I Worked at Hobby Lobby and Saw the Troubling World of Corporate Christianity

By Charity R. Carney

 

It was the most difficult job I’ve ever had. I’ve been a history professor for years, toiled as a graduate assistant before that, and even did a stint as an IT technician. But the three months I worked at Hobby Lobby stocking googly eyes and framing baseball cards takes the cake. I wanted a break from academia but it ended up not being a break at all. I found myself deconstructing and analyzing all aspects of my job — from the Bible in the break room to the prayers before employee meetings and the strange refusal of the company to use bar codes in its stores. (The rumor amongst employees was that bar codes were the Mark of the Beast, but that rumor remains unsubstantiated.)

Three months was enough to convince me that there is something larger at work and the SCOTUS decision only confirms my belief that corporate Christianity (and Christianity that is corporate) has made it difficult for Americans to discern religion from consumption.

As a scholar of religious history, I observe the way that faith intersects with culture. I study and publish on megachurches and my interpretation of this week’s events is informed not only by my experiences as an employee at Hobby Lobby but also my knowledge of recent religious trends. My biggest question after hearing the decision was not about the particular opinions or practical repercussions (which are significant and have far-reaching and dangerous consequences). Instead, my first thought was: “What is it about our cultural fabric that enables us to attribute religious rights to a corporate entity?” In the United States we have increasingly associated Christianity with capitalism and the consequences affect both corporations and churches. It’s a comfortable relationship and seemingly natural since so much of our history is built on those two forces. But it’s also scary.

41 COMMENTS

  1. It will be interesting to see how all this will affect HL’s bottom line. I bet we see a precipitous decline in their profits over the next few months. And I also suspect that very few people other than Christians who agree with them will be signing up to work there.

    They say that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but in this case I’m not so sure.

  2. I hope that you’re right, but when people boycotted Chik-Fil-A after their CEO revealed his antagonism toward homosexuality, christians went out of their way to patronize that business. I’d assume a similar reaction in this case.

  3. Unfortunately Robert I think this will hold true. Same thing happened during the controversy over Mel Gibson’s ‘the Jews really did kill Jesus!’ movie – The Passion or whatever it was called. This is known as taking care of their own.

  4. I consider myself very tolerant of other races, cultures, etc. Having said that, I am sorry to say that religious nuts just creep me out. As someone who actually does purchase a lot of hobby supplies, I will make sure to never use Hobby Lobby again. Furthermore, I will pass this along to the rest of the people I know involved in my hobby.

  5. By Charity R. Carney

    Surprised the HL employer didn’t make her change it to Chastity while under their roof. I’m thinking about Purity Balls, a dance where a daughter swears to her father she won’t do the nasty until marriage. Ugh.

    bar-codes

    Can’t remember what the deal about those are. But I can find out, will go to local HL and ask the manager why they don’t use them, lol.

  6. It’s funny – I expected to read some horrific story of abuse, and this was the best they could do?! Prayer time at work!? How dare they! The story is three shallow paragraphs lacking in any profundity, with one ridiculous anecdote that the writer admits has zero foundation. Did the site just randomly pick someone at HL who hates religious people? The job was probably difficult because her Christian employer probably pushed her to actually work and perform competently. Again, how dare they! The fact that this story omits any kind of detail is indicative of a lack of any really substantive claims (in other words, had she had any, she would have mentioned them.). And with all due respect, regarding her proclamation of difficulty, this was probably a result of coming from academia and especially from being a professor. The fact that she found a stock job at HL difficult coming from being a professor doesn’t say much about being a professor. But again, she doesn’t say anything to support her claim of difficulty – not one thing.

    All sarcasm aside, as a Christian attorney, it amuses me to no end how people utterly fail to understand the Hobby Lobby decision and the limit of its implications on corporate America. As if huge public corporations are going to make similar claims. First, they aren’t; and second, if they did, they would fail under the analysis required by either RFRA or the First Amendment – so calm down, Atheists!

