How Hobby Lobby is Biblical but not Christian

Hobby_Lobby_Supreme_Court_LGI don’t want to write about Hobby Lobby.

This is not my issue.

I am Canadian.

This Supreme Court ruling doesn’t affect my daily life. Here in Canada, healthcare is universal, and while birth control (for both men and women) isn’t always covered under the public mandate, it is usually covered under extra employment health benefits if prescribed by a doctor.

I am Lutheran.

And if anyone is wondering, the health plan that covers the pastors of my denomination does include coverage of all the birth control that Hobby Lobby wanted to be exempt from paying for. So not all Christians agree with Hobby Lobby’s religious views on birth control.

But today, I have to write something. This Hobby Lobby issue is nagging my writer’s soul.

hobbyShortly after the US Supreme Court’s decision, I tweeted some questions and comments regarding the decision. The ruling brings up so many questions, including how it is that a corporation can have a religions belief. I guess Americans believe in the separation of church and state, but not separation of church and corporation. One of my tweets resonated with a lot of people:

These questions about the personhood and religious belief of a corporation are deeply troubling, even for a Canadian like me.  Yet, more and more I am thinking about this issue affects women and how Hobby Lobby, with their “religious belief,” understands women and what they have been granted the authority to do on the basis of religious belief.

As I read through articles on the fallout of this decision, I came across a couple of great articles explaining the science of what Hobby Lobby is claiming about birth control and why it is so wrong.

(Update: If you want to read even more about abortificients, read this article)

However, as with the Creation vs. Evolution debate, the science doesn’t really matter to fundamentalists. The pseudo-science of creation and their understanding of birth control is only a means to an end. And that end is promoting a deeply flawed, yet self-serving, understanding of scripture.

Today, I am sure many people wonder, what exactly is Hobby Lobby’s issue with women. Why do Christian fundamentalists like the owners of Hobby Lobby, the Southern Baptist Convention, the Gospel Coalition and many mega church pastors make such a big deal about issues of contraception, LGBT issues and the role of women in church and home. They will claim their view is scriptural… and well it is… kind of. In fact, these groups probably don’t really understand just how scriptural their views on women are… and just how much they miss the point.

The fundamentalist Christian problem with women originates from these unlikely places in scripture:

1. The concern for the sanctity of life in much of the Bible is not necessarily for all life, but Israelite life. The book of Genesis shows that one the of the chief concerns of the descendants of Abraham was continuation of the line. It wasn’t life in general that they were concerned about, but particular life. This is why God killed both the enemies of the Israelites who fought them in battle and God killed the sons of Judah who spilled their seed on the ground. They were all “killing” the descendants of Abraham and so God judged them.

The whole book of Genesis is about how the line of Abraham hovered near extinction for generations, yet God had made the covenant of many descendants and land. The chief concern of the Israelite people was continuing the line. This was the path to immortality and legacy.

2. The ancient understanding of reproduction categorized men and women differently than now. Seeds or sperm (the same words in Greek and Hebrew) were believed to contain the entire person. So to be someone’s descendant meant you were contained entirely (in a tiny seed) in your father, grandfather, great-grandfather etc… So when people protested to Jesus that they were the children of Abraham, they meant that they had literally been inside Abraham at some point.

Women were understood to be the field. A seed was planted in the field, died and turned into fruit. If a seed didn’t grow, it was because of an inhospitable field. This is why only women are barren in scripture. Wombs and fields come from the same word in Hebrew.

3. Women were property. Many books and articles have been written about how women were property in the bible. And this is correct, but chattel or animal property wouldn’t exactly describe it entirely. Animals required some care, but women were more like land (fields where seeds were planted). Land was plowed (torn up) in order to plant seeds. When it didn’t produce it was plowed even more.

Just as farmers were concerned about neighbours planting and harvesting over property boundaries, husbands were concerned about someone else’s seeds getting planted in their wives’ wombs. There were no paternity tests, so the only way to make sure your line continued was to maintain strict control of your land/womb. This is how a deceased man’s brother could provide children to his widowed sister-in-law. Brothers carried the same seeds from their father, the woman was simply the field.

4. Adultery was not an issue of fidelity. In the same story of Judah’s sons spilling their seeds, it was natural that Judah would go to a prostitute. Men have needs. However, an adulterous woman is like damaged property. A man could never know if his kids are his if a woman cheated or if she is raped. Another man has sowed his seeds in the field. Damaged property is pretty much only good for destruction. This where the one sided laws in the Middle-East and Africa that punish rape victims come from. The punishments are a means for destroying the damaged goods of men.

Now, conservative fundamentalist Christians will not tell you that these are the biblical understandings of reproduction and gender. However, this is where these issues about birth control come from – Ancient, patriarchal and misogynist understandings of science and gender.

Despite Hobby Lobby and other conservative Christians adopting these biblical world views (however rooted in incorrect ancient science), these views are not Christian.

