The Thinking 

It’s Time to Boycott General Mills

June 18, 2012


LIFESITE NEWS reports that General Mills, one of the world’s largest food companies, has come out in opposition to a Minnesota state constitutional amendment banning homosexual “marriage.” The marketer of products such as Cheerios and Pillsbury biscuits, based in Minnesota and heavily dependent on families with children, has committed what Brian Brown of the National Orgnization for Marriage calls “one of the the dumbest corporate PR stunts of all time.”

Here, according to Wikipedia, are some of the products marketed by General Mills, all of which you can easily do without:

Breakfast cereals include Basic 4, Boo Berry, Buc Wheats, Cheerios and its variants, Chex and its variants, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, Cookie Crisp, Count Chocula, Crazy Cow, Fiber One, Franken Berry, French Toast Crunch, General Mills Kaboom, Gold Flakes, Golden Grahams, Chocolate Golden Grahams, Hidden Treasures, Honey Nut Clusters, Jurassic Park Crunch, Kix, Lucky Charms, Oatmeal Crisp, Raisin Nut Bran, Reese’s Puffs, Total, Trix, and Wheaties. (Some are marketed outside the US and Canada by the Cereal Partners joint venture using the Nestlé brand).[5]

Baking goods include Betty Crocker, Bisquick, Gold Medal Flour, Jus-Rol, Knack & Back, La Salteña, Pillsbury, V. Pearl, and Wanchai Ferry. General Mills also produces fruit snacks like Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Gushers, Fruit Roll-Ups, and Fruit Shapes.

The company’s grain snacks include Bugles, Cascadian Farms, Chex Mix, Gardetto’s, Nature Valley, and Fiber One bars. It also produces Häagen-Dazs ice cream outside of the US. Its meal products include Betty Crocker, Diablitos Underwood, Green Giant, Hamburger Helper, Old El Paso, and Wanchai Ferry. It also produces organic foods like Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen. Other brands include Frescarini, Latina, Totinos, Jeno’s, Progresso, Columbo, and Yoplait (51%).

                               — Comments —

Carolyn writes:

I have participated in a number of conservative boycotts over the years. I don’t doubt their value as effective economic weapons. I’m beginning to have second thoughts, however, about their appropriate use by Christians.

The weapons of our warfare, said St. Paul, are not of the flesh. We follow a Leader who, in his first appearance here, came as a Servant and emphasized the use of the basin and the towel. He also majored on the inner transformation of hearts and minds by the grace of God. The boycott, on the other hand, is very much a weapon of this world: It emphasizes hitting ’em where it hurts, and changing behavior rather than the heart. As citizen-rulers of a republic, we have the responsibility to rule wisely and justly, and that includes opposing homosexual “marriage” in the political arena. But who gave us leave to lay down the basin and the towel and use power weapons in the economic arena?

I also question singling out homosexuality for special attack. It is certainly a grievous sin. But are we boycotting all the companies companies that promote pride? And gluttony? And greed? If not, why are we singling out homosexuality for special consideration? (It’s not partly because we struggle with the seven deadly sins ourselves is it?) If we’re going to boycott companies that promote grievous sin, shouldn’t we be consistent, and boycott them all?

But that would require us to go out of the world, because most of them do in one way or another. And we follow a Leader who not only (presumably) bought goods from sinners (at least St. Paul’s instruction to buy things in the market place without asking questions about where they came suggests that) but actually partied with them (and was labeled a glutton and a drunkard for his pains). So, beside being an impossibility, going entirely out of the world isn’t even a desirable option for those who follow the One who was known as a friend (not merely a tolerator) of sinners.

We have been telling ourselves that we are in a culture war for so long that it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that our Father has told us to fight very, very differently from the way our culture fights. Do boycotts honor that instruction? Or are they just more of the same old same old?

 Laura writes:

Boycotts are a reasonable form of protest. They do not violate Christian ethics.  They are a legitimate and powerful form of expression.

By the same logic that you use, we should not do anything to resist evil other than try to persuade evildoers of their wrong. We should not imprison criminals. We should not physically resist or fight back if an enemy invades our country. We should appeal to them with words instead. If this was possible, the world would be a very orderly place.

I’m not sure how you would go about persuading the corporate officers of General Mills of their wrongdoing here but other forms of protest could be useful too and boycotts do not eliminate that possibility. In the meantime, I think it is fair to assume that these people have already read the counter-arguments regarding same-sex “marriage”and are unpersuaded. Not everyone exposed to these arguments is convinced.

Christ also said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” You say we should not remove ourselves from the world, but are suggesting that very thing.