    And in answer to the writer’s trivially easy question ( “What is it about our cultural fabric that enables us to attribute religious rights to a corporate entity?”), I will go ahead and take that one. First of all, the term corporate entity is quite broad. HL is a closely held corporation. The principals are family members and are religious. Why should they not be able to run their business in the manner they choose? It’s not a state entity. I’m guessing the writer finds it offensive that a corporation made of, and run by, a Christian family can dare run THEIR business consistent with their Christian ideals. I find it infinitely more offensive that she implies that it’s okay to force secular ideals on a corporation that was wholly conceived, inspired, paid for and run by Christians. Again, this is not a publicly traded corporation and I can promise you, no publicly traded corporation is going to make a RFRA claim; it WON’T happen.

    (Just an FYI, I registered for this site JUST to post this and it was against my better judgment. I won’t be responding or even reading any replies to this. I’m sure they will all be horrific attacks on my character and fodder for the Athiests, who are by definition, miles ahead of me in the intelligence department. I mean, come on – I believe in God and accept Jesus as my Lord and savior. I must be stupid! There! I made the arguments for you!)

    • And before I leave (just because I missed the editing time), I would suspect that someone may ask me, “do you think any corporation should be able to run it’s business without any restrictions?” I would respond, “NO!” But we already have religiously-neutral statutes dealing with those restrictions. Corporations cannot discriminate on the basis of race, sex, age, disability, etc. So, please do not take my argument as meaning I think, for example, if a corporation is religious, they can omit woman, or blacks from working at their store because they claim a religious belief about it. There are already numerous cases on these issues, and again, they would fail under the analysis required for RFRA and/or the First Amendment.

      • Well Kevin, I hope you feel better! Nice of you to be so judgmental (well, you’re a Christian so I guess that makes it alright) and so nasty (no one can have an opinion if it doesn’t coincide with yours) and so ignorant (like you would know anything about being a professor or an employee of Hobby Lobby). Your rant clearly demonstrates the hysterical mindset of the religious zealot… thanks for demonstrating the problem so well!

        • Robert Jul 9, 2014 at 4:35 pm

          Kevin, it’s not cool to post and run. It’s basically trolling.

          Sometimes people think to post and run, with a refusal to answer criticism, will give them the last word, .. . . .but of course the quality of evidence and rationality of posts, can be analysed and discussed without or without the presence of the original poster.

          Kevin;- I won’t be responding or even reading any replies to this. I’m sure they will all be horrific attacks on my character

          It is of course faith in wishful thinking, to believe that an asserted suggestion of a strawman ad-hom. will save a poor quality biased post, from criticism on a critical thinking website.

          It provides an interesting example for the numerous lurkers who like to read such discussions.

    • Kevin (I am certain you’re still lurking around), your comments, while a bit hyperbolic, are not necessarily unreasonable. This post was certainly not the most robust thing that could be said about the Hobby Lobby ruling (see Ruth Ginsburg’s scathing rebuttal) or the ‘troubling world of corporate Christianity’. But it is a snapshot. I’m sure you, as a Christian, glossed over the “petty” (how I assume you saw this) complaints about the corporate culture. The bible in the breakroom; the prayers; the lack of barcodes; etc. You probably have a bible in your law office. You probably engage in prayer. And you could probably tell us all about the weird barcode thing (I mean, let’s be real). But without scouring the laws themselves (I am no attorney) I will take your word on the legal idiosyncrasies until one of our better informed posters says otherwise.

      But where I take exception is when you say “calm down, atheists!” (FYI, ‘atheist’ is not a proper noun; no need for capitalization). Atheists are still in the vast minority. By definition we’re calm. Indeed, Richard Dawkins is cool as a cucumber. Even his takedowns are calm. So please don’t patronize atheists by telling us to calm down. State your argument, go away if you’d like (though we invite you to stick around), engage in some repartee with some of the bright people here and perhaps learn a thing or two. We’re not aggressive (generally) and we mean to inform (always). Be thrilled by our acumen. It’s good in here, Kevin. Better than your wildest dreams. :)

    • Kevin Jul 9, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      (Just an FYI, I registered for this site JUST to post this and it was against my better judgement.

      That’s a shame! So many interesting discussions on forward-looking views of the world!