Jesus and early Christianity takes a very different view on women and gender.

1. In the Gospel of Mark (the earliest gospel), Jesus forbade divorce without condition (unlike in Matthew who adds the adultery clause). Jesus was not making a moral judgement, but advocating for women. Divorce was a means for men to summarily dismiss their wives, to have them stoned for adultery so they could get rid of them. Forbidding divorce empowered women. Men could not hold the threat of dismissal (which would lead to poverty or death) over their wives. Jesus himself would not have been born if Joseph had decided to have Mary stoned for adultery. Jesus was putting husbands and wives on a level plying field.

2. Jesus often talked to women, included them as disciples, and appeared to them first after the resurrection. Jesus was constantly breaking social norms to talk to women in public, thereby treating them as equals. Jesus included women as disciples, like his own mother, Mary and Martha, and Mary Magdalene. Women were the first to find the empty tomb and the first to announce the resurrection. This was the most important moment of Jesus’s ministry, and he chose to entrust women (who were not trusted as reliable witnesses) to witness the event.

3. The early Church was radically egalitarian. The apostle Paul wrote that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, Slave nor Free, Male nor Female in the community. But not long after, the Christian community began partriarchalizing itself to fit in better with society. Other later New Testament letters advocated patriarchy, and Paul’s own writings either had additions or have been misinterpreted and mistranslated to favour patriarchy.

Jesus and the early church stood in stark contrast to the prevailing patriarchal system. You might even say that they didn’t hold biblical views on women and gender. Conservative Christians would claim Jesus and Paul weren’t biblical if the two were preaching and writing today.

Hobby Lobby fought for the corporation’s right to hold biblical views, and use those views to unfairly discriminate women. (It has been noted since that they invest in companies that make birth control and still pay for men’s contraceptive products.)

But Hobby Lobby and conservative Christians are either so woefully ignorant of why the bible views women as it does and what Christianity actually teaches about gender or are intentionally using “religious belief” to justify sexism.

I suspect there is a good dose of both happening.

RBG on Hobby Lobby - blogOn Monday, I was very glad to be Canadian. The US Supreme Court has been duped, or, more likely, is striving to maintain a patriarchal world. And that is what this is really about. It is not about being against contraceptives (the science disproves the “abortificant” argument), it is about being sexist, misogynist and patriarchal. This isn’t about being biblical, this is about the fear of a loss of power, specifically male power over women.

Even from a far, I am still deeply saddened today by the state of religious affairs in the United States. Saddened that there are Christians who believe this is about religious freedom. Saddened that corporatists, privileged white males and misogynists are using “Christianity” to promote their agenda. Because actual Christianity is completely opposed to what Hobby Lobby stands for.

I wonder how the Supreme Court would have ruled if this were about men’s contraception, or if an employer were asking an insurer to cover even more healthcare benefits because of religious conviction.

How do you feel about the Hobby Lobby decision? What was your reaction Monday? Share in the comments, on the Facebook Page: The Millennial Pastor or on Twitter: @ParkerErik.

PS Twitter has been flagging my blog as spam lately. If you would like to help get it unflagged (because according to wordpress and google it is fine), file a ticket with a link to my blog here








22 thoughts on “How Hobby Lobby is Biblical but not Christian”

  1. This blog, and almost every news source, is misrepresenting what the central complaint of Hobby Lobby is. They currently, and have previously before the ACA was passed, provide contraceptive coverage for their female employees. Not covered is the Plan B or Morning After Pill. This is not preventative, and kills off any potentially fertalized eggs/babies. Paying for this care is against their morals, and as a privately owned corporation, the SCOTUS clearly feels this gives them the right to not compromise their beliefs.

    Stop making Hobby Lobby out to be some kind of horrible company. They treat their employees very well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment hgamattt. In my post, I provide links to article that rebuff the abortificant claim. And my article actually says nothing about how Hobby Lobby treats their employees… because I don’t know anything about that. My post is critique of the “religious views”. As a pastor and theologian who shares, in part, the same faith as they do, I think it it highly appropriate for me to write about where their views come from and to place in the larger context of scripture and Christianity.

      I suspect that you didn’t actually read through the post, and if you would like to have a discussion about fundamentalist interpretation of scripture and where it originated from (which Hobby Lobby clearly doesn’t know itself), I would be happy to converse further.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Erik Parker does not understand that when the Government forces businesses to do something, the Government is forcing the owners to do something. When the Feds threaten Conestoga Wood specialties with $95,000 in fines per day, or else pay for Ella, a RU-486 type abortion drug, they are forcing the owners, the Hahn family to do this. Canadians may be fine with an oppressive government forcing companies to do anything and everything. The USA was founded on individual religious liberty, and recognizes natural rights, extending to a person’s estate and property. This recognition of these rights were established in 1701 with the Pennsylvania charter of privileges.


