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Derek Penwell Headshot

11 Questions for Christian Companies in Light of the Hobby Lobby Decision

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HOBBY LOBBY
ASSOCIATED PRESS

By now you’ve probably heard about the Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The Christian owners of the Hobby Lobby chain of retail stores filed suit, seeking an exemption from paying for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act that covers contraceptive methods it deems in opposition to the Christian beliefs of the owners. The Supreme Court sided with Hobby Lobby, saying in the majority 5–4 opinion that it doubted “the Congress that enacted [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] -- or, for that matter, ACA -- would have believed it a tolerable result to put family-run businesses to the choice of violating their sincerely held religious beliefs or making all of their employees lose their existing healthcare plans.” Because family-run businesses.

Now there’s all kinds of debate about whether the SCOTUS decision infringes on a woman’s right to make medical choices in consultation with her doctor, absent the interference of her employer. There’s also debate about the extent to which this opens up a religious can of worms, allowing for arguments for exemption from a broad swath of laws based on personal religious conviction. All important stuff.

But what caught my attention was a piece on a conservative religious site, arguing that liberal opposition to the Supreme Court ruling was a baseless set of “ridiculous lies liberals are spreading about the Hobby Lobby victory.” In particular, I was struck by the writer’s claim that:

“The justices did not launch an attack on women. Women can still buy birth control, Plan B or whatever abortifacient they want with a doctor’s prescription. There’s just no reason a Christian company should be forced to pay for it.”

It’s kind of small, tucked in there at the end … the assertion of something called a “Christian company.” The author argues that Christian companies, like Hobby Lobby, should be allowed to express their religious convictions by avoiding paying for insurance that contradicts those convictions.

But, simpleminded as I am, I just kept tripping over those two words: Christian company. That sounds an awful lot like Citizens United on ecclesiastical steroids.

So it got me to wondering just what a Christian company might look like, and how it might live out its Christian faith. It raised some questions for me that, if answered Biblically, might give us a really interesting discussion on just how Christianity might operate within the flawed framework of a capitalist system.

So, here are a few questions to help us tease out the implications of something called, “Christian companies”:

  1. What is the rubric for catechizing, baptizing, and confirming companies that want to become Christian?
  2. Are these Christian companies expected to tithe ten percent of their income to a congregation? (Gross or net?)
  3. Do mergers between Christian companies fall under the purview of ecclesiastical wedding policy?
  4. Is a three-way merger of Christian companies a strike against “traditional family values?”
  5. If a Christian company wrongs someone, should that company be subject to church discipline?
  6. Are Christian companies also expected to refrain from law suits, choosing instead to prefer being wronged and defrauded? (1 Corinthians 6:7).
  7. Do we expect Christian companies to take care of widows and orphans, which Scripture tells us is “religion that is pure and undefiled?” (James 1:27).
  8. Is the primary business model of Christian companies to refrain from storing up for themselves treasures on earth, in favor of storing up for themselves treasures in heaven? (Matthew 6:19–20).
  9. To be considered a Christian company do you actually have to live like Jesus said to live, or is it sufficient to produce bumper stickers with crosses and Jesus fish and stuff?
  10. Does the fact that companies can be Christian open up a whole new raft of opportunities to adjectivally Christianize other non-personal nouns--like, Christian tether balls, or Christian parakeets, or Christian mints in Christian waiting rooms for Christian lawyers who practice Christian law? (The possibilities are endless!)
  11. And perhaps most importantly: Should Christian companies be expected to view their Human Resource policies as an embodiment of Galatians 3:28--“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female?”

[Bonus Question: Can we ask Christian companies to start doing their share and bring some deviled eggs or a congealed salad to the potluck, for crying out loud? The rest of us are busy too, you know.]