      I won’t be responding or even reading any replies to this. I’m sure they will all be horrific attacks on my character

      You could use the scientific method of objectively looking at replies rather than making assumptions. (Yes, I know “faith” starts with conclusions and then rationalises circular arguments to match preconceptions.)

      and fodder for the Athiests, who are by definition, miles ahead of me in the intelligence department.

      Atheism is a lack of belief in gods (any gods) unlike most religions it makes no claims for membership, group think or particular abilities.

      I mean, come on – I believe in God and accept Jesus as my Lord

      Perhaps you had a limited education on the religions of the world. You certainly don’t show any sign of understanding atheism or humanist philosophy.

      BTW: Actually many atheists know a lot more about the Bible and it’s history, than literalist believers!

      and savior. I must be stupid! There! I made the arguments for you!)

      as a Christian attorney, it amuses me to no end how people utterly fail to understand the Hobby Lobby decision

      Probably not stupid, but prone to a few cognitive biases.
      After all, you would probably object to being made by your employer to prostrate yourself and pray facing Mecca several times a day.

    • three shallow paragraphs

      Click Alternet at bottom of article. (RDF, please install ‘read more’ or ‘continue reading’ link as with days of old. I know some readers are missing the rest. Understandable, stories looks as if they run into a dead end).

      Ms. Carney’s >

      Source blog

    • Kevin:

      (Just an FYI, I registered for this site JUST to post this and it was against my better judgment. I won’t be responding or even reading any replies to this….)

      I take Kevin’s attitude to be one of disdain for those who don’t think like him. Why bother announcing your views on a public forum if you don’t care about the reaction ? It would seem Kevin is yet just another hit and run Christian, having done his stuff, to disappear into that great electronic sunset, clutching his Bible and his law book.

      I’m sure they will all be horrific attacks on my character ….

      No Kevin, no attack on your character, just an attack on your arrogant attitude that you have nothing else to learn here.

      I believe in God and accept Jesus as my Lord and savior, …

      Allah has a very special place for you, – see you there later Kevin !

    • Three shallow paragraphs? You must not realize it’s just essentially a starter to see if you’re interested before you visit the “Source” site that is linked by the little label titled “Source” Alternet”? No? Doesn’t surprise me that you “believe” these three paragraphs is all the story has.

    • Hi Kevin,

      I appreciate that you won’t read this and you won’t respond. I respect your choice.

      I know I’m wasting my time.

      … with all due respect, regarding her proclamation of difficulty, this was probably a result of coming from academia and especially from being a professor. The fact that she found a stock job at HL difficult coming from being a professor doesn’t say much about being a professor.

      Being an attorney qualifies you to be a bricklayer?

      All sarcasm aside …

      You win a scintilla of respect for honestly critiquing you’re own words.

      … as a Christian attorney, it amuses me to no end how people utterly fail to understand the Hobby Lobby decision and the limit of its implications on corporate America. As if huge public corporations are going to make similar claims.

      Hang on a second Kevin, as an attorney I would expect you to understand that the big issue is that case law must now be built around the decision before we can say what the full implications will be.

      First, they aren’t; and second, if they did, they would fail under the analysis required by either RFRA or the First Amendment …

      Again, this is only speculation from your personal incredulity – it lacks an attorney’s detached and neutral perspective.

      My personal experience of undertaking a suit is that a court of law is little better than a lottery – impossible to predict.

      And in answer to the writer’s trivially easy question “What is it about our cultural fabric that enables us to attribute religious rights to a corporate entity?”, First of all, the term corporate entity is quite broad.

      Indeed so, this is just one point on which our concern is based.

      HL is a closely held corporation. The principals are family members and are religious. Why should they not be able to run their business in the manner they choose?

      Because, by definition, a corporation will consume limited resources that might otherwise be used by other members of society and will provide goods and services back to members of society who are of all religions and none. In addition, it will employ fellow citizens who may not share the views of HL’s owners. HL will continue to consume the time and our collective efforts – our attention, time, government, infrastructure and so on.

      The term rule of law means that the law is superior. We are all equal – under the law. The HL decision strikes at the very heart of that principle. What’s next; perhaps a ruling that Muslims can stop on any public road to get out kneel on a rug and bow to Mecca and never mind the thousands of other citizens who are inconvenienced or the costs of the accidents? They must have freedom to practice their religion, therefore the rules of the road no longer apply.