  2. Dear Erik,

    I would like to point out that opinion blogs do not equate to “articles that rebuff the abortifacient claim.” Anyone can make an arbitrary claim on the Internet, that doesn’t make it true.

    The tenor of your response to hgamatt above, combined with your use of questionable source material to reinforce your own opinion strongly suggests that you are not nearly so disconnected from the issue as you portray yourself in your opening statements.

    If you are going to be admonishing other folks about falling into interpretations that are based in their own worldview and outlook, I think that you should take care not to do the same.



    1. Thanks for commenting Marvin.

      I accept your point regarding “opinion blogs” except that I have not read anything explaining the “science” of fundamentalist opinion. But I will of course admit that I have not read everything out there on topic by any stretch.

      That being said, my post was about the biblical interpretation and religious views of Hobby Lobby and other fundamentalist groups… hence the title, “How Hobby Lobby is Biblical but not Christian”. I never claimed to be disconnected from the issue, but rather from the US Supreme Court’s decision, as I am not a citizen of the United States.

      As I mentioned to hgamatt, if you would like to have a discussion about the merits of Hobby Lobby’s biblical interpretation, I am glad to have one. But this not about differing world views. This about what the Bible actually says and what Christians actually believe, and it also about Popular Biblical Interpretation vs. Professional Biblical Interpretation.


      1. Hi Erik,

        A couple of points:

        (1) It doesn’t matter whether you’ve read anything on the fundamentalist side or not. They aren’t here posting – this is your blog. I’m not sure why you would mention that except as an attempt to deflect the criticism. As you note, the issue isn’t central to your post so I think you are safe just admitting it was an error and moving on.

        More importantly though –

        (2) There are metric tons of people that claim to be subject matter experts on what the Bible “actually says” and what Christians “actually believe.” You are certainly entitled to your beliefs on that front – as are they. Your article details a variety of points that confront or critique the stated theological basis of the Hobby Lobby claim.

        All of these critiques are based on your interpretation of both the passages in question and the cultural influence that gave rise to them. Further, you infer that use of specified passages is motivated by a desire for (generically) power and/or to maintain the status quo.

        Why is this problematic for me?

        I strongly suspect that, were I to query them (or their equivalent “professional” theological proponents) about your arguments, they would be able to provide me with a no less cogent or well-researched interpretation refuting your claims and “proving” their correctness.

        Further, I suspect that if we were to poll the field of Christianity writ large, from the perspective of either lay folk or highly trained exegetes, eisegetes, and apologists of all stripes and colors, that there would be a vast array of arguments, justifications, and interpretations relying on an equally vast array of historical evidence, linguistic minutiae, cultural context, and other research.

        However, short of irrefutable divine intervention, there would be absolutely no clear winner, because there would be absolutely no objective criteria for establishing which of those stances was correct.

        If you have happened across some such irrefutable, objective demonstration that your own theological approach is the perfect mirror of God’s own truth, please feel free to provide it by whatever means necessary.

        On the other hand, if you have ever been imperfect: misinterpreted, mistranslated, guessed wrong, or made any one of a billion other tiny and understandable mistakes – please do Christianity a favor: Be the first to step down and step away from “I know and you’re wrong” because guess what?

        It doesn’t help anything…


        1. Thanks again for commenting Marvin.

          To your first point, if you need more sources, this should be more than enough for the science end of things:

          And no, the fundamentalists are not here posting their claims, they are taking their issue to the US Supreme Court, which makes this issue a public one. An appropriate topic for a theology and culture blog.

          To your second, there are of course meteoric tons of self proclaimed experts. And then there are the real professionals. Like Ken Hamm and Bill Nye, both claim expertise, but only one is a real scientist.

          Many claim theological expertise, but only some have done the real academic work at serious academic institutions.

          If you were to poll the field of serious biblical scholars and theologians, you would read interpretations very similar to what I have written. Not because this interpretation is wholly my own, but because it was rooted in field of serious theological study.

          So like I offered, if you actually want to discuss the content of my post, I am welcome to the discussion. If not, I am not going debate whether or not there are different opinions on these issues, there of course are. But there are better opinions backed by what the text says and how the the Christian community has interpreted them over time. And it is of course possible to for us to say that the biblical text is saying one thing and not another. This is the point of my post. Christ and the early church did not adhere to the “biblical” view of women and gender issues. Hobby Lobby and other fundamentalists would do well to do some research and study.


          1. Clearly, since by your own statement, your arguments are a reflection of those who have done “real academic work” at “serious academic institutions” we can safely assume that anyone who disagrees does not fall into those categories? After all, “no true Scotsman” would hold an opinion to the contrary, right?

            Presumably, as one who is familiar with real academic work, you’ve encountered the idea that argumentum ab auctoritate is fallacy? You appear to be attempting to sidestep the core of my argument – namely, that both sides are equally capable of making these types of arguments.

