The debate about religious liberty has been all over the news this week. The Supreme Court’s decision to allow closely held corporations to be exempt from certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act on account of religious reservations has caused a firestorm in the media, social media, and blogosphere. No doubt you’ve had some time to form your own opinions, or at least be shouted down by someone else’s. In the case, Hobby Lobby won the provision to not provide payment for things they say go against their conscience as religious believers. I’m not going to get into the specifics of that case or what I think of it here. I will say that I have good friends, whose intellect and faithful discipleship I respect, who fall on both sides of the debate . . . welcome to America! I believe we can discuss these things with both passion and patience, with reason and respect. And hope to see more of that across the board on potentially divisive issues within the church and in our culture more broadly. What I do want to ask here is, by way of thought experiment, if Christian corporations (if there are such things) may be allowed certain exemptions from the law based on their sincerely held religious beliefs, what other exemptions besides contraception coverage might one ask for?

If I were a Christian corporation, I might ask for an exemption from the laws that treat undocumented immigrants as “illegal” (Leviticus 19:34; Deuteronomy 10:17-19; Exodus 22:21). I might ask that any undocumented employees of my company not be rounded up and deported after languishing in “processing centers.” I would ask that they instead be treated with the dignity and respect due all humans created in the image of God. I would ask that instead, my corporation be allowed to show them warmth, hospitality, and provision of good work.

If I were a Christian corporation, say a Christian bank or Credit Card company (if it is possible for us to imagine such a thing), maybe I would ask for an exemption from the laws governing debt (Leviticus 25:1-17; Matthew 6:12, 14-15; 18:21-35; Luke 16:1-15). I would ask that all who have fallen into ruinous debt could transfer it to my company and then have it forgiven. I would ask that those who work for me and those whom my company serves be free from the foreclosure laws that say because you owe money to someone or some entity that you are no longer worthy of basic human needs like shelter, food, and community.

I might ask for an exemption from the lax gun regulations in this country that allow handguns, assault rifles, and blood to flood our streets (Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:14-21; Matthew 26:52). My corporation, and those connected to it, would then be enabled and encouraged to live more peaceable lives, freed for peace and unconstrained by the incursion of governmental approved violence in our lives.

If I were a Christian corporation, say a Christian chain of grocery stores, I might ask to be exempt from laws that limit the amount of monthly nutritious food that poor mothers and families can purchase in the Food Stamp program because some of my sincerely held religious beliefs as a Christian corporation would be that everyone should have enough to eat, no one should go hungry, and food should not rot on the produce shelves or sour in the dairy aisle while people languish from malnutrition and starvation (Isaiah 11:1-9; 49:8-10; 55:1-2; John 6:1-14; Rev 7:13-17).

I might perhaps, as a Christian corporation that makes a lot of profit, ask to be exempted from the tax code that inequitably taxes the middle class and poor to the benefit of the wealthy. I would ask to be exempt in order to pay more toward the common good because as a corporation called to follow Christ I would believe deeply that we are called to give generously, with glad and sincere hearts (Luke 12:35-48; Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37).

As a Christian corporation I would ask for an exemption from the part of my taxes that go to pay for war and violence overseas (Isaiah 2:1-5; 9:6-7; Micah 4:1-4). As a Christian organization, I would sincerely believe that violence is not the answer to the world’s problems and that the way of Christ is the way of peace.

If I were a Christian corporation, say, a Christian for-profit prison (bear with me), I might ask for exemptions of mandatory drug sentences that can send people making mistakes spiraling off into lives of crime and hardship. I would also ask for exemptions to the utterly cruel parole laws that set people up to fail and therefore be re-imprisoned. As a corporate follower of Christ I would believe it better to proclaim release to captive peoples than to be seeking ways to keep them locked up (Isaiah 42:1-9; 49:9; Luke 4:18-21).

Now, if I were a Christian corporation, it’s pretty easy to see that I would go out of business pretty quickly. So, it’s probably a good thing that I am not a Christian corporation. But I do belong to the church, an organization in the world whose business is to go out of business. The church is a people who are in the world in order to give their life away because they believe the church’s very life was given by Jesus and therefore was given in order to be given away to others. So while I may not be a Christian corporation, I do not need to be a Christian corporation in order to live in these costly kinds of ways. If I belong to the church, I have been given the life of Christ in order to offer all of it up back to God and to others. It seems, then, that following Jesus is hard not easy; it’s costly not cheap. It’s something for all of us to ponder as we seek to take up our crosses and follow this one, the redeemer of all creation, to a place called Golgotha. May the grace extended to us in the body and the blood of our Lord at this table remind us that we do not get to pick and choose what aspects of our lives get to be costly and what aspects get a pass. We are called to follow Jesus in every aspect of our lives, to let his holiness, his otherness, his strangeness (for that’s what holy means—strange) soak down through our lives leaving nothing untouched. We get consumed. This is the only meal where we don’t consume what we eat, rather it consumes us. May we be consumed and transformed by the holiness of Messiah Jesus.

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The Political Beard

February 9, 2008

What is it, I wonder, that has so marginalized the beard in politics in the last hundred years or so? We have not had a president in the US with a beard since Benjamin Harrison, and the last one with even a mustache was Taft. The beard used to be a sign of fortitude and stature. What happened…seriously?! my coworkers and I have been talking about this and we couldn’t really come up with any answers.

We decided that the best current candidate for beard growing would be Mike Huckabee. We fashined a beard out of paper and put it on the computer screen. It was quite fitting for him, actually. We called it his “endurance beard.” We came to the conclusion that if he grew this beard he might have a shot at the White House…which is scary. But think about it, Al Gore grows a beard and wins the Nobel Prize. Food for thought.

Now I am off to have what I have come to call “The Gerald R. Ford Breakfast.” Apparently his favorite breakfast was a grapefruit, an English muffin, and tea. It’s a great combo. See you learn all kinds of things from hanging out here, kids.

I Voted

February 8, 2008

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