      Perhaps more importantly: HL competes with other hobby suppliers – those suppliers have a right to a level playing field.

      It’s not a state entity.

      It’s still an institution with responsibilities under the law (again, surprised an attorney can’t see this).

      I’m guessing the writer finds it offensive that a corporation made of, and run by, a Christian family can dare run THEIR business consistent with their Christian ideals.

      I’m not offended. I’m appalled at the lack of equality now enshrined in law that allows some people to run their businesses differently to others. A corporation is either for the public good – or it’s a racket. Whatever this decision is – it’s simply unjust.

      I find it infinitely more offensive …

      Yes, infinitely more … interesting how you can read the mind of the Writer (as you have imagined it) at a distance and compare subjective experiences …

      Wait: You’re offended? That affects me how?

      … she implies that it’s okay to force secular ideals on a corporation that was wholly conceived, inspired, paid for and run by Christians.

      Of course secular means religion-neutral – like the Indian politicians are always saying when they have to stop Hindus, Muslims and Christians cutting each other to pieces. But of course you knew that.

      By-the-by, not paid for just by Christians. HL is open to the general public and that means it is paid for by customers: gays, lesbians, atheists, Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons, Devil Worshippers, baseball supporters and er … oh yes, some Christians.

      … no publicly traded corporation is going to make a RFRA claim; it WON’T happen.

      We’ll see.

      In addition, we’ll also see what the publicly owned corporations think about being left out of this sweet give-away. Will they push for the playing field to be levelled back up – and how? Will they push for an RFRA amendment?

      I believe in God and accept Jesus as my Lord and savior. I must be stupid! There! I made the arguments for you!

      That’s not an argument. It’s merely a bald assertion made with no supporting evidence. I don’t mean to be rude, really, it just means nothing to me.

      Peace.

    • Kevin Jul 9, 2014 at 12:43 pm

      All sarcasm aside, as a Christian attorney, …….. . ..

      I won’t be responding or even reading any replies to this. I’m sure they will all be horrific attacks on my character and fodder for the Athiests, who are by definition, miles ahead of me in the intelligence department.

      There’s one for the record book!
      Asserted preconceptions from an attorney who can’t engage in questions and answers to establish an evidenced position!

      who are by definition, miles ahead of me in the intelligence department.

      Or at least miles ahead on evidence based methodology and critical questioning!

      I mean, come on – I believe in God and accept Jesus as my Lord and savior.

      YEP! That looks like the mental blockage obstructing evidence-based reasoned discussion!

      I find it infinitely more offensive that she implies that it’s okay to force secular ideals on a corporation that was wholly conceived, inspired, paid for and run by Christians.

      The “offended card” with added cognitive dissonance????

      But we already have religiously-neutral statutes dealing with those restrictions. Corporations cannot discriminate on the basis of race, sex, age, disability, etc.

      .. and religion – and as a lawyer, you can’t spot the connection?

    • Objectively I have to agree with the part about capitalism. As long as they don’t impose force or coercion to ply their religion, they are doing nothing wrong. Nobody forces people to work or shop there by holding a gun against their head. People work and shop there by their own free will. Even though I am an atheist and may not agree with what they are doing, I can’t rationally hold it against them.

    • do they serve any purpose other [ ]

      Economics, pure and simple. Newly opened store, here in town, jump started a revival of sorts. When HL replaced financially troubled Sears Company, new businesses followed.

      Hello, cash flow.

  7. That is a really strange story. I shop at Hobby Lobby all the time because they have some good stuff, and the best weekly deals on candles which I love. I have never noticed anything strange. I already knew they were not open on Sundays, but I thought what the hell so what, I don’t give a crap.
    And why would this “scholar of religious history” pick Hobby Lobby to work for as a get away from hum drum of his normal job? Something stinks here and it ain’t the candles at Hobby Lobby. Besides the hourly wage they pay is probably not as good as some other stores. Why not Wallmart? you can see all the weirdos there at night. Have some fun. Why pick on Hobby Lobby? I don’t believe the intentions to get a job there were incidental. I think the motivation was on purpose for some reason.

