That Time We Boycotted E.T.

"If you live by the boycott, you may die by the boycott."

The National Association of Evangelicals joined together to campaign and encourage Christians to not buy the beloved family film as a show of displeasure over the other MCA/Universal film. Their goal was to significantly impact the profits of E.T., the film which MCA would expect Christians to watch, so that it would garner their attention and voice their displeasure in The Last Temptation of Christ.

 

Did you know that in 1988 evangelicals, and especially Southern Baptists (*hangs head in shame*), encouraged folks to stop buying VHS tapes of the lovable E.T.? If you’re racking your brain, as I was, trying to figure out what was so offensive about E.T., you can stop now. The problem wasn’t with the little alien, the problem was with the Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ.

The National Association of Evangelicals joined together to campaign and encourage Christians to not buy the beloved family film as a show of displeasure over the other MCA/Universal film. Their goal was to significantly impact the profits of E.T., the film which MCA would expect Christians to watch, so that it would garner their attention and voice their displeasure in The Last Temptation of Christ.

Living and Dying By the Boycott

It didn’t work. And I hadn’t even heard of this boycott until a couple weeks ago when I found a gem of a book (Power Religion) tucked away in my library. It’s a compilation of articles written in the late 80’s and early 90’s by prominent Christian leaders. The book is unified around the theme of evangelicals selling out for the sake of power. I find it incredibly intriguing because of it’s date of composition. Reading it thirty years later is eye-opening. And I wish we would have listened. Consider this from Kenneth A. Myers:

If you live by the boycott, you may die by the boycott. If you present yourself merely as one of many patches in the pluralist American crazy quilt, you must behave with the same decorum you require of others. If you try to use coercive economic means to prevent a false Messiah from being presented in 70 millimeter Dolby stereo, then you should not expect the economic freedom to present the true Messiah in cinematic glory, if that presentation is as offensive to some fellow citizens as Scorsese’s presentation is to you. (46)

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