Conservative Christians hail Hobby Lobby as a defender of morality and freedom, but they are funneling millions to a country that flouts human rights and religious liberties. ERLC's Russell Moore responds to claims that this compromises the retail giant. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Cozier - http://bit.ly/UEwodr)

Conservative Christians hail Hobby Lobby as a defender of morality and freedom, but they are funneling millions to a country that flouts human rights and religious liberties. ERLC’s Russell Moore responds to claims that this compromises the retail giant’s credibility. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Cozier – http://bit.ly/UEwodr)

Today at The WeekI published a column titled, “Stop calling Hobby Lobby a Christian business” in which I discuss the ethical implications of their business dealings with China.

“Every time you buy a decorative platter from Hobby Lobby with a Bible verse stamped across it, you have funded the company’s fight against the HHS contraception mandate,” I wrote. “But you’re also sending a chunk of change to a country that forces people to abort their children, flouts basic standards of workplace dignity, and denies more than a billion people the right to worship.”

Setting aside whether a business can be accurately called “Christian” (only individuals are given the title in the Bible), we should all agree that an organization who takes the title should be held to high standards. The same is true for Christian individuals. The decision to follow Jesus is not a call to perfection, but a call to a moral posture.

Sometimes consumers don’t have much choice with their purchases. But when given the choice, Christians should always opt for the most ethical option. I never buy coffee unless it is certified fair trade, for example. It may cost me more money, but I don’t want my purchases to keep 12-year-old Costa Rican children in poverty. Hobby Lobby has a choice in where they purchase the goods they sell, but in my opinion, they are not opting for a more ethical choice. Because they’ve chosen to label their business as “Christian,” I think it is wholly fair to raise this issue.

Russell Moore is president of The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Russell Moore is president of The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.

But as my dad used to say to me growing up, “It’s a mighty thin pancake that has only one side.” Others do not view Hobby Lobby’s business practices the same way I do. One such person is Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and a vocal supporter of Hobby Lobby’s fight against the HHS contraception mandate. He is a first-rate thinker whose opinions I respect even when we disagree. I invited Dr. Moore to provide his perspective on the matter, and I’ve published his comments in full. I encourage readers to consider both my column and his response below:

The line of questioning here is a red herring. There is no question that the Chinese government is brutal, repressive, and dismissive of even the most basic human rights. This is seen in the murderous one-child policy, the crackdown on freedom of worship, the abuse of political prisoners, and the smothering of dissent. That’s why the ERLC and other evangelical groups have highlighted the human rights violations in China, and called the church to stand in solidarity with the persecuted church there and elsewhere.

That said, the question isn’t whether the Chinese government is awful, but how do Americans help to bring about change there. Very few would argue that evacuation from the global economy would do so.

The stance of the American government, under both Democratic and Republican Administrations, has been that a China disengaged from the free world is a China in which human rights are even more imperiled. History would suggest that open trade, in most cases, tends to help the development of political rights rather than hinder them. Trade with companies in China is hardly an endorsement of the government’s policies. If that were the case, every American who has purchased anything “Made in China” is automatically and directly morally implicated in China’s immoral government policies, and I don’t think that’s so.

If the Green family believed that a boycott of all Chinese businesses would bring the Chinese government around on human rights, I’m quite certain they would do so. And so would many of us. But that’s hardly the case.

The Greens cannot control the decisions made by the Chinese government. They can, however, direct their own actions. And, as Americans, they can participate in a democratic republic in which the people are ultimately accountable for the decisions of their government. Buying products from companies that operate in a country that aborts children is not the same as being forced by the United States government to purchase directly insurance that does the same.

Someone with a conscientious objection to the death penalty isn’t implicated in capital punishment because she buys oranges from Florida, where capital punishment is practiced. She would reasonably, though, protest if she were forced to sell lethal drugs to the state for that purpose or if she were compelled to pull the switch on the electric chair.

The Christian moral tradition has always held a distinction between direct, personal involvement in sin and living in a world in which sin exists. Jesus and John the Baptist do not ask their followers to boycott the Roman Empire by refusing to serve as soldiers or tax collectors. They do tell them they must stop extorting and cheating (Lk. 3:12-14; 19:8-9). The Apostle Paul doesn’t call Corinthian Christians to stop all economic activity in Corinth simply because there is idolatry and culture-sponsored prostitution there. But they are forbidden from, for instance, doing “commerce” with the temple prostitutes (1 Cor. 6:15).

Whether one thinks one ought to do business with companies in China, this is obviously a very different question from whether the government ought to force employers to pay for drugs that cause abortions. The Greens have put their entire business on the line for their convictions about freedom of conscience and religious liberty for all.