    • Because discrimination is discrimination, even when cloaked in ” religious ideals ”
      Imagine if you will, HL decided against hiring say, blacks or Asians, using the ” it’s a religious thing ” escape clause. That is where the SCOTUS decision is taking you, the ability to discriminate, at will , on religious grounds.

  8. Here’s the proof and qualification we all seek; “Religion poisons everything“.
    How intelligent human beings (??) can believe in “superman” as the answer to “the unknown” defies all logic , reasoning and understanding we have learned from science and nature…… it is hard to understand how the US became so prosperous with this level of ignorance and stupidity.
    I guess they relied heavily on importing intelligent people (very few in the US). The fact that the intelligent people (students) now choose to stay home to flourish is now taking effect; time to “wake up and smell the roses” America.

    I feel honoured to use the words of the great Christopher Hitchen’s; RELIGION is SILLY NONSENSE!

    Long live logic and reasoning!

  9. This entire subject playing out in our country is one more proof that Christianity has nothing to do with Jesus
    of Nazareth, whoever, whatever he was. It has become a nationalistic creed linked to capitalism and false science.

    It also is a warning that Nationalistic Christianity is a serious danger to all mankind.

    I am so tired of hearing poor little Christians saying they are being persecuted when they are among the most privileged of citizens in this country.

    • Jon Jul 9, 2014 at 8:13 pm

      It also is a warning that Nationalistic Christianity is a serious danger to all mankind.

      It was invented by the Romans for a colonising weapon of that purpose around 300AD, and has persisted ever since, in Constantinople and Rome, – generating wars, crusades, inquisitions, witch-hunting etc!

      • …and visited a world of untold terror, guilt and all-around misery on millions of vulnerable people throughout the last two millennia. The sum of their crimes is truly unfathomable and remain to this day, largely unpunished. It’s quite ironic that the only people truly deserving of hell are the members of the tribe who invented the concept.

      • The absolute best methods for the few to control the many have been ignorance and fear. The easiest and arguably best motivation technique is the ‘carrot and the stick.’ (for the younger people) reward or\and punish. In my opinion the most effective approach ever is the Heaven and Hell model.

  10. The tragedy of this court decision is not so much about the subject matter, religiosity, but about the failings of American democracy. A Supreme Court in western democracies is the final bastion of justice for the citizen. The politicians may frame and enact the law, but the meaning of the law under the umbrella of the constitution is the sole responsibility of the judiciary.

    You should not be able to discern which way a Supreme Court judge, or any legal officer will lean ideologically. A judge should decide the law on the merits of the words in front of them, not their personal ideology. It is a threat to US democracy that people can predict with some certainty which way a supreme court judge will rule on any particular issue. You should not be able to tell anything about how a judge might think, except that they will interpret the letter of the law.

    If America becomes a failed democracy, one of the reasons will be that politics was introduced into the judiciary. Politicians choosing a judge they they know will support their ideology is an abuse of democracy. Both sides are guilty. A person selected for the Supreme court should be an eminent jurist with an honourable track record of deciding legal matters before the court on the law, not personal leanings. Any nominee that can be identified as having political leanings should be automatically disqualified. It is to the shame of the Democrats and Republicans that they have descended so low that they dishonour the Supreme Court by making it an extension of day to day politics.

    A democracy should through consensus of evidence come to decisions for the good of the community. Party ideology has no place. A democracy should have a fiercely independent and ethical fourth estate. You should not be able to discern the political leanings of any media outlet or individual journalist. The press is the protector of the people from abuse by the politicians. America’s media is a joke. They are all like 24 hour paid partisan advertising for their political champions. Failed state coming up.

    And the voters, “We the People” should never vote for anyone who holds an extreme political view on anything because the probability is that they will be wrong.

    Religion, like sex, should be practiced by consenting adults in private.

  11. It still doesn’t make sense why Hobby Lobby was singled out. I was listening to a video by the Sec. of Defense something about promotion of Navy officer, not sure, it was all babble, and at the end his wife led a prayer with everyone in the room.