            Honestly, how quickly do you think a representative of your so-called “fundamentalists” would be willing to make the same claims on their side? If your only counter is to say, “well those folks don’t count because they don’t have ‘x'” then you are in for a long and bumpy road. Perhaps we can have an “expert-off” to determine who wins? Put all of them in a pile on a big set of scales and see which one weighs more?

            Your comparison to Nye-Hamm is remarkably apt as a demonstration in this case:

            Bill Nye, BS – Mechanical Engineering
            Ken Hamm, BAS – Environmental Biology

            Which one am I to consider the “real scientist?”

            Forgive my indulgence, as this example is somewhat facetious, but I think it serves as a lead in to a more cogent point – unlike in debates of scientific merit, there are no legitimately established criteria for “reality” in arguments of principles, moralities, or faiths. After all, there is a reason that there are many religions and a reason that there are many factions within those religions. You don’t have a “meter” or a “liter” to fall back on as a universally accepted standard for determining “truth” when it comes to issues of faith.


            1. The issue isn’t about those who disagree, it is taking the scholarship and text seriously. If someone disagrees with my summary of biblical interpretation can show, using good biblical scholarship, where I am off, I will help write the article or book to spread the point.

              As one who has earned academic degrees from a Tier 1 research university and an Association of Theological Schools accredited seminary, I am familiar with argumentum ab auctoritate. It is only a logical fallacy when the authority appealed to is an authority in a unrelated field. For example, creationists who appeal to non-scientific authorities to make pronouncements on scientific matters.

              In regards to the rest of your last comment, I am not sure how your point actually deals with the content of my post. When you are ready to comment on the actual issues of biblical interpretation that I posted about, we can continue this conversation. Otherwise, you are just trolling.


              1. I’ve been trying to lay out my arguments pretty carefully. Maybe I’m making them too complex or maybe I’m just getting ahead of myself. Either way, I’m a little disappointed in the “troll” accusation given the time and effort that I’ve obviously put into typing these responses. I guess I’ll try to be a bit more blunt then?

                Here we go…

                (1) As to the point of my last comment:

                Theology is not science.

                You can’t “prove” that a person’s beliefs are correct or incorrect. You can only point out the ways in which they do or do not agree with yours to varying degrees through the use of evidence. Can you say that your beliefs are more likely to be ultimately “correct” based on available evidence?


                But, if you think that you can prove a theological argument to the same degree of rigor as a scientific one then you were woefully misinformed about the nature of the scientific process.

                (2) I’m hoping that your Tier-1 research university professors trained you better – it may be that you were just writing from the heart and not intending for this post to stand up to strict scrutiny, but it has a number of significant problems. Given that you’ve accused me of trolling, I think that maybe I’ve been hinting around them too much, so I’ll try to be more explicit here:

                (a) You have provided three “sources” to support the argument that the four contraceptives in question are not, in fact, abortifacients. All three of those sources are opinion blog posts. None of the authors are scientists or even medical providers. Arguably the most well-researched of the three, the article, provides links to exactly one actual medical study – a clinical trial that was funded by HRA Pharma (that is, the manufacturers of ella).

                None of the evidence presented actually demonstrates that these interventions are not abortifacients. The closest that any come is to say, “Well, there isn’t any evidence that they are!” As I’m sure you are aware, the fact that there is no evidence FOR something doesn’t even rule it out, much less imply the reverse. So why does that matter for our discussion?

                (b) I’m glad you asked! There are a couple of reasons that it makes a big difference, either of which are (in my estimation) bad for your argument. Here’s why:

                (i) Let’s assume that the four interventions in question ARE abortifacients. Now we’re left with a different question, namely – Can Biblical scholarship support abortion? Maybe, but I think that enters into much murkier theological waters than the issues addressed in your current post. Perhaps on a different day?

                (ii) On the other hand, lets assume that they AREN’T abortifacients, just regular old birth control.

                Regular old birth control that does the exact same thing as the 16 other forms of birth control that Hobby Lobby does support.

                Under these circumstances I’d be very curious to hear about why it’s considered repression if I still have access to 16 versions of the same thing? I mean, how exactly does that contribute to the dominance of the patriarchal culture as you so freely claim in your post?

                I could go on, but given our apparent miscommunication up to this juncture, I’m going to leave it at that and give you a chance to respond to these preliminary points.

                Oh, one more thing before I go though – Argumentum ab auctoritate has a much broader scope than your definition allows. It does apply when the authority is held in an unrelated field as you suggest. However, it applies more generally in any situation wherein there is a presumption that an argument is correct by virtue of it being held by the named authority. That is, the appeal can be to an authority in the correct field and still be fallacy without additional support.


