Monday’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby has incredible implications that people of faith must take seriously. Unfortunately, the populist rhetoric surround the decision not only fails to address the real issue, it dangerously masks it in a destructive assault of self-righteous arrogance and superiority. As Christians, we need a different approach.
Religious freedom and the Constitutional right for us to practice our religious faith without undue interference of the government, as well as our right to not be forced to compromise our religious beliefs is a central truth that I hold very prominently. (The very fact that I have the freedom to write this blog hinges on that freedom.) The owners of Hobby Lobby have been long recognized (renowned or reviled—you choose) for their conservative, evangelical Christian faith. At the core of the faith expressed by many Conservative Christians there are major aspects of the Affordable Health Care Act that conflict with the values of personal responsibility, independence, and the role of governance in society that are vital the Evangelical Christian faith. It is understandable and I appreciate the fever to defend the tenants of such faith. Truly, the decision was a victory for Conservative, Evangelical Christianity therefore celebration is in order. I get that!
Religious freedom has another side, however. As many have pointed out, the so-called “freedom of religion” in the Constitution also means that we are to have freedom from religion and, freedom to not have someone else’s expression of religious faith thrust upon society as a whole. For many Americans—both devoutly Christian and non-Christian alike, the ruling is seen as one very narrow expression of the Christian faith as given the power to impose their religious beliefs on the whole nation. What is particularly troubling for many is the belief—right or wrong—that women’s rights, equality under the law, and essential freedom were trampled. Therefore, this ruling is seen as a cataclysmic step backward and a serious defeat to genuine religious freedom, not to mention women’s reproductive rights and therefore must be denounced as a serious miscarriage of justice. I get that!
Unfortunately, the whole case is much bigger that one corporation’s presumed religious freedom or the responsibility of faithful Christians to exercise religious freedoms in upholding God’s will. It would be nice if were that simple. The Hobby Lobby case is convoluted in partisan politics, vastly conflicting and contradictory interpretations of what “freedom” truly is, vehemently held religious, social, and political beliefs regarding the practice of abortion, the extremely controversial political firestorm of health care in America, and an emotionally charged citizenry that either viciously hates the current President of the United States a United States or staunchly defends him. Virtually all of these volatile perspectives are held within uncompromising and largely uninformed belief systems that are fueled fear rather than fact. Therefore, win or lose, the battle lines in this Supreme Court ruling were drawn long before the case was ever heard by the Justices and those lines actually have little to do with the principle of religious freedom.
The fundamental issue is about control. Who is going to control this country and our incredibly diverse citizenry? When issue-based political posturing rises in response to a split decision such as in the Hobby Lobby case, the driving force is a vehement push for control and there are factions that are willing to sacrifice almost anything to obtain it. Both sides of the argument are guilty and, as long as we believe we are truly acting out of the authenticity of our Christian faith, both sides invoke the name of God as the legitimacy of our unyielding argument against those whom we know are just deceived, ignorant, and destined to destroy all that is good and holy in our nation.
Perhaps, as a people of faith, there is a better way. It is time that we, as Christians, step back from our fiercely partisan political posturing and put a stop to the unholy division of God’s children into Conservatives and Liberals (or Fascists, Communists, Radicals, Progressives, Extremists, Socialists, or whatever arbitrary label is carelessly thrown about). It is time that we take note of the overall ministry of Jesus Christ. He never advocated for a particular economic or political system. Jesus taught to render ultimate authority to God (Mark 12:28-30), love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:25-37), give to Government what was due to Government (Luke 20:20-26), and to work for the establishment of Biblical justice (Luke 4:18-21). As Christians, Christ calls us to a life of service that improves the world for all, not just a faithful labor that creates a world which suits one’s own political, economic, religious, and social desires. Christianity, at its best, is a religious faith that serves the common good.
The Hobby Lobby decision—along with any number of split-decision rulings by the Supreme Court of the United States that tap into deeply-held religious convictions—has the power to divide the Body of Christ in ways that are devastating to our shared ability to represent God in this world.
Therefore, as Christians, perhaps we would be better suited to serve our Lord by casting off the idolatrous clothes of our partisan rancor and invest our energy in working to restore faith, hope, and trust amongst each other. Otherwise, in our fear-driven efforts to prove how right we are and how wrong they are, we may very well destroy everything that is good about both sides as the whole thing collapses in under the weight of our own pride and arrogance.