    Now that’s silly as hell. But why HL is being singled out, and this guy (the writer) getting a job there on his time out from his other job? That sounds like a set up. Not sure what about. I’m gonna do a little research myself.

    • kiki5711 Jul 9, 2014 at 11:37 pm

      Now that’s silly as hell. But why HL is being singled out,

      Highlighting one example of unconstitutional perversion of law is as good as another.

      and this guy (the writer) getting a job there on his time out from his other job? That sounds like a set up.

      It sounds like an undercover investigation to me.

      Not sure what about. I’m gonna do a little research myself.

      Carry on! If they are requiring employees to participate in prayers, honest witnesses should confirm this!

  12. Hi yer Kevin; how’re you doing?

    A word or two in your shell-like if I may.

    Firstly, I’m not an Atheist, for the simple reason that it’s impossible to prove a negative.

    For instance, I’ve never seen a gossamer winged creature at the bottom of our garden, and don’t expect I ever will, but although I don’t believe in Fairies, I can’t prove they don’t exist; no one can; or Unicorns for that matter.

    Secondly, not everyone who contributes to this forum is an Atheist; there are Humanists, Secularists, Agnostics, Rationalists, Free Thinkers; and, of course, you.

    Thirdly, and most importantly, I don’t “hate religious people”, I sympathize with them, no matter what particular set of doctrines they had inflicted upon them as children, and consider myself very fortunate to have had parents who left me alone to make up my own mind, and didn’t afflict me with any such dogma; unlike my closest friend at school, who was unfortunate enough to have been born into the Plymouth Brethren tradition.

    It’s partly because of his experience, that I would never say or do anything unkind towards a religious individual; that would be adding insult to injury.

    It’s organized religions themselves with which I disagree, because they are very dangerous.

    They infantilize, stymie thought, reason and progress, and generally speaking fall into two categories: the ridiculous and the blindingly obvious.

    The former being miracles, including parthenogenesis in Homo Sapiens, the latter being the commandments: Thou shalt not kill, steal, commit adultery, etc etc; which, apparently, it’s thought need to be drummed into people weekly, and in some cases five times a day; as if we can’t work that stuff out for ourselves!

    And considering the mayhem caused in their name, daily, World-wide, religions appear to be counterproductive.

    We are far better off using our native intelligence and thinking for ourselves; religion is surplus to our requirements, and, I submit, the worst self-inflicted wound that humanity suffers.

    Incidentally, I’ve just heard on the radio, news that members of ISIS have got hold of some fissionable material; just think about that Kevin!

    Me? I’m going to make a nice cup of tea.

  13. The only god Americans truly serve is Mammon. Yes, they might call it Christianity. But, capitalism and money really is what matters. I mean, Jesus (as portrayed in the bible) despises rich people and allegedly spent his whole life with the poor and outcasts. With regard to modern political ideologies socialism or communism describes the views of Jesus much better than capitalism. Still, even though the bible clearly says that rich people can’t get into heaven Americans conveniently ignore that part every time they cash in. The bible also clearly talks about helping others and loving your enemy. Nonetheless, the most religious in USA are the ones who care about nothing but themselves and hate everything and everyone. Not, that I’m particularly fond of European Christianity either. But, there’s something particularly nasty and hypocritical about Christianity ála Americana.

    • Jesus (as portrayed in the bible) despises rich people and allegedly spent his whole life with the poor and outcasts.

      If Jesus was around today, he’d be considered a communist or a socialist, and would be vilified by the American fundamentalists, who incredulously, find that the bible says that capitalism and greed are good.

      Hypocrites

  14. Something I like to remind myself of, as theism in all it’s manifestations runs rampant across the globe. Depriving individuals of their right to question How?

    “The human understanding is no dry light, but receives infusion from the will and affections; whence proceeds sciences which may be called “sciences as one would.” For what a man had rather were true he more readily believes. Therefore he rejects difficult things from impatience of research; sober things, because they narrow hope; the deeper things of nature, from superstition; the light of experience, from arrogance and pride; things not commonly believed, out of deference to the opinion of the vulgar. Numberless in short are the ways, and sometimes imperceptible, in which the affections color and infect the understanding.

    1620 – Francis Bacon”

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