The recent Supreme Court decision in favor of Hobby Lobby is a cultural lightning rod. The ruling stands, silent and immovable, but the reaction to it has put on quite a show.
Rather than discuss the ruling (quite enough has been said about that already) I’d like to consider what we can learn from the electric reactions. They are very illuminating.
It’s a fatal blow to women’s rights! No – it’s a defense of religious freedom! Crack! It’s anti-science! It’s stupid! Bam! A for-profit company has no standing under RFRA! (Suddenly we’re all experts on legal standing.) Hobby Lobby is hypocritical! Not so fast. Smack! More hypocrisy. And its other side.
You might think that this opinion storm is more confusing than illuminating. It depends on what you’re looking for.
The Supreme Court ruling itself is worth a look. It’s the silent lightning rod.
Now for the two truths and a lie that I observe in the light show.
Truth #1: Reactions often reveal more truth about the one reacting than about the issue in question. Those who view cultural issues as right vs. left or smart vs. stupid or us vs. them tend to apply a collection of biases and stereotypes to their interpretations. When this happens, the reaction is a projections of their own fears and caricature-like perceptions of the opposition.
Essayist Anais Nin astutely observed, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
This Chicago Tribune article demonstrates my point. The author accused Hobby Lobby of desiring to deny women of their power by limiting contraceptive choices. She figured that they do this out of an adherence to a “zero sum fallacy” that she heard about from a conservative commentator on the Bill Maher show. She made no attempt to justify a connection between Hobby Lobby, a desire to oppress women and the zero sum fallacy.
I don’t know how she arrived at her conclusion. In some way it reflects her world view, the interpretive framework through which she sees things. It tells us something about her.
Truth #2: Many reactions betray roots of fear. I believe that escalating anger, disrespect, and polarization in our cultural discussions are expressions of fear. Christians fear government infringement on their religious freedom; others fear that Christians want to limit their personal freedom.
Fear is a powerful emotion, and it’s easy to lose objectivity when we feel threatened. Fear is also a useful tool for those whose political or ideological interests are well served by stirring up fear and suspicion. So we fight each other, each of us thinking we’re the “good guys” fighting the “bad guys.”
And that is the lie.
The people who disagree with you are not your enemies. (They may not understand this, but it’s true.) They are often fearful and doing their best to cope in an increasingly stressful world. Just like us. Often we’re all being manipulated.
In my next post I’ll take a look at a biblical lightning rod event and do my best to suggest some helpful applications of these two truths and a lie. For now, perhaps the following truth will be encouraging.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…” 1 John 4:18
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God…” Ephesians 6:12-13
“The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.” Proverbs 19:23
How do you process highly charged cultural conversations? Do you agree that fear is behind some of the hostility and disrespect? I’d love your thoughts on this!