsympathetic to the point that even the most non-committed couldn’t ignore the arrogance, or separate it from the entertainment value.

I think that many times a, “content warning” would be more effective, and the result similar: Warning, this story, movie, book, song, idea may be misleading or non-constructive to young minds. Please be aware of the back-story of underlying themes and be prepared to discuss them with your children if you choose to ingest this as entertainment. Please be further aware that other children who ingest these ideas may grow to become mind-numbed zombies who will eat the brains of your child… you get the idea.

on Jul 11 2008 @ 12:17 AM

David, I think you are misrepresenting Pullman a bit.  He does not merely not “believe in the benevolent God of the Christians” but his book series was explicitly, in his own words, an attack on the Catholic church.  You quote the President of the Catholic League describing Pullman’s books, but Pullman himself describes them no less strongly as an attack on Catholicism.

on Jul 11 2008 @ 11:13 AM

Actually, this has little to do with Pullman’s book. For the record, I though that the books (I didn’t get all the way through all of them) weren’t all that well written and I find his thoughts on the church repugnant. I didn’t actively boycott the movie so much as I simply didn’t go because it didn’t interest me (and, from the reviews, I didn’t miss anything). Before I had read a single review or any commentary about his books, his own writing made it very clear that he was attacking the Catholic church.

I just wanted to point out to Cassy that boycotts can work in many directions and that what she was saying about boycotts was absurd--perhaps I didn’t get my point across well.

on Jul 11 2008 @ 12:42 PM

One of the dangers of parodies too closely mimicking the original?  Certainly you could say of the original that Doug Manchester merely “doesn’t support gay marriage”.  He’s not some random guy off the street that happens to disagree on the issue, he donated $125,000 to help ban gay marriage, which is reason he’s the target of the boycott.  He’s an activist.

It’s may not be a one-to-one comparison in degree, but I’d say it compares in kind.

on Jul 11 2008 @ 04:37 PM

Yep, yep, and yep all the way through (including the critique of staying too close to the original).

Anyway, for the record:

The Dixie Chicks irritated me, but I couldn’t say that I boycotted them since I would never have bought their albums anyway.

Pullman irritates me, but I can’t say that I actively boycotted him because I didn’t actually like his writing anyway (although I have to admit to being pleased when the movie tanked).

I support same sex marriage (although not as a “right”, but as a rational choice to extend a specific kind of a contract to the gay community), but I wouldn’t necessarily find myself boycotting Hyatt Regencies because it isn’t an issue that stands out to me as the most important issue of the moment. If I were to have a beer or three with the guy, though, I would do my best to explain my position and let him know why I think he’s wrong.

The near-boycott and uproar over Rachel Ray’s scarf was stupid and I’m a little disappointed that Dunkin Donuts was so quick to pull the ad. Sometimes a scarf is just a scarf, damnit.

I will, however, be boycotting GI Joe, and, theoretically, I would be part of the target audience. I find their implied repudiation of GI Joe being uniquely American in nature to be offensive and I have better things to do with my time (although I admit that it’s a small issue in the grand scheme of things).

on Jul 11 2008 @ 04:53 PM

I’m boycotting Porsche.  I want to pretend it’s due to some exemplary ethical stand.

on Jul 11 2008 @ 06:08 PM

I’m boycotting hot supermodels with enormous racks. Because of their position on Darfur, naturally.

on Jul 12 2008 @ 07:28 AM

I have twice tried to read Pullman’s books and I find myself being lulled into a pleasant slumber by about page 8 of the first installment.  Just not my cup of tea, even if it is atheist in tone.  I’ve yet to see the movie, but I might get around to it.  I can teach my children to be fabulous little atheists without his books or a movie based on them.

P.S. I don’t much care about boycotts.  People can spend their money how they see fit, protest peacefully, etc. 

P.P.S. To Cassy’s credit, while her argumentation might be rather weak (just read her latest blog post about Democrats meddling in the economy - makes me wonder if she cashed her Bush-approved stimulus check), she does - however - have big yabos.  There, that should annoy someone.

on Jul 12 2008 @ 08:30 PM

This is why Christianity is in such decline all over the world. They’re too laid back and accommodating. If they don’t learn to use car bombs like the others, they;re never going to amount to anything.

on Jul 13 2008 @ 08:50 AM

Billll has a point.  One that is confirmed by the behavior of Canadian “Human Rights Commissions”.

on Jul 13 2008 @ 05:47 PM

yeah,boycott is a practical manner used in open society,but i try avoid those staff all timesi dont much care about it..

on Jul 15 2008 @ 12:07 AM

Please. All religions use the “boycott” tactic under one name or another to express their disagreement and condemnation of people they disagree with.

Or have you forgotten that whole Fatwa on Salman Rushdie over “The Satanic Diaries”?

The Muslim boycott of the UK’s Holocaust Memorial Day?

The Buddhist’s boycott of the Pope’s talks?

The Hindu boycott of “The Love Doctor”?

To get limit your outrage to the “Christian agenda” (which I don’t necessarily agree with despite being Catholic myself, and I happened to think Golden Compass was awesome) kind of shows your own agenda, David. So should I take it that you’re boycotting the Catholic Church?

on Jul 17 2008 @ 06:46 AM

Kate, it’s obvious that I failed with this post to make my point since there have been some other comments that were a little confused on what I was trying to do. I’m not outraged by the Christian agenda and the entire first half of my post was lifted from Cassy’s post decrying the gay agenda.

I had two points:

First, that it irritates me when anyone thinks that a tactic used by their side of an argument is righteous when the use by the other side is detested. People who would support the boycott of, say, the His Dark Materials books and then cry foul when a bunch of gays group together to boycott a chain of hotels are people who need to be laughed at. This is my way of laughing at them.

Second, that boycotts are fair tool for any group of people with a common interest and indignation over boycotts is a foolish response. If I don’t agree with the boycott, I’ll run counter by giving my business to the company being boycotted. If I agree, I’ll withhold my dollars. I have nothing against boycotts at all, although I sometimes laugh at what rouses people to boycotts.

Lastly, though, I’m surprised that you might imagine that I’m opposed to the church or to a Christian agenda. I’m not Catholic (although my best friend is), but I most certainly am Christian. While some of my fellows do things that I don’t agree with and will condemn, any kind of a blanket boycott of the Catholic Church would be unthinkable. I would have thought that, as a long time blogging acquaintance, you would have realized that.

on Jul 17 2008 @ 09:15 AM

Wow, I didn’t get that perspective on boycotts at all when I first read your entry. Then again, if you’ll look at the time stamp on my comment you’ll probably realize I hadn’t finished my first cup of coffee, which is why I should have realized you weren’t slamming Catholics.

Sorry. Going to go find more coffee now.

on Jul 17 2008 @ 09:22 AM
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