Russell Moore,
President, The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

100 Comments

  1. Jonathan, before you accused the Green family in a national magazine of hypocrisy on a global scale, and essentially perpetuating human rights violations and child labor and female suicide and other sordid things in China, did you do any of the following:

    1. Contact the Green family for their perspective on the matter.
    2. Visit the massive Hobby Lobby factory complex where a vast amount of Hobby Lobby product is produced. See, Hobby Lobby does actually make a lot of products here in the United States.
    3. Give any thought to the issue of balance? What about the way Hobby Lobby treats its employees? When the economics make it no longer feasible to produce a certain product internally, they invest in retraining the employees who might have lost their jobs in how to make other products. They invest in their employees in countless ways, actually, and pay them much better than market forces along would dictate. What about the way Hobby Lobby gives a huge proportion of its profits to worthy causes? What about its commitment not to make its employees work on the sabbath, even though it cuts into their market share?
    4. Or did you speak with someone who might give a different perspective on the best way to engage a communist government and bring about change? Did you perhaps offer at least one sentence of balance, such as the points made by Moore — and an editor cut it out? Please tell me you had at least one sentence nodding toward an alternative viewpoint.

    I can respect many of your articles and disagree with them at the same time, but this piece published in the Week is a huge disappointment — and frankly I think you owe them an apology. These are not just cartoon characters. They’re real people with real families, who employ real people with real families, and you effectively just accused them in front of the world of some pretty terrible things — in a very unbalanced way.

    • Well said. This is a hit piece plain and simple. He doesn’t attempt to be well rounded whatsoever. Other than the purpose of telling ‘us dumb conservatives’ not to support Hobby Lobby, what is his purpose? Does he want us to give them less support in the SCOTUS case? I am grateful Moore provides some good, thoughtful perspective.

    • On basic principle of incorporation, they cannot possibly be considered a “Christian company” or any kind of faith. Religious beliefs can never be sanely imputed to a for profit corporation. The “Christian” tag is nothing more than marketing. It has nothing to do with the nature of the company, its an irrelevance to how it operates and is treated under the law.

      The only ethic we have really seen from Steve Green is “might makes right”.

      He has consistently used his wealth and power to treat other human beings as his property/playthings, even local governments. His fight over healthcare coverage has entirely to do with the notion that his employees are personal property. Conscripted acolytes to his religious beliefs. Add to that the outright corruption of the local public school district where HL is based in trying to enact a very illegal “Bible study” course, and you have a person who really has no regards for others.

      • Larry, heads up:
        “Religious beliefs can never be sanely imputed to a for profit corporation”

        Oh, I think religious beliefs can be ‘sanely’ applied to any thing at all.
        Just a matter of the cherry picking the religious are ready to do.

        • Not true. Natural born people can have religious beliefs. It is even constitutionally protected. It makes operational sense. Whether you want to take them seriously is another matter. :)

          You can’t say it with a straight face for a “legal person” who is essentially a form of property interests composed of many people and assets working in concert for profits and to avoid direct personal liabilities of its ownership.

      • Religious beliefs can be legitimately imputed to a corporation if if it solely owned by people who have a religious faith and who are explicitly basing their corporate actions on that faith. It doesn’t have legal significance, but it does have ethical significance, and it’s a lot more than marketing in the case of HL. To say it’s an “irrelevance to how it operates” is demonstrably false: They aren’t open on Sundays for explicitly religious reasons, even though that undoubtedly costs them business.

        The Greens aren’t claiming that employees are “personal property.” The employees are free to use contraception and abortion if they want–on their own nickel. Which, of course, has been common practice throughout the history of health insurance; they’re simply asking to maintain the status quo. The problem is the totalitarians in the administration who want to define what everyone must have for insurance to be considered legitimate.

        • The closed on Sunday is also just for show. The stockrooms and back-storage areas are open on Sundays, and employes in those areas, away from public view are required to work on Sundays. Another example of their showcasing their “Christian principles” only when it is designed to earn them points with religious conservatives.

  2. Oh look, Merritt is trying to make noise to generate web traffic with a phony scandal and Moore is thoughtfully leading and providing informed commentary.

  3. John Robinson

    Well, Hobby Lobby does have the usual chinese stuff, but they also have
    American made canvas for painting, the only place to get USA made.

    And they have Exacto blades (China) and a brand called Xcell, made in USA.

  4. Dr. Moore’s comments are right on, and he immediately identifies the issue: Merritt’s logic is a red herring.

    Like I said in my blog response, Merritt’s argument-that HL is hypocritical to object to the ACA mandate-is completely absurd. The contraceptive mandate runs afoul of legal precedent and will hopefully be thrown out as such. Whether HL is consistently Christian (I believe they are, given their working conditions and fair wages) or not is completely irrelevant to whether they can object to the ACA.

    • There are plenty of reasons to consider HL’s objection to the ACA mandate absurd. This is not a particularly good one.

      I would not take Merritt’s approach because it assumes the validity of the existence of a “christian company” (for profit entity). The very concept is an absurdity.

