Living -- and then dying -- by the economic sword

Recent events at World Vision and Mozilla appear to have gripped the American conservative Christian imagination.  The problem is, of course, that the principle in which Christians delighted in the former is that which they lament in the latter: The power of an economically significant lobby to drive the market in a way that impacts corporate decisions.

The World Vision flip-flop is fascinating for a variety of reasons, perhaps most of all for me because it reveals the problems of parachurch accountability when a non-ecclesiastical group chooses to take a theological stand on something not directly germane to its self-appointed task.    When it announced its change in policy on gay marriage among employees, that did not immediately change its humanitarian purpose but did alienate much of its financial base.  That base then mobilized to force a reversal.

The Mozilla situation is similar.  The competence of Brendan Eich to run the company is not affected by his private opinions, despite the usual histrionic attempts to characterize any deviation from the accepted line on same-sex marriage as dangerous bigotry.  Yet a powerful part of the financial base took exception to his views and used their economic muscle to force change on the organization.

Given the instructive chronological juxtaposition, how should Christians react?  A few thoughts come to mind.  First, both Christians and their opponents have the right under the First Amendment to express their disagreement with the actions of World Vision and Mozilla without government interference.  That does not seem to be in jeopardy at this point and we should be grateful for that freedom.  Second, we should understand that to live in a free society means that all have, among other things, the right to withdraw economic support from a group with which they disagree.   As a result, Christians should accept that those who live by the sword of legitimate economic sanctions in one context might well find themselves dying by the same legitimate economic sword in another. That is the price, or the risk, of freedom. Third, given the above, the pastoral response is surely to start now to strengthen Christian people for the hardship and marginalization that is likely to come, as it would seem that these kinds of events are set to become more frequent.  Yes, we should lament the moral malaise of society; we should use our freedoms to try to reverse that; but we should also acknowledge that the methods we use to gain influence ourselves are also open to our enemies. And thus we should think twice about crying foul on that particular point when the results are not to our liking.