                1. Alright Marvin, I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you aren’t trolling (this may be a foolish decision), however, when I keep asking what your point is perhaps I should be asking what is your ultimate goal or motivation? Are you trying to defend Hobby Lobby? The Supreme Court’s decision? Argue for conservatism? Defend fundamentalism? Speaking for religious liberty? If you can’t tell me what your goal in coming and posting here is, then you are trolling.

                  As to your points:
                  Theology is not science. Obviously. Science is about empirically measuring and quantifying the physical world, with the hopes of gaining a greater understanding. Theology is the study of God and questions of meaning in a systematic and rational way. You should know that you can’t prove anything without an epistemological and/or metaphysical leap. So if you are going to go on about proving things, then we better start with Descartes. However, I acknowledge my metaphysical assumption towards God, just as a scientist would have to admit their epistemological assumption of a physical universe (which I make as well). So yes science can give us empirical proofs about the physical world, but we have to rely on disciplines like Philosophy and Theology to provide ways to create meaning, ethics, and systematic knowledge.

                  Now given that the Green family are devout Pentecostals, I cannot say whether their personal beliefs are correct and that was not the point of my post. But I can say whether or not they are Christian. That is the whole point of theological and biblical study.

                  In terms of the science of reproductive methods, that really isn’t the issue of my post, other than to point to questions about the assumptions of the Greens/Hobby Lobby and other fundamentalist Christians. If you want to debate the merits of scientific studies, go to those blogs.

                  Now whether or not an employer can deny access to all FDA approved and government mandated health care options based on religious belief is an issue of repression. In fact, forcing your religious convictions on others is the definition of repression. Forcing your “religious” beliefs based poor biblical understanding is either sheer ignorance or motivated by another agenda. I think Hobby Lobby and the Greens are trying to maintain a patriarchal society and this is an issue for many Christians who take Paul’s words seriously, that there is neither male nor female in Christ.


                  1. My goal is twofold: (1) To demonstrate that the Supreme Court decision was correct and (2) To establish that, just because you disagree with Hobby Lobby’s religious beliefs, does make them any less “Christian” or “Biblical.”

                    Based on your responses, my comments thus far have been centered on the latter. I’ve attempted to demonstrate the following:

                    (a) As you rightly point out, theology does involve the study of God in a systematic and rational way. However, much like in the fields of (for example) psychology or education, there is considerable divergence in both the methods that are considered appropriate and the conclusions that are drawn as a result. It is entirely possible for Hobby Lobby to ascribe to a set of religious beliefs that are both historically consistent with the practices of Christianity and justifiable via sound, exegetical analyses.

                    You disagree, as is your right, and have built an argument around a particular set of Biblical understandings. However, these are interpretations that require assumptions on your part. Let’s look at your link to the junia project blog post on 1 Timothy 2:12 as an example. There, in Step 1, the author makes the argument that Paul was not advocating “male-only leadership.”

                    This is certainly a possible interpretation based on the structure of the text. However, even the author is led to conclude that, “the passage is anything BUT clear on the issue.” Does it clearly say that men only should hold leadership? No. But it doesn’t clearly state the contrary either. It depends on interpretation of the context, the culture, and related passages, as you well know.

                    The key element I’m trying to stress is that it depends on interpretation. You can’t just denounce the Green’s beliefs as un-Christian on the basis of your interpretation. When you make statements like, “If you were to poll the field of…theologians you would read interpretations very similar to what I have written” it implies several things that simply are not true. Among them, that there are no serious theologians among those that hold contrary opinions. This is either an incredibly arrogant statement about the unity of “true theology” or an incredibly dismissive statement to those earnest students of scripture that hold alternate interpretations from yours.

                    (b) I’ve also tried to point out that, when it comes to talking about the Hobby Lobby folks not understanding the science behind the issue, you probably shouldn’t be throwing too many stones. You argue that their understanding of the issue is rooted in an attempt at “pseudo-scientific” justification of their own, “deeply flawed” beliefs. Yet, your refutation of their understanding is based on the same standards. None of the articles you linked contained any scientific basis for your disagreement.

                    If you are going to be lambasting somebody for believing something without evidence (or at least, with shoddy evidence) you should at the very least take the time and effort to make sure that you aren’t doing exactly the same thing in the process.

                    Is that more clear? I’ll start a second post to keep these easily identifiable.


                    1. Now that the preliminary objections are out of the way, let’s move on to some other aspects of your argument. There are plenty, but these are just a few to start:

                      (1) “The ruling brings up so many questions, including how it is that a corporation can have a religious belief.”

                      The argument (as per the 13-354 ruling) is that closely-held corporations have long been held to be “persons” in order to protect the rights of those associated with the corporation (such as shareholders, officers, and employees) who would otherwise have to choose between violating their own personal beliefs or forgoing the legal benefits of operating as a corporation. This doesn’t just apply in this unique case, but applies throughout the US legal system and for elements of behavior other than religious belief (c.f. for example, Citizens United v. FEC).