      Unlike Citizens United, big business is avoiding any sort of amicus briefs in support of HL. Most see HL’s actions as undermining the nature of corporations and attacking the status which serves them so well.

  5. Why does Mr. Moore perpetuate the falsehood that the Affordable Care Act forces companies to pay for abortions? That’s simply false. It’s not true.

    Apparenlty Hobby Lobby’s principal objection to the Affordable Care Act is based on the same falsehood.

    • That’s baloney. You have just arbitrarily declared that a fertilized egg is not a fertilized egg unless it moves from Place A to Place B (implantation in the wall of the uterus). You have also ignored the evidence that the “morning after pill” not only works to prevent implantation; it also will kill any zygote that happens to be implanted.

      Look — what is the all-fired need to force people to pay for the Pill? You want it so much — you pay for it. It is, unfortunately, legal. You want to snuff your early children? Do it on your own damned dime. None of this has anything to do with health, but rather with thwarting what is healthy. Your problem is not that your reproductive organs aren’t working and you wish they were. Your “problem” is that they are working just right and you wish they weren’t.

      • “You want it so much — you pay for it”

        Health insurance benefits mean YOU ARE paying for it! It is a form of compensation for work rendered. An employer has no more say in such matters than they have in telling workers how to spend their paychecks. I guess you think that employees are property of a company.

        The thing about reproductive rights are, they are personal decisions. Meaning that just because you adopt a high and mighty position towards another person’s decisions, doesn’t mean anything. Its not your decision to make. Your input is not required nor asked for in such situations.

        • There is a “mature audience” video up on youtube (has been for a while) filmed in an asian country showing a kicking, wriggling, moving “fetus” post-abort…held entirely within a single hand of some “nurse” who I assume was part of the procedure. Good thing I don’t adopt a high and mighty judgement against this thing as I watch it die, and revert back to my social conditioning leading me to conclude it is only a “fetus”. There is no morality involved, on a personal level or societal level, with removing a mere fetus. In fact, I’m surprised it was moving at all. My best education on the subject of reproductive rights gave me the impression it was a dead mass of tissue. Oh well, live and learn. Someone else’s morality and not mine.

          • That’s nice, but an irrelevance to the situation.

            The problem you have is you are under the delusion that people have to submit their lives for your approval for personal decisions. How very narcissistic of you.

            Your high and mighty moral stance does not negate the rights of a woman to make decisions concerning her own body and life. Not your womb, not your decision. Since she is the only one whose decisions keep a fetus alive, she is the only one whose opinion matters here.

            You don’t want an abortion, you think its immoral and icky, don’t have one. Don’t mistake your opinion as one that is a compelling argument for the availability of choices of others.

          • Nobody gave you the authority to command other people not to make personal decisions you don’t like.

            Does it make you unhappy that nobody has invested you with such power?

      • Many studies have shown, conclusively, that neither birth control pills nor the IUD prevent implantation. Instead, they work by delaying ovulation so that fertilization cannot occur. That said, implantation fails in humans 50-60% of the time under normal circumstances.

        • Of course the discussion misses the important question:

          What business is it of an employer how a given contraception works?

          They are not the end users. How someone uses their health insurance is private, personal and confidential information. An employer has no say in this matter any more than they do in what type of headache pills are prescribed to an employee.

  6. I think the author should remember the adage: Those who can’t sell, teach and those who can’t teach, write.

    Put your own money and resources on the line and then tell me why they’re such a bad company.

  7. Cheap shot! Almost every retail company sells products made in a foreign nation and good Christians – I assume you also – purchase these goods on a regular basis. Do we then support the ills of the nation that fabricated those goods?
    Not a chance!
    Logical thinking is good only when used.
    This is just “off the wall” thinking. Do us in the Christian community some modicum of justice and think more before you take this kind of tack against a firm that is standing up for some moral standard according to their beliefs.
    If we ever will have influence against another nation, it will not come by this method.of attacking a company with Christian Values.

    Let him without sin cast the first stone!

    How about attacking car makers, our military, Sears, WalMart, and the list goes on and on. Communion sets and I suspect even bibles are printed in China. So what?
    Because they sell products made in China… it does NOT follow that they support non-Christian values!
    I think you owe Hobby Lobby an apology and follow it by a heartfelt retraction of such an inflammatory judgemental article.

    • I think Hobby Lobby owes America an apology for wasting the time of the Federal court system with a clearly frivolous partisan based lawsuit and for trying to subvert the Establishment Clause in Oklahoma
      http://www.religionnews.com/2014/04/15/hobby-lobbys-steve-green-another-project-public-school-bible-curriculum/

        • You are right, Steve Green owes America the apology.

          Hobby Lobby is just a separate business entity which Green has a statutory rights of control to for purposes of insulating his personal assets from liability of company operations.

