This is the most recent post in an ongoing series where I discuss a hot button political topic in a way that moves beyond the talking points to provide a third perspective.
Like many I was shocked today to hear that the Supreme Court had allowed Hobby Lobby to deny their employees contraception in their health care coverage. The right wing of our nation certainly feels as if they have won an unexpected victory. The left is outraged because they feel as if our government has now allowed yet one more corporation to violate an individual’s rights.
Personally I am mostly baffled by the whole situation. Mostly, I am surprised that Hobby Lobby was the focal point of the controversy. To be sure, they are a proudly fundamentalist, Christian organization and make no apologies for being so. They give over half their wealth to fundamentalist causes (like a Bible museum on the National Mall). There are many ordained ministers in their family and their consumer base seems to be made up of home schoolers.
I do not fault them for being fundamentlists (even though I am decidedly not one) but I had no idea that fundamentalists hated birth control. I grew up in a fairly fundamentalist congregation and attended a very fundamentalist private high school. At my high school we were forced to memorize all the pro life talking points. We were tested on how well we could argue against abortion. We were even made to attend a chapel where they showed us X-rated pictures of abortions being performed, just to scare us and win us over. One poor girl fainted in the middle of the presentation. The school was unapologetic.
To be sure, my high school’s rage against abortion was a bit ridiculous but in all the overkill, contraception never came up. They did not talk about it. They did not relate it to abortion. They did not tell us it was evil or proof text any Bible verses to show us how inappropriate it was. It simply was not mentioned. In fact I would even venture a guess that most of my female teachers were on it at one point or another as were many of the women in my local congregation.
Because of that I had no idea that contraception was evil in the eyes of fundamentalists. I have never heard any fundamentalist say it was. Scripture never mentions birth control. I was never told it equated to abortion, at least in the eyes of fundamentalists. Yet all my fundamentalist friends seem to be pretending that this was our stance all along.
In fact, it doesn’t seem like contraception was bad until Obama came out for it. Hobby Lobby was even providing contraception coverage to its employees before the Obamacare mandate.
Now, I am very aware of the Catholic stance on birth control. It is a well thought out theology that flows from their stance on life itself. I respect their stance, though I don’t entirely agree. And I respect the Catholic Church’s desire to opt out of the mandate. In fact, I was concerned with many who blindly dismissed their stance. But Hobby Lobby is not Catholic and their church does not have a stance against birth control.
So at my reading, it seems like the fundamentalist Christians in our country have decided to form an ethic that is based more off of who they hate, than what Scripture actually says. Ironically, they claim to be counter cultural but in fact all they are doing is giving in to the greater culture of hatred that says, “I must hate what you love because my entire purpose is to destroy you.”
With all that said, I was still relieved with the Supreme Court’s decision. Today many have made the argument that the decision means a corporation can make up any religion or religious belief they want to in order to avoid government regulation. So if I decide my religion is about destroying the planet I can now opt to pump toxic chemicals into the air. That argument itself sounds a bit like a slippery slope but I understand that the decision certainly seems to begin that precedent.
However, for some time I have worried that our country doesn’t understand that freedom of worship necessarily entails freedom to form an ethic that might run contrary to the greater culture.
It does seem like many in our country have followed in the way of the Roman Empire who more or less told its citizens, “worship whatever god you want but make sure you take your moral/ethical cues from Caesar.” It seems like both conservatives and liberals are demanding we take our moral/ethical cues from the machinations of the USA political system instead of from the God we worship.
But worship and ethics cannot be separated. The God you worship and the community who worships with you influences your ethical decisions. For our Roman Catholic siblings, their stance on contraception flows out of their worship. To give them the freedom to worship is to give them the power to determine their own moral/ethical identity.
I was afraid many in our government had forgotten that and it was nice to know that at least some in the upper echelons still respect it.
With that said, I still wish the Supreme Court had made its decision on something more substantive than a silly contraception mandate.