The American Family Association, which led the charge against the Walt Disney conglomerate over moral values in the mid-1990s, is ending its Disney boycott.

“We feel after nine years of boycotting Disney we have made our point,” AFA President Tim Wildmon said in an article in the ministry’s June 2005 newsletter.

In a May 23 news release, Wildmon said boycotts are a “last resort” for the AFA. AFA, in launching its Disney boycott in 1996, criticized the entertainment conglomerate for what the AFA described as a decline in moral and family values from the days of founder Walt Disney. The American Family Association, based in Tupelo, Miss., primarily focuses its energies on the influence of television and other media on families.

The boycott shifted into high gear nationwide when messengers to the 1997 Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution, “On Moral Stewardship and the Disney Company,” in which Southern Baptists were urged to “take the stewardship of their time, money, and resources so seriously that they refrain from patronizing The Disney Company and any of its related entities.” The resolution criticized Disney for “increasingly promoting immoral ideologies such as homosexuality, infidelity, and adultery.”

Following the SBC’s 1997 action, Focus on the Family, the Assemblies of God, Concerned Women for America and other religious groups joined in the boycott.

“The intention of the resolution was never to put the Disney Company out of business, but to awaken and energize families to the fact that Disney and every other Hollywood studio has changed course over the past 20 years,” Land said.

The entertainment company is not out of the woods, Wildmon added, saying Disney is still on “probation” and that AFA will continue to monitor the company’’s productions. Wildmon also encouraged individuals to “continue boycotting if they believe that to be the right thing to do”

Whew! We sure taught those godless heathens! I say “we” not because I’m a Baptist or a member of AFA, but because, unfortunately, as a Christian, I’m sure I’ll get tarred by the same brush.

Um, did Disney even notice this boycott? And what exactly has changed over at Disney to signal the end to this boycott? Disney has distanced itself from Miramax, I guess you could say. Michael Eisner is leaving, which I don’t think is a rally cry of victory. More on point, the AFA may soon face its membership/relevance crumbling in light of the release of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”

This is similar to what happened with “The Passion of the Christ” as a lot of church-goers had to do some soul searching over their conviction against going to see rated R movies (*sigh* you know, having to actually think maybe we ought to look at movies for their overall message rather than the individual elements that are used to tell a story. Then again, violence has always been a lot easier to get over for religious folks. But there better not be any cussing or boobies). In the case of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” the AFA knows that its members are going to see this movie anyway. So better they have an out and everyone save face. Rest up for the next protest.

I’d celebrate the end of this boycott as a dawning of common sense if it didn’t feel so patently calculated. As my colleague over at Hollywood Jesus put it, this announcement shows the shallowness and convenience of much Christian activism. In the same way that “Christian” media outlets quickly scuttled their proud refusal to air ads for “R” rated movies when one they actually liked finally came along (last year’s The Passion of the Christ), the AFA is now dropping its boycott in part because Wildmon knows “there are a lot of evangelicals who are going to want to go and see” the Narnia film … Boycotts should always be a matter of personal conviction, pure and simple. All matters of principle should be highly personal … your boycott now has real meaning because sticking with it will actually cost you something. What good is boycotting something you don’t want in the first place?

After a while, doesn’t it get exhausting keeping up with the list of who we’re suppose to hate, I mean protest, I mean love the person not the sin? I know that during this protest fervor, my e-mail box was clogged with the latest round of who we’re supposed to be protesting for Jesus. Soap companies. Shoe companies. Movie studios. Theme parks.

Few noticed who we were protesting and why, only that we were protesting something. Once again, we were being defined by who we’re against (soap and gay people getting health care because Jesus preferred everyone dirty and sick), rather than who we were for.

Live your life by your personal convictions. Keep them personal, where they mean the most; done for the right motives and not to show the world what sort of principled person you are.

I, too, am a man of conviction: I’d kiss another man if it meant shorter lines at theme parks.