          Green is the one using corporate assets and employees as cheap political pawns and conscripted acolytes for his personal aggrandizement and ego. A major waste of corporate resources and violations of the precepts of incorporation (legal separation from the personal affairs of its ownership). Green should also apologize to Hobby Lobby. :)

      • Larry,

        After reading all of your posts (thus far) in this feed, I find it a confusing how you accuse anyone with a belief different than yours of being “under the delusion that people have to submit their lives for your approval for personal decisions.” This kind of reasoning would be comical if it weren’t so tragic. We are talking about abortion, and not what you want to do in your bedroom with your mistress tonight. The people posting on this feed who believe that abortion is taking a human life are not seeking to make people submit to them for their own personal decisions, they are saying that the taking of a human life is not a “personal decision”. You are using the old, old argument of a woman’s right to her own body. Quote, “Your high and mighty moral stance does not negate the rights of a woman to make decisions concerning her own body and life.” That is not the issue here. Never has been the issue. No one is concerned about what a woman does with “her OWN body”. Abortion is not about her body, it is about the body of a human being inside of her. For this BODY, people are seeking protection. It’s not a “high and mighty moral stance”, it’s an attempt to legally, persuasively, and morally prevent as many innocent bodies as possible from being killed.

        If you don’t think the “fetus” is a human being, then at least acknowledge that people who believe it is are not trying to bully women into doing what they want them to do, they are trying to save the lives of other human beings. Is that so wrong?

        If you just don’t like it, then use the same legal means available to all of us to fight against those who seek to prevent abortions in this country. And if you lose, take it like a man and stop whining about the need for people to apologize to America. Really, an apology for exercising his (SG’s) rights? Or maybe you are just angry that you don’t have his money or position or whatever it is that he has and that you obviously lack; that which gives him social and political influence but the lack of which has relegated you to sitting in your home “fighting” a war with words on “no name” blogs against imaginary enemies. Embarrassing to say the least.

      • Wrong again. As the article you link to notes, the Supreme Court has repeatedly stated that the Bible may be legitimately studied in an academic rather that devotional way in the public schools. Indeed, I would argue that one cannot gain a thorough understanding of the history of the world or the English language without some study of the Bible. That’s not subverting the Establishment Clause; it’s blocking the perversion of that clause that pretends that the public sphere is supposed to be a religion-free zone.

  8. It might also be kept in mind that low or lower-income families have to buy what they can afford. That may mean going to Wal-Mart or Dollar General and buying things that are made in China. Are they any less Christian for doing so?

  9. I believe Moore too quickly dismissed participation in unjust systems as sinful–as he doesn’t want to recognize how easily millions of Christians are implicated. There’s not as direct a connection between American consumers and China’s child policies that result in abortions, however we are more directly connected to how China’s workers are treated when we purchase products made there. One of the ways I seek to limit my culpability is by not investing (and making money off of companies that are connected to the exploitation of other human beings. I try to be ethical with my shopping as well, but as we all know, that’s not easy.

  10. I think you both raise good points… JM’s original post incriminates me, because I buy stuff from China and in general I find that purchasing decisions when it comes to ethics feels overwhelming and I never feel sure what the best approach is…

    RM’s analogy about selling lethal drugs to the state of Florida is off though. The proper comparison to the hobby lobby court case would be helping to BUY the lethal drugs… And guess what: all tax paying Floridians do this whether they approve capital punishment or not, and we don’t consider it a breach of religious liberties.

  11. The Great God Pan

    “[W]e should all agree that an organization who takes the title [of ‘Christian’] should be held to high standards. The same is true for Christian individuals.”

    We should, should we? Well, I don’t agree. If I held Christians to high standards, I probably wouldn’t find any anywhere. About the only things I expect from Christians are raging hypocrisy and smug self-regard.

    “The decision to follow Jesus is not a call to perfection, but a call to a moral posture.”

    Ha! You’ve got that right. I would agree that Christianity is about moral posturing rather than actual morality, but I don’t think that’s what you mean. I”m not sure what you mean, actually. By this standard, I would think you’d agree that Hobby Lobby is authentically Christian: They have adopted a moral posture, and they see no need to live up to it because, as the ubiquitous Christian bumper sticker tells us, “I’m not perfect, just Saved.”

    • You’re right. Christianity, or a religious worldview, is at its most basic form an ideal. An ideal scenario. And ideal way to live. So of course, people won’t always live up to it all the time. It makes those who publicly claim to be christian easy targets for when they fail.

      Alternatively, and to easy our personal and social sense of guilt, we could choose a worldview absent an ideal that called for responsibility and accountability. You know, lower the bar a little. And then rip the mess out of any christian who fails publicly…point out their hypocrisy. Use easy terms like bigot, etc. Paint them as haters.

      It makes us all feel better. Just read the comments on this board alone and you’ll see it over and over and over. What possible motivation could drive people to do this and spend their lives using this tactic? What do they gain? I say its becauss it makes them feel better about themselves….so basically the motivation is to feel good. Can’t say I blame them…..but I can’t logically support it. After all when you stand for everything, you stand for nothing. Such is secular humanism.