                      (2) “Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me, unless you are a corporation, then make your employees carry it.”

                      As I mentioned in my previous post, it is entirely possible for the Green’s to legitimately believe that these four specific forms of contraceptive are an affront to their faith. I know that it’s fun to stand back and make sarcastic remarks on the Internet about other people’s beliefs, but I would like to think that as a Reverend, you might have been called to a higher standard of discourse.

                      (3) “But Hobby Lobby and conservative Christians are…intentionally using ‘religious belief’ to justify sexism.”

                      There is an extreme form of counterargument to this that would go something like: I can’t see anything more than entitlement that could justify a belief that I’m being repressed because my employer will “only” cover 80% of the entire available field of a given product. I guess by that same logic I’m being repressed when my employer says that they’ll only pay for the generic version of an antibiotic on my insurance?

                      But that leads into an entirely different line of argument and isn’t necessary, because your statement is unwarranted given the context. I direct your attention to the following: (a) Hobby Lobby happily offers access to 16 other forms of birth control. (b) Hobby Lobby didn’t say that their employees couldn’t use the 4 forms in question, just that they didn’t want to have to pay for it. (c) The court agreed and further stipulated that the government had to find a way to pay for those other 4 because it was their requirement to begin with.

                      So, to wrap up, nobody is getting denied access to anything and nobody has to pay for things that they believe violate their beliefs. How exactly does that get shoehorned into, “maintaining a patriarchal society?”

                      I look forward to your comments.


                    2. Hi Marvin,

                      In response to your points:
                      1) Citizens united is not justification for this ruling. The same question applies, how can a corporation have free speech. As a Canadian, I find these rulings absurd. And as someone who lives in a country with limited campaign spending and time, it doesn’t make any sense to give corporations and the rich, such undue influence over politics and now over medical decisions between women and their doctors. The dissenting opinion of the SC justices asks the same question and makes the same points.

                      2)Just because you believe something, doesn’t mean you should. The Green’s should be seeking better theological and biblical information than Bill Gothard.

                      And appealing to some kind of archaic moral sense of what a “reverend” should or should not do is ridiculous. I would suggest reading the scads of pastors commenting and posting about this issue, their blogs are everywhere. What you call sarcastic, I would call prophetic. Because I think Hobby Lobby is indeed putting a burdensome cross on the backs of their female employees which leads me to the next point:

                      3) This is not about possible access, but equal access. As someone who lives in a country with single payer health insurance system, I believe equal access to health are is a human right. Justice Ginsberg makes the salient point that an IUD costs the equivalent of a month’s salary of a Hobby Lobby employee. It it not enough to say you can access it with your own funds. This is about equality. Government mandated health care is about equal access, to say that people can pay their own way is an argument made by the rich. Someone’s religious rights means they don’t have to make use of health options that contravene their beliefs, but it should not prevent others equal access to all available government approved health care. Make no doubt about it, this is a small step in a larger effort by fundamentalist Christians, like the Greens, to maintain and perpetuate a patriarchal society and to control women’s bodies (just like biblical men did in Genesis).


                    3. Hi Marvin,

                      Before I respond, I will say that I apologize for the troll tweet and my suspiciousness of your intentions. Thank you for sharing your goals in posting here. I am pretty suspicious of trolls in comments sections, and I will own that. You have been engaging in discussion (as I requested at the end of my post), even if we have been speaking past each other so far.

                      To your first point, I don’t feel qualified to determine the correctness of the Supreme Court’s decision. The supreme court itself is deeply divided on the decision given the dissenting opinion.

                      Now, I certainly have questions about whether corporations have have free speech or religious beliefs. I have questions about whether the religious views of employers can exempt them from providing benefits mandated by federal law.

                      But the bearing of my questions on the correctness is minimal. This is an issue for politicians and citizens of the US to decide.

                      To your second point,

                      I think I have provided a number of sources. But here are some more:
                      A well sourced blog post:
                      A New York Times article:

                      I never said Hobby Lobby couldn’t subscribe to Christian beliefs that are different than mine… I said they don’t hold beliefs consistent with Christianity. They ascribe to a small evangelical and sectarian group that is dismissed even by fellow evangelicals. You can read more here:

                      Hopefully this answers your questions.


  3. Fair enough, I understand the probability of trolls on the Internet is relatively high.

    1) Citizen’s United is not justification for the ruling; it’s an example of a similar ruling. The fact of the matter is that both statute and legal practice allow for the existence of corporate personhood. To overturn the concept of corporate personhood would require far-reaching revisions to US law, federal regulations, state regulations, and legal precedent. Not to mention that these revisions would profoundly alter the structures for economic investment, trade, liability, and partnership agreements in unpredictable, but likely highly detrimental ways.

    These points aside, it’s easy to replace this with alternative conditions that pose the same problems. Assume for example that Hobby Lobby were a sole proprietorship instead of a corporation. The same issues arise and would require the same types of conversations.