As for why we should boycott a company that supports and promotes homosexuality, as opposed to a company that simply entices people to buy things, one may very well wish to do the latter and pursue an extreme back-to-nature life but it is unlikely to have any effect. In any event, homosexual “marriage” is a far more serious issue and consumers can have an influence. There are natural limits on greed. As much as companies may tempt us, we can only buy what we can afford. It is possible, however, for anyone to engage in homosexuality, and homosexual “marriage” will be far more destructive than overspending.

Laura adds:

Leaving aside the boycott issue, I agree with Brian Brown that General Mills has made a stunningly stupid move.

As more and more people understand the real facts about homosexuality, especially the inescapable fact that male homosexual sex is more dangerous than heavy cigarette smoking, this company will find it very difficult to recover its image. There are only so many people who are going to stand by and watch their sons die prematurely without uttering a protest at all those who have presented homosexuality as good.

The Berlin Wall that keeps this information from the public will eventually fall. And when it does, it will be too late for General Mills.

Fred Owens writes:

You may have been tempted to support a boycott because it seems to have more “action” than the discussion you host. That would be wrong. The words that flow back and forth on the Thinking Housewife are strong. Words are agents of change. The question to me is not whether a boycott is a good or bad thing, but should your blog be using your energy in that project.

 Laura writes:

Thank you, but I am not organizing a boycott. I think most readers who consider this news will stay away from General Mills products as much as possible.

Mary writes:

Gluttony and pride create nothing new in society when promoted by a particular company. Not so homosexual “marriage” – if made universally available it will change the face of civilization. It is the opening of a Pandora’s Box of moral confusion. What’s so diabolical about homosexual “marriage” is that although in a God-loving world it is unfathomable, in a Godless world it actually sounds reasonable to many ears, or at least it begins to be seen as a “normal” sin (like gluttony and pride). But this is a mistake. Homosexuality is in a class by itself. It is fundamentally disordered and is therefore a step beyond other sexual sins, in that there is no normal expression for it. Homosexual “marriage” will legitimize homosexuality. To put it on a par with gluttony and pride only helps to normalize it. It must be dealt with differently because it is different, and in a most dangerous way.

Carolyn responds:

By the same logic that you use, we should not do anything to resist evil other than try to persuade evildoers of their wrong. We should not imprison criminals. We should not physically resist or fight back if an enemy invades our country. We should appeal to them with words instead. If this was possible, the world would be a very orderly place.

No, that’s why I carefully distinguished between our role as citizen-rulers in a republic and our role as consumers and providers in the marketplace. The activities you mention above are perfectly licit activities for citizen-rulers. [Laura writes: And refusing to buy a product is not “perfectly licit”? Are you saying it is my obligation to buy General Mills products?]

I doubt many of the corporate officers of General Mills have heard thoughtful arguments against homosexual practice, as a matter of fact.

They’re certainly not on the front pages of the newspaper. You have to seek them out to find them. And why would you seek them out when all the voices you do hear are telling you that this is a matter of simple equality and your patriotic duty as an American? [And they can seek them out and find them here. Please make this case to someone who does not spend great amounts of time presenting these arguments. I have not suggested boycotts replace persuasion. Also, I know many people who are exposed to these arguments and are unpersuaded.]

But (fortunately!) persuading is not our ultimate assignment. Our assignment is simply to, as St. Paul said, speak the truth in love. [Isn’t that persuasion? Anyway, I have not suggested that boycottts replace speaking the truth.]

As for why we should boycott a company that supports and promotes homosexuality, as opposed to a company that simply entices people to buy things. . . .

“Entic[ing] people to buy things” sounds like something very different from “promoting” homosexuality.

But enticing people to desire and then buy things they don’t need (which is the foundation of our commercial system) is actually promoting greed, one of the seven deadly sins. Yes, your perception is that homosexual “marriage” is far more serious than greed. And that’s the common perception of contemporary conservative Christians. But it’s shared by neither Scripture nor tradition, which both recognize greed as being as serious as it gets. [I did not say greed is not serious and I do not see how I am condoning greed by refusing to buy Cheerios. All advertising which portrays products in a favorable light could be viewed as an invitation to greed. A major campaign against all advertising would be a futile endeavor. Ignore advertising instead.]

In the era of multiple credit cards, greed is no more a self-limiting activity than homosexual practice is. [Not true. Using a credit card is not potentially fatal. Homosexual sex is. Millions of men have died prematurely as a result of engaging in anal sex. Growing up without a father or mother, being conceived in a commercial transaction — these are far worse than credit card debt.]