      • What kind of responsibility or accountability comes from outsourcing moral decisions to outside “higher” authority? Absolutely none. Christians are the most morally relativistic people out there.

        You complaint about atheists is really more appropriate to people who follow your form of Christianity.

        All blame and responsibilities are put upon “God’s word” and nothing to one’s self. Never mind that you chose to interpret scripture according to your own ideas. Never mind that you are merely using excuses for one’s actions instead of taking personal responsibility.

        As for talk of haters, you are in no position to speak of the subject. Anyone who wishes that someone, “should be castrated and plugged permanently” is clearly a hater. You are a typical lying irresponsible hypocrite one comes to expect from those who proudly proclaim their religious piety in public at others. You are better off following the advice of Matthew 6:6
        “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door…”

  12. Since Jonathan has replied to me in Twitter, and I find the 140-character limit constraining, I thought I’d respond here. The gist of the response is: Hey, you don’t hold Patheos bloggers (I’m a Patheos guy) to the same standard, do you?

    To which my answer is threefold.

    First…really? Your argument is that there are bloggers whose standards are just as low? “They do it, too”? I’m not out to score points here. This isn’t a game. It’s not a debate for debating’s sake. I’m asking you to reflect on your *own* behavior (which stands or falls on its own virtue, not on the actions of others) and apologize to a family you unfairly maligned.

    Second, I try. I do try to uphold the same standards for any Christian who joins the public conversation. I have a pretty high sense of the obligations of believers who enter into the public square — that we should model a better, more informed, more charitable kind of conversation. I encourage bloggers in the Evangelical Channel (the channel I manage-edit) to do the same things I’m encouraging JM to do here. They fail, and I fail, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t uphold the standard and strive for it.

    The piece in The Week fell short of journalistic standards and Christian ethical standards, in my view. This article felt more like Breitbart than the New York Times. I think, JM, you’re letting the online scorn game get the better of you here. Write something nasty on a public figure, and boom, you get a platform. We shouldn’t play that game.

    Third, Patheos is a community of bloggers and not a national magazine. You find this a convenient distinction. It’s also a meaningful one. We do not edit our bloggers (we exercise discretion on whom we invite to join us, not on editing what they write), and freedom of expression is really one of our highest values (for obvious reasons when you’re running a multi-religious site). So while I want to model and encourage a better form of public engagement, I’m not in a position to enforce it. But there are several categorical distinctions between a 22-year-old student who happens to be a talented blogger and writes for 1000 readers and a professional journalist making powerful accusations against a family in a national magazine. If you can’t agree to that, I feel like you’re unwilling to look at the matter honestly.

    I can imagine a good and fair piece here, challenging the Greens to think about their business with China. A little humility would have gone a long way. Instead the piece was filled with brash accusations and not the slightest attempt to reconstruct how the Greens might see the issue. That’s just trading in anger and accusation, and it’s unworthy of you. I don’t typically engage in these kinds of conversations but the truth is, you can use your abilities for much better ends than this. And sometimes you do. You just missed the target on this one. It’s not that hard to pick up the phone and call DeMoss. Heck, it’s not that hard to pick up the phone and call Hobby Lobby, or any number of friends who would probably be willing to offer some counter-evidence to texture your article.

    I always try to imagine my interlocutor sitting next to me, reading over my shoulder. If I’m writing a piece critical of X, how would I feel if I sat down in their kitchen and read them my article? This piece from The Week doesn’t pass this test. And soliciting comments from RSM, then not including them but posing them on your blog as though it were a response, is…hmm. It doesn’t feel quite right to me.

    Anyway, we all have our bad days. I’ve had to apologize for things I’ve written before, because faithful readers told me (and eventually I had to agree) that I had gone too far. I hope you’ll come to the same place here. Sincerely.

    • Jonathan Merritt

      Timothy,

      Beyond any of the critique, I’m dumbfounded that you’re publicly criticizing me without contacting me for publicly criticizing an organization without contacting them. I am literally shaking my head. I see this all the time from Christians who lack knowledge of how opinion writing works, and I’m just beside myself that the irony is lost on them. I wouldn’t even have seen this comment had someone not told me it existed. How’s that for consistent “Christian ethical standards?”

      Furthermore, when it comes to “Christian ethical standards” where exactly do you see the differentiation being made in the text about the difference between people expressing opinions through digital content hosted on a website and people expressing opinions through digital content published on a website that also prints a magazine? The point is, it is not there. So if you think this is unethical by Christian standards, then the same standards should apply at Patheos. But they do not. Because you’ve created an arbitrary ethical category.