    I saw the quote from Ginsberg in the image in your article. The majority document explicitly addresses the criticisms of the dissent in their ruling. They state, for example, “We do not hold, as the principle dissent alleges, that for-profit corporations…can ‘opt out of any law they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.’” They subsequently proceed to demonstrate the very narrow scope of application required under RFRA (the applicable law in this case).

    It’s fine if you don’t like the ruling, but that has no bearing on its legitimacy within the current legal framework of the US. Would that we could all live in Canada, but we can’t.

    2) As a reverend, I would expect that you would be aware that words have incredible power. You can certainly choose to use your words to deride and mock and alienate. I think that you are correct though, the alternative is definitely an archaic moral philosophy – a gentle tongue is a tree of life; the words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing; the Lord detests the thoughts of the wicked, but gracious words are pure in his sight.

    I know that there are “scads” of pastors commenting on the issue in much the same terms that you are. I can only assume that they also believe that it is justified given the seriousness of the issue. However, as you rightly point out, just because you believe something, doesn’t mean you should. If you were addressing one of your church (or even community) members regarding some wrong they had committed, I sincerely doubt that you would choose a witty turn of phrase. After all, “if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore that person in a spirit of gentleness.”

    3) Should women be treated as equal members of society? Absolutely.
    Should they be allowed to pursue whatever forms of medical treatment they deem necessary (in consultation with their medical provider of course)? Certainly.
    Should private corporations be held responsible for providing for medical care? Absolutely not – as a fundamental right, that should be the government’s job. On that basis alone I can support the Hobby Lobby decision. I don’t care whether it really is a religious belief or not, because the same type of arguments can be made from a financial perspective for any number of treatments. That’s why pre-existing medical conditions were such a problem. You can blame the Greens, but it’s their company and their money and they should have the right to do what they want with it – the fix doesn’t come from making them do things, it comes from correcting the larger system.

    I have a deeper problem though.

    If this is about equal access, then why have I not seen an outcry against much more vast injustices that occur on a daily basis? Approximately 16% of the US population doesn’t have insurance. That is over 50 million people, significantly more than the entire population of Canada. Hobby Lobby is a privately held corporation that doesn’t have to offer insurance at all if they so choose. Yet, there is vast outcry at the fact that they’ve requested a religious exemption from offering 4 of 20 types of contraceptives. On the other hand, there are meek chirps from the few concerned with the plight of the nigh incalculably more vast legions of uninsured.

    But that leads to deeper and even more serious concerns.

    An estimated 6-7 million children under the age of five die every year. An estimated 2/3rds of those deaths were preventable. Where are the blogs and the articles and the humorous yet damning twitter posts?

    Millions of people, including an estimated 2 million children are victims of human trafficking in various forms including forced labor and sex slavery. Where are the front page news articles, the trending hash tags, and the picket signs?

    How is it that there can be such outrage and uproar over a thing so relatively small, while literally thousands of people each year (in both Canada and the US) take their own lives?

    These are the questions that occur to me as I sit here at night, pondering your responses.


    1. Hi Marvin,

      Thanks for your comment again, I think we are getting down our real points of difference.

      1) I don’t think it is my place to determine the legitimacy of the SC ruling, or the laws of the United States. Like you said, I can ask questions or dislike them, but that is also why I continue to choose to live in Canada. We may disagree about the appropriateness of those laws, but I think we are saying the same thing about the process. This is up to politicians and citizens to sort out. Not me.

      2) I wish my words had as much power as you think they do. Maybe in my Grandfather’s era his words as a Lutheran Pastor did, but I don’t carry that same place of honour in my world.

      That being said, when members of my community do things are dumb as Hobby Lobby has asked to do, I have called them out on it. It is not my job to sugar coat, but to speak with a prophetic voice as one called by the Church to do so.

      3) I would point you to the has tag #firstworldhungerproblems being used by two pastor/bloggers on the Moonshine Jesus show

      I would point you to the moral marches happening in NC.

      I would point you to bloggers like Rachel Held Evans, Micah J Murray, Mark Sandlin, Matthew Paul Turner, Zach Hoag. There are many more, they are talking about these issues and others.

      Finally, I would say, I have no idea why there hasn’t been more outcry regarding health insurance in the US, but I know that there has been much.


      1. Apologies for my absence – life intervened and I haven’t had free time to get back to this. Once more into the breach:

        1) I think the difference is that your language frames your questioning and dislike as though it has the force of morality. That type of framing makes a presumption of theological support for your position that, as we have discussed, is reliant on interpretation. I don’t mind that we disagree; I think it can even be a good thing. You have to know that the way you do something matters though – when you come into an argument casting everybody who disagrees with you as fundamentalist misogynists, it’s not going to go over well.

