What Would Jesus Think About Hobby Lobby?
The Supreme Court's recent ruling that corporate theology trumps national law made me think of my late father, a pastor for many years in Parma, Ohio. He once told me the standard for action--including in business--should be "What would Jesus think?"
With that in mind, here are some observations on this theme, which I provide in a spirit of respect for religious freedom and in the hope that they will be understood as a thought experiment rather than an attempt to define Christian dogma.
The Hobby Lobby is "closely held" which means, of course, that somebody owns it and everyone else does not. It is therefore private property.
According to the Bible, however, the view of Jesus and the early Christian church upon the subject of private property was closer to Karl Marx than Adam Smith.
The book of Acts says that under the apostles "all who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one's need."
Therefore, it's likely that Jesus's first instruction to the owners of Hobby Lobby would be to divest themselves of ownership and distribute it equally among all the company's employees.
Since the Hobby Lobby is a family business, its owners presumably intend to pass the personal wealth they've gained from that business on to their children.
However, in the earliest version of the beatitudes, Jesus said "Blessed are the poor, for they shall inherit the earth." He did not say "Blessed are the children of rich people, because they won't have to work."
For many hundreds of years, the official position of the church was that large estates should be deed to the church or otherwise used for charitable purposes.
Therefore, it's likely that Jesus' second instruction to the owners of Hobby Lobby would be to disinherit their children and leave all their money to the poor or, failing that, to the church.
While Hobby Lobby does not issue common stock, it's impossible for a modern corporation to function without making use of the banking system, which is itself dependent upon the concept of lending money at interest.
Alas, the Bible is quite clear on the point that "you may charge a foreigner interest, but you may not charge your brother interest." (Deuteronomy 23:20). Indeed, for centuries, charging other Christians interest was considered the grave sin of Usury.
Therefore, Jesus' third instruction to the owners of Hobby Lobby might be to withdraw completely from the banking system or, failing that, ensure that any banks that they utilize lend only to non-believers.
As everyone knows, the Hobby Lobby is a retail chain that sells arts and crafts supplies.
The Bible says nothing about hobbies per se, but there's no question that the apostles and the early members of the church were serious folk who did not tolerate the trivial. As St. Paul said: "When I grew up, I put away childish things."
Therefore, it's quite likely that Jesus would disapprove of the entire concept of Hobby Lobby's product set, since such activities distract attention from what is truly important, the worship of God.
So, finally, we get to the bone of contention, which is Hobby Lobby's belief that human life begins at conception and that therefore certain types of contraception involve the destruction of a human being.
Jesus, of course, is famously silent on the issue of contraception. However, for nearly two thousand years, it was universally believed that human life was "ensouled," (i.e. became human) not at conception but at "quickening," the point where the fetus can be felt moving.
Indeed, the concept that "human life begins at conception" is quite new, at least to evangelical Protestantism. As late as 1968, Christianity Today articulated in its lead article that "God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed."
Therefore, it's possible (and even likely) that when confronted with the controversy that the Supreme Court has just settled, Jesus might very well wonder what the fuss was all about.
Like this post? To get updates of future posts, sign up for my free weekly newsletter.
GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist
Geoffrey James is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know.