      That leaves us with the matter of journalistic standards. Exactly which standards of opinion column writing are you saying I’ve violated? This is a serious charge, brother. And if you believe this is the case, I’m saying to you in this forum then you need to speak with my editor. I’m happy to connect you with him. What I think you’ll find is that he will tell you that you simply don’t understand how opinion columns work, and you do not understand the (unnamed) journalistic principles you’re claiming I’ve violated. I’m sorry to tell you that you’ll be hard pressed to find an editor working at any legitimate publication who will agree with you. I know because I’ve been edited by dozens of them. But if you really believe what you’re saying is true, then please let me know. I’m happy to set that up for you.

      Jm

      • I didn’t read Timothy’s post, nor your rebuttal…..but if Timothy was less than impressed with the logic behind this piece I’m right there with him.

        I did begin to read your rebuttal….got as far as “christians all the time who lack knowledge”…..and shut off.

        Your a flaming lib. A walking, talking contradiction itself. Not a conservative at all.

        But that too was obvious from the actual article.

      • If a company like Hobby Lobby claims to be
        following a High Moral standard above everybody else it should be ready
        to be persecuted viciously if it decides it is really just playing a game.

        Destroy Hobby Lobby with lawsuits.

        • You’re not really a “free market” sorta thinker are u?

          Hmm, lets see….an atheist, by definition one who thinks there is no higher moral authority than himself and his kind, calls for frivolous, business and job destroying lawsuits as vengence against one business publicly known to be christian.

          Yeah, with secular thought like that running the country it no wonder american society is trash.

          • “thinks there is no higher moral authority than himself”

            Lles, are you trying to say that you don’t make moral decisions for yourself? Never exercise personal conscience? That you just follow whatever your given church tells you to do without question?

            I guess so.

            Whatever you do, it has nothing to do with morality. You are making an argument that Christians are merely psychopaths on a divine leash. That is not a very good endorsement on your part.

          • @Les Gnats,

            You said, “an atheist….who has no higher moral authority than himself”

            Nonsense.
            As if you don’t appoint yourself the moral authority of yourself?
            Come on. Grow up.
            You use the Bible not for morality – but to justify as MORAL your persecution of whomever you want to persecute.

            Simple as that. Religion is nothing more than a parlor trick.

      • The Green family are Christians. You claim to be. Jesus told Christians to contact Christians in person. Did you call Steve Green and have a conversation before berating him in your article or not? Or did you justify your disobedience to scripture? It’s a fair question.

        • The Green family is not Hobby Lobby.

          Hobby Lobby is a business entity designed specifically to keep the Green family’s personal affairs out of its own responsibilities and liabilities.

          A person can be a Christian, a for profit company cannot.

          • Thank you! someone finally said the obvious!

            Another thing: it seems to be documented that HL had no problem covering these things prior to the Affordable Care Act. It was only when it became mandated that objections suddenly sprang forth. This smells of politics more than anything.

  13. I think that as Christians we must engage with culture and at the same time check ourselves, especially if we are flaunting around the label, “Christian.” Although I think that it is almost impossible to not support the economy of other countries that are oppressive and unjust, Christian businessmen and businesswomen must interact with their business in a way that causes them to seek solutions towards ending economic injustice. It’s a pity that those who use the label “Christian” in the marketplace have not been the most vocal about these global issues, causing those who are not directly involved in business and economics to try to take a stand when their ventures are so limited. I think that it’s time for businessmen and businesswomen who are Christian to be vocal about ethics and morals in the marketplace.

    • Who “flaunts” the christian label in America anymore? Seems like a rare and brave soul to do that. Pride parades “flaunt”….everyone cheers. Minorities “flaunt” their protected species status….everyone cheers. Christians in America pray…and legal action is taken to stop them.

        • No. I take it back. I don’t actually wish physical harm on anybody. Even the secular sickos who are seeking to normalize their behaviour. I am human too, and wouldn’t really seek to harm another purposefully, even if I completely believe their logic and motivations are disingenuous.

        • No, you were probably more honest in the prior post. You shouldn’t take it back, it was your actual genuine feeling.

          Its not like you are apologizing for being uncivil in the first place. Just embarrassed that you said something that lacks any form of social sanction.

  14. Randy Proffitt

    To be consistent, please inform us whether the computer you typed this article on was manufactured or assembled in a place other than China. You know, to be consistent with the metaphorical stone throwing.

    • That fact that these computers are made in China has nothing to do with religion, it is about capitalism.

      We had a revolution and the capitalists won. Get used to it.

  15. The idea that Hobby Lobby has absolutely no way to impact China’s factory standards (or manufactures in any country) is ridiculous. There are people in the gift industry that work hard to insure their products are made in factories that observe basic human rights standards, regardless of being made in China or good ole ‘Merica.

    Hobby Lobby could do this if they simply wanted to and made a little effort to fight for that on behalf of their “Christian principles” like they are public ally proclaiming to be doing with regards to their healthcare issues they are fighting.

