So. Today the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby, saying in effect that a corporation is able to have religious convictions–and that if those religious convictions oppose, for instance, providing birth control as part of their employee benefits package, the company can say “nope” and get out of doing so.
And y’know what? If I were a pastor right about now, I’d be furious.
I think RCRChoice summed it up quite nicely in the following tweet:
Here’s the thing, y’all: when I think of a religious community, or a congregation, or a gang of hooligans who happen to share a faith, or whatever mass noun you want to use here, when I think of this group of people, the first word I–were I a pastor–would not want to think of is “excuse”.
I would not want to think “cop-out”.
I would be hoppin’-up-and-down, spittin’, red-eyed, steam-comin’-out-my-ears mad if people thought “easy way out”.
Building a congregation is work, y’all. It takes time and effort and dedication. You don’t just open a church and people show up and you’re done. There are sermons to write and passages and references to double-check and cross-check and pray about. There are recent events to follow and sort out what your god’s opinion on ’em would be, then figuring out a way to present that to the congregation so that half of them wouldn’t immediately bolt for the door–because you know full well that that opinion isn’t always going to be popular.
There are grieving families to comfort. There are parishioners to visit in the hospital, and prayers to be said over people who are probably not ever going to go home again but it’s absolutely your job to give people a little bit of hope to hold onto. There’s explaining to six-year-olds why we can’t ever see grandpa anymore, and trying to make “he went to live with Jesus” sound like something that’s neither scary nor a punishment. There’s answering questions like “Is it because Jesus is mad at us?” on the fly.
There are communities torn apart by “acts of God” to rebuild. There are sidewalks to be shoveled out when the snow comes in while services are in session and ain’t nobody needs Miss Sophia to break another hip. There are endless repairs to the church building itself that need to be financed–which usually means trying to squeeze more financial blood out of the spirit-is-willing-but-the-checkbook-is-weak flock–and volunteers who won’t actually nail themselves to the window frame this time to line up.
There are wedding ceremonies to write, and baptisms and christenings and confirmations. There’s couples counseling, and if your denomination permits it, divorce counseling. There are funerals to perform, trying your best to hold it together while you say goodbye to the nice fellow who smiled at you from the second pew, third seat from the right, every Sunday morning for the last 25 years.
You work your tail off for these people who have been entrusted to your guidance, is what I’m saying. If your congregation is really nice, you might get some casseroles every now and again, or your lawn mowed, or a card on Pastors’ Day (it’s the second Sunday in October, if you want to drop a hint or two from the pulpit), but for the most part you do it because it’s what you’ve been called to do. It’s your passion, your love, and your mission. It’s the reason you’re on this earth.
So to have that reduced to a bargaining chip? To have it turned into a political ploy so that a company, or perhaps more appropriately, the owners and chief profit-reapers of a company, can make some big statement about who is or is not the boss of them? And to have all that happen with a company who has itself invested in other companies that manufacture the very products they’re suddenly so up-in-arms against?
I. Would. Be. Enraged.
This is not what you work for, y’all. You don’t go out of your way to try to make your congregation an open and inviting place so that some corporation and its supporters can turn around and say “If you don’t like being beaten about the head with our particular brand of religion, you can get out”. You don’t take meals to your housebound members so that your faith can be mockingly compared to a sale on model airplane glue and crochet hooks.
You don’t spend hours praying for a sign–any sign at all–that you’re doing this right just so that your convictions can join menstrual cramps, sick grandmothers, and “I don’t think last night’s sushi agreed with me” on the list of Nebulous and Difficult to Prove Reasons to Get Out of Doing Things One Doesn’t Want to Do.
This is not what you signed up for, gang. Yes, having a sincerely held religious belief occasionally sets you up to be the butt of jokes, and you knew that going in; but having your sincerely held religious belief trotted out as a Get Out of Jail Free card for a company who wants to make some big political point (which appears, for all intents and purposes, to be “we don’t like the ACA and by golly, we are NOT going to participate in it”)? That was never supposed to be part of the deal.
Now look, it’s not up to me to tell you whether you should agree with Hobby Lobby here. If you do, by all means, carry on with your day, and keep on doing the good things that you do–whether I agree with your reasons for doing them are irrelevant, and we can agree to disagree on some points.
All I know is that if I were a pastor today, I would be flipping tables left and right. Jesus chased the moneychangers out of the temple; it’s just a cryin’ shame that they seem to have set up right next door with a sign claiming that they’re still his BFFs.