        Speaking of things that matter:

        2) I think that our grandfather’s generation was more careful with their words and that’s probably why they had more impact. As I mentioned above, the way you do something matters. If folks perceive that you are running headlong into controversy, painting all who disagree as patriarchal supremacists, they aren’t going to take you as seriously as they might if you offered a measured and balanced response.

        You’re right though, it isn’t your job to “sugar coat” – it’s just wise for you to do so. I’m sure the fact that all of those phrases in my response were taken directly from the Bible was not lost on you. There are plenty more. After all, it’s the soft answer that turns away wrath and the harsh word that stirs up anger. Let’s not forget that it’s the gentle tongue that breaks the bone.

        You can be confrontational without being offensive and force reflection without being judgmental. Nothing about these verses suggests that you shouldn’t speak the truth – they simply provide guidance on how to do it correctly.

        3) First, you didn’t really respond to my initial paragraph.

        Second, I think it warrants pointing out that “being used by two pastor/bloggers” is hardly a glowing commendation. I appreciate that you provided the small handful of examples, but suspect that in doing so you may have sidestepped my larger point. Namely, it seems that the Christian establishment writ large is ever so eager to publicly die on the glamorous hill of equal rights but largely bypasses these critical and quite literally life-threatening issues.

        Are there a few folks here and there trying to fight for these issues? Sure, but seemingly nothing stirs the barely contained moral outrage of the Christian blogosphere like someone not getting access to additional forms of birth control or not getting to marry whom they please.

        Are these issues injustices? Sure, but there are much bigger and more painful injustices that garner relatively so little attention that it’s just plain disturbing.


        1. Thanks for replying again Marvin.

          1) I don’t characterize everyone who disagrees with me as misogynist fundamentalists. I characterize those who use the bible to justify patriarchal attitudes and actions as misogynist fundamentalists. And I do believe my interpretation has moral force and theirs does not. And that is because I believe I have a better understanding of scripture, theology, doctrine and historical context than the Greens, Bill Gothard and even SCOTUS.

          2) I think your characterization of my grandfather’s generation is inaccurate. Besides that, in this case, offensiveness is in the eyes the beholder. If people are offended by how I have written about Hobby Lobby, that is their issue. I cannot make myself responsible for the feelings of others… that is an unreality understanding of boundaries and self. Besides a lot of people were offended by what Jesus said. The Gospel is offensive to many.

          3) Again, Christians are not side-stepping issues of hunger… particularly liberal/progressive Christian bodies. Churches often run some of the most well respected and far reaching aid organizations on the planet. And as I pointed out, bloggers and authors are talking about and promoting those causes.


  4. (1) Yes, you believe.

    As I’ve tried to point out earlier, you can say that you have a better understanding of all of the aforementioned, but that doesn’t make it true in anything except your belief.

    If you were, for example, to go and ask a respected Catholic Biblical scholar about an issue like “the ordination of women,” I imagine you would characterize the response as Biblical justification of a patriarchal attitude. Naturally this would make that scholar a misogynist fundamentalist by your definition. I think, however, that you would have a difficult time winning the argument that you have better scriptural, theological, doctrinal, or historical understanding than that person.

    That’s not even really the point though.

    The point, in case it isn’t clear, is that you shouldn’t call people names on the basis of your belief, even if your belief is correct. In fact, you shouldn’t call people names at all; both because you should be better than that AND because it doesn’t…help…anything. Need a practical example?

    Next time you go to tell your wife she’s made a mistake, why don’t you lead off by telling her that she’s stupid? I’ll be interested to hear how that works out for you.

    It also serves nicely to demonstrate the next point:

    (2) You absolutely can make yourself responsible for the feelings of other people – this isn’t even a Christian-specific issue. The only thing you get to choose is how many people you care to accept responsibility for – unless you’re willing to tell me that you have an affected nonchalance re: the feelings of your family and friends?

    Will there always be people who are offended by things that you say? Definitely – but that doesn’t mean that you should deliberately choose speech that you clearly understand will be interpreted as both offensive and hostile; exactly the opposite in fact. You can’t just waltz past verse after verse espousing gentle speech and careful control of your tongue by throwing down phrases that read like they were ripped out of a self-help book.

    Also, I think it may be unwise to compare, well frankly anything that you have to say, to the Gospel. I don’t think that there are any relevant parallels to be drawn between, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and “people who want to stop birth control are misogynists.”

    (3) Sure, all that stuff is true, but nobody gets mad about it – that’s my point.

    I suppose to avoid the inevitable, “but there are some people who get mad” comment: Yes, there are some, but not nearly as many, and not nearly as loud. My point is that Christians are more than happy to work quietly and calmly to combat all of these life-threatening problems. Why not on birth control? Or alternatively, why no screaming from the rooftops about the actual life-threatening problems? If it were one way or the other, I could get behind it – otherwise it just smacks of attention-seeking and/or hypocrisy.


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