  16. I would like you to research more about those 12 year olds you are trying to “save” by not buying coffee that it’s not labeled Fair Trade. That label means very little to the parents of those 12 year old kids, which rely on the coffee harvest season to make enough money to last for the rest of the year. When they go to a coffee plantation and they are told that they can not bring their kids -of any age- to help them out during the coffee harvest it is devastating to them an in particular for the kids. It means less food, less chance of new shoes, less incentive to go to school. I lived among them, I know by experience.

  17. My family boycotted “made in China” items for a couple of years (boy was that hard!!). Then I talked to several different Chinese students at the seminary I was attending (They were Chinese citizens, not American-Chinese). They did not recommend boycotting China-made goods because they felt it would do no good and could possibly do harm. They reminded me that China is a big place and boycotting is a simplistic answer to a complex problem.

  18. Kudos to Merrit forcing Moore to admit that Southern Baptist’s Hobby Lobby approach to morality is light-years away from the teachings of Jesus. First, Moore missed the whole point of the question at hand and demonstrated that he couldn’t care less about the abused and enslaved of this world who are not of his own parochial little community (white, Southern, Republican, American, Baptist and male) . So much for God so loves the world, not to mention Jesus’ teachings about how the way we treat “the least of these” is the best indicator of our relationship with him. Second, Merit got Moore to defend himself and Southern Baptists by appealing to the American propensity for denying any consequential responsibility for one’s personal or communal actions. We refuse to connect the dots when it comes to our sin. Moore indicates that to be held accountable for sin any involvement must be direct and personal. This is of course thoroughly American. We can always blame the government (who we argue is not us). We have perfected in this religiously dishonest culture the ability to deny responsibility for the consequences of our theologies, of our words, our politics, and our actions (Jesus included in this list our thoughts as well). In this way of thinking if there is no actual human blood dripping from our hands and we are removed far enough from the consequences of our policical, religious, and economic activities then we are de facto innocent. So much for my having to be troubled by my sins having anything to do with the death of Jesus. That was almost two thousand years before I was born so how could I have any responsibility for that? I do have some pity for Moore. He had to go out and sell the company line. No easy task.

  19. Sohan Fernando

    There’s something in both perspectives. But it’s certainly not as simple as saying don’t buy goods from an entity which violates Christian values – that’s theoretically nice, but practically not so simple.
    Because, then you could not buy anything from USA either. USA whose president professes to be a christian but then listens to his children’s “advice” and accordingly decides to say homosexuality is NOT wrong- even though it is quite contrary to Christianity; many other ways too how many people (including her own citizens) would say USA too grossly violates Christian values, e.g., abortion, prostitution, recreational marijuana use, death penalty, pornography, etc. Religious freedom… means you cannot force a private business to sell goods that are going to be used for a purpose contrary to christian values- weddingmcakes, photographic services for example.
    meanwhile, as many american citizens say, what about USA’S very unchristian and quasi-legal if not illegal invasions in many middle east countries, her de-facto terrorizing of innocent villagers in countless afghan and iraqi areas – certainly contrary to true christian values.
    So Things are not as black or white as they seem. rather than yelling judgementally about china, it would be more constructive that we each introspect about such failures in our own families, cliques, circles, businesses, religions/denominations, and country (s).

    • Homosexuality may be contrary to your version of Christianity, but there are millions of Christians who disagree with your interpretation. That does not make either you or them more or less Christian, just interpreting an extremely complex document, written over the course of hundreds of years, translated and retranslated multiple times, and modernized in language, in different ways. Maria von Trapp, or Sound of Music fame stated a very insightful comment about the Bible. I don’t have the exact words, but to paraphrase, she said that it is “the only book that can entertain a 6 year old for hours and yet the most enlightened scholars for generations can never fully understand its meaning.” We are all self-described Christians, even though we do not subscribe to the same Biblical interpretations.

  20. Jonathan, I think you bring up a good topic of discussion concerning Christian business practices and the mass consumption of cheap products made on the backs of other people. However, I do agree with Dr. Moore that this argument is a red herring from the central issue of the limits of government and/or corporate power. On this issue, I think to is helpful to remember that government, in this case, is taking up for the rights of the individual in their choice of healthcare. The government is not mandating contraception or abortion, they are mandating the Hobby Lobby pay for health insurance just like any other American company. The fact of the matter is that this is mostly an economics issue; it will cost Hobby Lobby more to comply with the mandate because it is more employee-friendly than other companies (higher compensation, more hours, etc). Hobby Lobby would have an existential crisis if it had to choose between following ACA or closing the company. This is not an easy issue to solve as far as consequence, but should consequence determine rightness? We do not want the government to be overly controlling of our lives, and rightfully so. However, as materialist consumers we have slowly given more and more of our rights and livelihoods to our employers, many of them who run large corporations. When Hobby Lobby objects to ACA on religious grounds, it is saying that there is something innately godly or God-favored about their company that merits an exception. The problem is that the Scripture never calls a business a person, neither does it say that we should directly prevent sin by force. An hourly business like Hobby Lobby has no business limiting what its employees can do when not at work. Unless you are a salaried employee who is “always on the clock,” when you are not at work, then they have very little say in your life. Instead of suing the government and banking on the favor of the courts, perhaps Hobby Lobby should start new in-company initiatives to help female employees who are pregnant, especially if it was unplanned. It is folly to assume that all Hobby Lobby employees are good Christian people who do not get pregnant out of wedlock (and I hate to say this but “good” Christian people get pregnant out of wedlock all the time). We cannot prevent abortions directly, we do not have that power, but what we can do is try to overcome the evil with genuine good, rather than threaten to completely shutdown the company, cut your losses, and all of your employees. At the end of the day, are your misguided convictions worth the jobs of thousands of employees in already struggling job market? Is that persecution, or simply being arrogantly unwise?