As far as how destructive various sins are, that’s pretty hard to objectively quantify. Families, for example, are utterly destroyed every day by gambling addiction, which is a subset of greed.

But the bottom line for Christians has to be, not the pragmatic consideration of the social destructiveness of a sin but Christian teaching, which considers the spiritual destructiveness of the sin as well. And, in the same breath in which St. Paul prohibits homosexuality, he also forbids adultery, theft, greed, drunkenness, being verbally abusive and swindling (2 Corinthians 6.9-11). So where do we get off saying homosexual practice is a big deal (which it is) and in the same breath dismissing greed (relabeled as overspending) as not that big a deal? [This is a misrepresentation. I did not say greed was not serious. You cannot realistically hope to contain it by boycotting products advertised. I do not agree that all advertising causes greed, which seems to be your point.] 

Jill Farris writes:

As a Christian, I am accountable to God for how I steward the possessions and money He has allowed me to have on this earth. Refusing to give my money to a company that supports something that is clearly against the commands of God is good stewardship. I recently discovered that Starbucks is heavily supporting the Gay Marriage initiatives in my state of Washington so no more Starbucks for me.

I recently told my husband that I had been wanting to move our diet to one of just fruits, vegetables, meat and a few basic grains. It looks like that will be easy to do if we stop buying GM products. ..and our health will improve at the same time!

 Laura writes:

That is correct. Starbucks has also come out in favor of homosexual marriage. I will not drink Starbucks.

Carolyn writes:

Laura writes:

And refusing to buy a product is not “perfectly licit”? Are you saying it is my obligation to buy General Mills products?

No, of course I’m not saying that. I’m simply meditating on the implications of St. Paul’s teaching that the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh in this particular situation.

Josh F. writes:

I would say that homosexuality is the ultimate form of greed and thus the homosexual is the greediest of all the liberationists. A homosexual has an insatiable addiction to “instant gratification,” i.e., addiction to self-sexualizing. He desires the “SAME sex” (as in, something equivalent to his SELF) as public “justification” for his greed, but privately, he is sexually averse to the “other,” i.e., the female. His self-annihilating “nature” is thus a product of his sexual aversion for the female combined with a “love” of himself and its predictable addiction to self-sexualization that is then masked and smoke-screened by his “love” for the “same-sex.” The TRUE homosexual is the most radical liberal with an unrelentingly greed to mold and create those exactly as himself.

Laura writes:

Homosexuals are often troubled by feelings of inadequacy with regard to their own sexual identity so I think it is simplistic to say self-love and greed are the predominating emotions.

Josh responds:

That’s why I indicated “TRUE homosexual” and not a confused male with a sexual identity crisis. Such males are not TRUE homosexuals, but rather, those most susceptible to embracing TRUE homosexuality and its self-annihilating “nature.”

 Mary writes:

If my local butcher puts a big sign in his window advocating homosexual marriage, is it un-Christian for me to take my business elsewhere?

Homosexuality is in a category by itself (almost). From my 1962 Roman missal: Sins crying out to heaven for vengeance: Willful murder; the sin of Sodom; Oppression of the poor; Defrauding laborers of their wages.

Caroline is right that some economically based sins are as serious as homosexuality, but general greed is not one of them. Homosexuality is intrinsically disordered and very, very grave. Equating it with greed has the effect, not of highlighting how serious greed is, but of diminishing the gravity of homosexuality.

SJF in Denver writes:

You can also add Home Depot to the list. I love HD, but I no longer shop there. And we will no longer buy General Mills, which may cause some disruption in our family of six children.

I would recommend that people who boycott take one more step – write the manager of the store you are boycotting. After we spent over $1,000.00 on home renovation supplies at Lowe’s, I sent the receipt (crossing out all of the card info) to the manager of the nearby HD explaining that this money would have been spent at his store had HD decided not to support such controversial “charities.” With respect to General Mills, I imagine we will write the CEO.

I think a boycott without communication is not too effective.

Laura writes:

Yes, it is important to communicate with corporate offices.

Catherine H. writes:

I am guessing Carolyn is a Protestant. I find her comments very intriguing, as she attempts to distinguish a difference in fighting against sin in a spiritual manner as opposed to a “fleshly” manner. Separating the two elements of our human nature (body and soul) is setting up a false dichotomy; God created us to function as a united whole. Many aspects of Protestantism deny this, while the whole of Catholicism affirms it–to mention but a few elements: the practice of keeping relics; the importance of the Sacraments; the priesthood; and of course, the Eucharist. I believe Carolyn misunderstands St.Paul when she says that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh.” Christ Himself brought about our redemption through His bodily suffering and death–the ultimate victory in our spiritual warfare.

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