The Hobby Lobby Decision Reveals “Progressive” Christians Can Be Just As Narrow Minded As Conservatives

The Hobby Lobby Decision Reveals “Progressive” Christians Can Be Just As Narrow Minded As Conservatives

Hobby-Lobby-for-Culture-FailI’ve avoided discussing the Hobby Lobby controversy till now if for a couple different reasons.  First, its a local American issue and half the Beyond the Pale readers are not from the U.S.  But more importantly, because I could easily argue either side of the debate.

Honestly for me, there are legitimate concerns on both sides

For my non-American friends, the issue involves a recent Supreme Court case which held that Hobby Lobby, a business corporation, could be exempted from having to provide mandated employee health care that covered certain forms of contraception (specifically those used after conception) on the grounds of religious conviction. (I know what you’re thinking? *yawn*  But try to stick with me)

The moment the decision was announced my Facebook feed was immediately filled with the usual impassioned updates from friends, either celebratory or vexed, depending on their political and / or religious persuasion.

As I mentioned though, I stayed out of the debate simply because I could see legitimate concerns on both side of the argument…

but it seemed almost no one else could!  Sadly this included progressive Christian bloggers.

One of the things that has made me attracted to “progressive” Christianity in the last few years is it’s ability to be more critically thinking and nuanced in its engagement with the world.  I expect “conservative” Christianity to be rigid in it’s positions but I’ve come to realize “progressives” can be just as set in their ways.  For example blogger John Shore leaves no quarter given when he states:

History will not be kind in its memory of today’s Supreme Court ruling, a travesty of justice grounded in the same brutish sexism and classism that has always informed the most egregious and shameful rulings of the highest court in our land.

If based upon its moral convictions Hobby Lobby is allowed to pick and choose the medical benefits it covers, why in the world wouldn’t any other company be allowed to do the same?

A travesty? Mr. Shore, a corporation has simply been exempted for, essentially, having to pay for “the morning after pill.”  You may disagree with the decision but in the pantheon of Supreme Court cases this hardly constitutes a travesty.


Now I don’t disagree with John Shore on everything.  I agree that corporations should not be allowed to “pick and choose” at whim but historically the law has made, at certain times, concessions for deeply held religious convictions. For example Conscientious Objectors from various religious (and non-religious) backgrounds have been exempted legally from conscription.  The Selective Service policy reads:

Beliefs which qualify a registrant for CO status may be religious in nature, but don’t have to be. Beliefs may be moral or ethical; however, a man’s reasons for not wanting to participate in a war must not be based on politics, expediency, or self-interest. In general, the man’s lifestyle prior to making his claim must reflect his current claims.

Obviously people can’t “pick and choose” but thats why we have law and the courts; to determine legitimate grounds for exemption in a pluralistic society.

Frank Schaeffer then comes out swinging by saying in his blog:

Pope Francis must have vomited when he heard the Hobby Lobby news. Nothing could undo the good he has recently done the Church’s image more than yet another case of anti-woman lashing out by a cabal or far right Roman Catholic activists– this time in the Supreme Court.

Pope Francis vomiting?  Over the fact that a corporation will not be forced by the government to pay for what amounts to an “abortion pill”??  I don’t think so…


In Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove’s blog he simply poses 10 questions to the Supreme Court in “couch potato lawyer” fashion with no concession to any legitimate argument made by the majority holding.  One could easily pose an alternative 10 questions to dissenting Justice Bader-Ginsburg because this is such a difficult and nuanced case.

A Plague on Both Your Houses

Here’s the thing.  I agree in principal with most of the arguments made by Shore, Schaeffer,  and Wilson-Hartgrove.  What I find distressing is not their positions but the fact that there is no nuance in their positions.  There is no:

* I realize this is a difficult and complex issue…

* As a Christian who values human life in all forms I admit I am torn…

* I concede that the other side has a legitimate concern in …

Now, as I noted previously, I expect the “conservative” bloggers to be rigid and single minded but I am finding “progressive” writers can often be just as set in their ways.  It feels not so much like they critically thought through their position as much as they have picked a side and are fighting for their team colors.

The result is “progressives” end up being just as narrow minded as their “conservative” counterparts.

I’ve given the “conservatives” a good ribbing lately saying if Jesus showed up today, they wouldn’t like him very much.  I’m starting to think the “progressives” wouldn’t care much for him either.

So in the immortal words of Shakespeare’s Mercutio I say, “A plague on both your houses”.


  • Connie Mudore

    Fundamentalism (i.e..rigidity) comes in all shapes, sizes, religions, ideologies. It allows human beings to avoid thinking. Thinking– in terms of consistency in an individual’s logic– is something I’m beginning to believe most on the planet would do anything to avoid. Examples include: I hate abortion but I think war and the death penalty are OK. It’s awful what Obamacare is doing to the middle class but it’s been OK for decades that the poor and those with “previous conditions” in America have been unable to access healthcare. Racism is a sin but homophobia and sexism are OK. If you have ethical questions about abortion you’re a sexist. As long as I can buy stuff cheap it doesn’t matter that those who made the goods or sell it don’t have a living wage. Etc., etc. Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners and when confronted about this by the Pharisees proclaimed the Gospel of Mercy. Jesus was very consistent. Share, love one another, practice mercy. Both Christian progressives and conservatives get lost when they forget Jesus’ consistency of mercy.

    • Steve

      Great comments Connie!

  • John Caple

    Nicely done Steve!
    After all, “conservative” and “progressive” are really just points along a spectrum of opinion and belief. Neither really guarantees that the one holding that position is open minded or close minded. I have read open minded conservatives and I have read open minded progressives. Unfortunately, both are a bit uncommon. To be open minded one must operate in some degree of grace, allowing others that don’t share our own opinions to still have and express theirs. We have to be able to separate our opinion from our person. And that’s not easy to do, especially if we are passionate about something. We are what we believe, for the most part. But when someone simply disagrees with us we need to be able to see it as a different perspective and not as an attack on us personally. If someone attacks us in the expression of that viewpoint, that is a different matter entirely. They are certainly wrong to attack others. But do we do the same thing? Is it ok to attack those with whom we disagree? Surely within all these controversial ethical and political issues we all deal with, is a fairly broad highway of legitimate positions (right or wrong). Surely I can disagree with my neighbor without vilifying him. And do I think that because I believe something strongly that it must be fact? Even If I am thoroughly convinced of my position, cannot I express it in such a way as to leave some room for my human fallibility? Aren’t you more likely to get folks to listen to your perspective if you are somewhat humble in your approach? You don’t have to change your beliefs a bit. In fact I am not suggesting that open mindedness consists in declaring everyone right. (And sometimes all sides are wrong.) But if you declare that you know you are right and there is absolutely no possibility that you might be wrong in any degree about anything, well, isn’t that the very definition of arrogance? Even if you are right, you are acting arrogantly. Regardless of where you happen to sit along the conservative/progressive spectrum. If you want to be radical, be open minded. You won’t find yourself in a crowded place!

    • Steve

      Thanks John and great to hear from you! Your points are very “Kingdom”. I loved them!

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