    Now, as to the issue of China and buying goods from there; no one can exonerate themselves from this one. This is not the result of buying sweat shop products, this is a result of love affair with materialism, which while makes legitimate sense in an atheistic worldview, is regrettable and in the need of repentance from a Christian standpoint. The demand for cheap goods instantly is what caused this mess in the first place. Our economy used to be based on high pay from what we produced, now it is based on low pay from what we consume. It is a vicious vortex that we are in: we work to consume and what we consume keeps us in our low paying, under-appreciated jobs. The American lifestyle is not only irresponsible, it is unsustainable and we are proving this by our endless dedication to work ourselves to death to have things that we will ultimately lose. Whether you are religious or not, Jesus’ comment about treasures on earth could not be more spot on. Christians, just like other Americans, consume cheap goods on a regular basis and we are forcing ourselves to be at the mercy of major corporations who are increasingly making our lives harder with their profit-only driven models. Today, it may be Chinese laborers working in terrible conditions, tomorrow it could be us. If the Church does not stand up to an increasingly monopolistic capitalism, I fear that we will all be under the control of corporations and our government will just stand by and watch it happen. We are far more than our consumption and we need start asking the hard questions and come up with bold solutions. This is not an easy problem to fix by a long shot.

  21. I don’t always agree with Jonathan Merritt on all or even most issues, but he must have hit the nail on the head with this article to get this bigoted reaction from the right winger extremists.

  22. Thank you Jonathan…you both made some good points. I have to admit that Moore seems to make a non sequiter argument by comparing a government that forces abortion to a government that allows them. But he also made a good point concerning the limited liability of our personal choices. What I am most impressed with is your willingness to present both sides openly. Thank you so much.

  23. I have a question regarding this sentence:

    “If that were the case, every American who has purchased anything “Made in China” is automatically and directly morally implicated in China’s immoral government policies, and I don’t think that’s so.”

    Could not one use the same logic about the very case that Hobby Lobby is arguing for, that Christians or their company are somehow directly, morally implicated in abortions or their government’s immoral activities if they are forced to participate in the Affordable Care Act? It seems like an argument for having it both ways to me… So, why the outrage about being forced to pay into or out of a system that also provides birth control or even abortions if this logic applies? It seems like the author slipped here and is trying to have it both ways…. another contradiction.

  24. Russel, you defend the purchase of goods from China on the grounds that it is not direct involvement in the practices there, “The Christian moral tradition has always held a distinction between direct, personal involvement in sin and living in a world in which sin exists.” However you fail to see that the purchase of insurance (actually technically the subsidization of insurance purchase of employees) is also indirect involvement. The company is not being asked to sell the drugs or flip the switch, they are being asked to partially fund their employees purchase of medical insurance that happens to include coverage for something they disagree with. They are not directly involved in the decision to use the contraception, in fact even the insurance company is not directly involved in that decision, only the doctor and the patient are involved in those decisions (or just the patient for the over the counter versions). The employer is removed from the act roughly the same distance (ethically, but not geographically) as the purchaser of goods from China is.

    Of course if the government tried to mandate that Hobby Lobby buy a certain percentage of its goods from China I would be just as against that as I am against the basic requirement of mandated coverage in the first place, but once we allow for mandatory coverage making these religious objection safe harbors seems to me to lead directly to religious discrimination in the workplace. The decision of the Court effectively allows Hobby Lobby to fire someone for not having the exact same religious convictions that its owners do.

  25. Yikes, Jon. Limiting your coffee purchases to fair trade is pretty naive. Those of us who source, roast and sell coffee sigh a lot when consumers place such unquestioning trust in certifications that are such a small part of a larger world. Categorical imperative: what if everyone bought only FT coffee? Would it help, or hurt, coffee growers? Personally, I’m not happy about the way certifications assuage guilt among the affluent while complicating life for some small producers. If only things were so simple that such indulgences could effect the grace they purport to signify!

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