If you follow the news of the healthcare or crafting world, you know that Hobby Lobby (and sister company Mardel) sued the federal government because the owners don’t want to have to comply with the new insurance mandates. Under “Obamacare,” as it is commonly known, health insurance must now cover birth control and the “morning after pill.” Employers can apply for an exemption to the rules on religious grounds if that employer is a church or something like that. Those rules are getting tighter as well. You can’t just say, “Oh, we’re religious. We don’t want to follow the rules.” The long and the short of it is, you pretty much have to be performing sacraments to get a religious exemption. Quite frankly, I’m good with that. It makes sense to me.
I realize there are people who will want to argue the point, but as a matter of medical science, the morning after pill does not cause an abortion. It prevents pregnancy. Now there are some religious groups who believe anything that interferes with conception is against God’s plan. I don’t personally subscribe to the theology, but I get where they’re coming from. If you are a church with that belief system, it makes sense you would be exempt. What Hobby Lobby, the arts and crafts store, is arguing is that they are the same as a church, and should not have to comply with the new laws because it violates their religion.
Believe it or not, people are taking this argument seriously: Hobby Lobby is a “Christian” company. It has something to do with being closed on Sundays and playing hymns over their sound system. But here’s the thing. I know they’re not a church. I know this because I have gone in their doors, walked around with a shopping cart and purchased things.
While we’re on the subject, most of the things that I purchase are made in China. Others are made in Pakistan. Those aren’t exactly evangelical strongholds. You know why they’re made there? Because they don’t have fair and just labor laws and environmental standards. I could make things a lot cheaper too if I could use the slave labor of small children or political prisoners and didn’t care what destruction I heaped on God’s creation. Pretty sure there’s a verse or two in the Bible about those things. But they don’t choose to care about those parts of being Christian. Just this one. I suspect it has a lot to do with how much the premiums on their insurance will go up, and less to do with God’s divine law. Call me a cynic.
But even more than that, I take issue with a for-profit company claiming any religion. Are the stocks baptized? Do the bonds take communion? Are all employees screened with a religion test? How do they judge another person’s heart? It’s just absurd on its face.
Let me be clear: I have every reason to believe the owners of this company are devout people. Good for them. I really do mean that. They claim to run their company with “Christian” principles. I believe they run their company through the lens of Christianity that they understand. And that’s the very point. When people who claim the same God cannot even agree on what constitutes “Christian” business principles, how can our secular government be expected to parse that out? It must then treat all for-profit companies the same and hold them to the same standards.
Fortunately, a judge in Oklahoma City saw some clarity on this issue when he ruled earlier this month, “Hobby Lobby and Mardel are not religious organizations.” U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton wrote, “the court is not unsympathetic” to the issues that were raised in the case. But ultimately, retail stores don’t get to pass themselves off as churches. The real religion they’re selling is consumerism.
The company will appeal. No doubt martyrs and demons will be cast as this plays out. I find myself again in the uncomfortable position of wondering if it’s possible to buy only American-made products, if that’s even a useful goal and how I should or could be a Christian to the children who work in the factories in China who make the stuff I like to buy.
I know without a doubt I should buy less of as much stuff as I can. I should recycle, reuse, upcycle and restore all that I can to reduce demand. That makes me a good steward of my dollars and the environment. But quite frankly, so much of this is beyond my buying power. It would help, even if just a little, if companies who claimed to be “Christian” companies (whatever that means) would think about these things too.