A Business Caught in Adultry?

Unpacking the wild claims about Hobby Lobby’s Visions from God

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Everyone hop on the judgement wagon, it’s time to judge Hobby Lobby in the court of Social Media. Make sure you bring your rocks and “Share” buttons, we’re gonna have an old fashioned stoning for a business caught in adultry with capitalism.

If you’re so inclined, here’s your first rock. An article with the headline, “Hobby Lobby founder reportedly told employees a message from God informed his decision to leave stores open amid the coronavirus outbreak.”

Ooh, a leaked memo. How juicy! How outrageous! How despicable. The owners are absolutely insane! Claiming God gave him a vision to stay open during the outbreak! His businesses should be closed! Why are they forcing his employees to work, risking their health for profit? I just knew these people were like this all along, and now they’re exposed for who they really are!

Clearly, this deserves righteous judgement.

Hey, you. Be outraged.

Share this article.

Spread their shame.

Condemn them.

The Memo in Question

I first saw this outlandish claim on Twitter, and my heart sank. I believed it without even reading the article. I know the owners of Hobby Lobby have been in the news for their unpopular conservative and religious opinions. From what I’ve gathered, they seemed… perhaps, on the fringe? A little out there? And now they’re claiming visions from God?

As a Christian, I don’t believe God frequently speaks in visions any more. He certainly can, but more often chooses not to. (This is a Protestant doctrine known as Cessationism, which attempts to understand why certain spiritual gifts, like healing, don’t happen. I believe this, but hold it rather loosely. Francis Chan has some interesting things to say about miracles.)

Far more often, when people claim visions from God, it’s nothing more than a bundle of emotions. Perhaps they’ve been on drugs. Maybe they’re trying to look “spiritual”, or making an underhanded attempt to gain people’s compliance. It brings great disrepute on Christianity, and saddens me greatly.

Holding my breath, I found a copy of the alleged memo, and read it. I’ll quote the heart of the matter here.

In her quiet prayer time this past week, the Lord put on Barbara’s heart three profound words to remind us that He’s in control. Guide, Guard, and Groom. We serve a God who will Guide us through this storm, who will Guard us as we travel to places never seen before, and who, as a result of this experience, will Groom us to be better than we could have ever thought possible before now.

Now, let’s remember for a moment, that this is something shared through a Tweet. Has Hobby Lobby confirmed it was their memo, or is this something fabricated? To the best of my ability, I can’t find if this is legit. (To me, it seems reasonable to assume this is truly their memo.) Business Insider reported that they reached out to Hobby Lobby for comment, and were declined an answer.

I certainly can’t blame Hobby Lobby for declining to comment. If Business Insider (and others) were so ready to wildly misinterpret this memo, they’d also read any response as equally out of context.

This memo does not claim the owners had a “vision from God”. Infact, the memo doesn’t even discuss whether the stores will be kept open! If you read the entirety of the memo, it simply acknowledges the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, expresses gratitude for God’s past provision, an appreciation for their employee’s dedication, and a prayer that the pandemic would end soon.

Often times, while reading my Bible or listening to a Sermon, verses of scripture may come to mind. Jesus told us that the Holy Spirit will prompt us and bring things to mind in John 14. Perhaps this is what happened to Barbara — but this is certainly not a vision. I doubt she would claim it to be a vision or revelation, and neither would I. At best, this can be described as an inspiration.

Furthermore, David Green (the author of the memo) gives us a reason he included this thought: “to remind us that He’s in control”. Christians often take comfort in the fact that the God they share a personal relationship with is in charge of the affairs of mankind — even when tragedies and pandemics strike.

While some Christians have (perhaps arrogantly) claimed divine protection to hold in-person church services with their whole congregation, Hobby Lobby is not making such a claim. Put simply, this memo is a letter of encouragement and appreciation to their employees. Any claim that Hobby Lobby is staying open due to visions from God is a bold faced lie.

(For an excellent discussion on why Christians should not make such a presumption on God’s will, read this article from David French.)

But what about the money?

But what about Hobby Lobby’s decision to stay open, when other stores are voluntarily shuttering? Doesn’t this show that Hobby Lobby values their profits more than the wellbeing of their employees? Sounds like they love money more than Jesus.

Perhaps, if you want to judge their intentions. But I will not. I choose to look at their decision charitably.

I’ve been inside Hobby Lobbies before. They aren’t exactly flush with customers. Perhaps ten customers at the busiest time of the day? And that was before the pandemic! I can’t imagine there’d be more people shopping there now.

Now I don’t run a business, but I’m going to make the assumption that Hobby Lobby would probably save money if it shut down and stopped paying it’s employees. People are running out to panic buy toilet paper, not craft knives and balsa wood. Why pay employees to staff a mostly empty store?

The answer is simple… to provide for them.

Hobby Lobby could make the decision to close all their businesses, but still pay their employees as if they are working. That doesn’t seem to be a reasonable expectation. Alternatively, they could let everyone go, and pay them nothing. I’m sure there are other solutions inbetween these two extremes, but I can’t be bothered to analyze them.

Hobby Lobby does not seem to be in an adulterous affair with capitalism. Neither are they religious kooks.

When I grew up, the world’s most popular Bible verse was “John 3:16” — but that is no longer. During my college years, the verse most often read to me (in a condescending tone) was “Do not judge, or you too will be judged”. Many people assume that this is what Jesus said when the pharisees wanted to stone the woman caught in adultry, but this is not true. (The sentiment is similar, though. “Do not judge” came from the Sermon on the Mount, given to a general population. Jesus’s response to the pharisees about stoning was, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”)

Today, no one seems to want to quote “judge not”. Instead, outrage mobs hop from subject to subject, stoning them in the public square for various sins. Judgements of character come righteously and swiftly. You see, we can easily tell what these people’s TRUE motives are. Obviously, they’re doing this because they’re rich and fat, profiting off the hard labor of the working class. They’re so scared to lose their precious money, that they’d risk the lives of their employees to line their pockets. Be outraged with us, share this Tweet.

When Jesus told others not to judge, he wasn’t speaking about actions so much as character. (Otherwise, you know, Hitler was just trying to secure a better future for Germany! Don’t judge, you guys!) When Jesus spoke to the woman caught in adultry, he condemned her actions: “go and sin no longer”. However, Jesus did not condemn her character — “you are a sinner”.

The authors from Business Insider haven’t given me much confidence that they understand the issue well. I’d say, “Let he who’s never valued money over people make the first retweet”, but I rather expect many people to say, “OH ME, ME! I’VE NEVER DONE THAT, YEET!”

Just put down your stones, guys. Spend some time with Jesus, let him point out the planks sitting in your eyes. I know he’s pointed out several planks in my own eye.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7:1–5

Written by

Tim builds circuit boards in Virginia Beach, and enjoys writing about current events, history, theology, and philosophy.

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