Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hobby Lobby: Taking a Stand for Religious Liberty
“It is high time we broke with our theological based restraint towards the state’s actions- which, after all, is only fear. Speak out for those who cannot speak. Who in the church today realizes that this is the very least that the Bible requires of us?” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A book which has had a profound effect on my political thinking is Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas. This book seems to have awakened a political sleeping giant within me, perhaps because I have always believed that faith and politics should mix. Or maybe it is because Dietrich Bonhoeffer was incredibly insightful about how spirituality, or the lack thereof, affects world events. Whatever the reasoning, Bonhoeffer seems to be my “go to” resource for my own thoughts on politics and our own current events. The recent challenge by the craft store Hobby Lobby against Obamacare’s abortion coverage mandate is one such event that needs to be considered with a broad perspective of just what is at stake here.
If you are not familiar with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he was a German minister during the time of Nazi Germany. He had his own spiritual awakening regarding politics and faith. His life transformed from standing behind a pulpit to standing out in public and defending the Jewish people and speaking out against Hitler’s evil regime. He eventually paid the ultimate price for his bravery and was murdered by the Nazis.
What inspires me about Bonhoeffer was his resolve for justice but more so his incredible insight in understanding that faith and the message of Christ cannot be contained inside the walls of the church. Many German ministers were scared to speak out against Hitler and his regime that was systematically changing their country. Bonhoeffer knew that he could not keep silent.
So where am I going with this thought? How does Bonhoeffer and Nazi, Germany relate to our own country? Let me try and give you the smaller brush strokes that paint the bigger picture.
There’s been a slow growing movement against religious liberty in this country. It’s been so gradual that it seems that we take each event at face value and forget to look back at how far removed we are from the founding of this country, which began on the foundation that all our inalienable rights and freedoms are given to us from God. Instead, we have gradually adopted the humanist view and have let legislatures define what is ethical and right based on man’s assumption. There is no better recent example of this then the overreaching law of the Affordable Care Act.
So now in the most recent decision, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear the two challenges against the HHS mandate by Hobby Lobby: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. and the Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. v. Sebelius. This is about the First Amendment and the right of a for-profit company to act on their religious convictions. Obamacare mandates that employers provide contraceptives and abortifacients. Hobby Lobby covers 16 out the 20 FDA-approved contraceptives but they religiously object to providing abortion-inducing drugs such as the “morning after pill” and the “week after pill”. Obama and his administration, through the Affordable Care Act, are subjecting their humanistic view on what is right for Hobby Lobby and now religious liberty is going before the courts once again.
However, Obamacare is just a brush stroke and even though it’s a huge piece and one of the boldest measures, we must look at it with a wider scope. Religious liberty was denied 40 years ago with Roe v. Wade. Abortion became a right and ethical in the judgment of the court. Now that same decision handed down by the Supreme Court is continuing to deny religious freedom. The freedom of abortion mandated by our courts (man, not God) is the same freedom that is the argument of Obamacare to require employers to cover abortion services. Do you see the bigger picture? Every law, every decision made on the knowledge of what is right according to man and government is slowly breaking the pillars of religious freedom. The God-given right to live according to our spiritual convictions and live openly in our faith is changing amongst a society that rejects the Judeo-Christian worldview. A change much like Bonhoeffer witnessed.
We’ve taken religious freedom for granted in this country. We read the persecution stories throughout history and even in society today and feel blessed to live in a country where we can practice our religion. We can choose our faith or an anti-faith philosophy and we can openly worship in the church of our choice. But make no mistake that this challenge by Hobby Lobby against the constitutional right of Obamacare’s abortion coverage mandate is not simply about abortion. This is about the right to live out our faith openly. It about the American dream to own a business, provide a product, employ workers and at the same time live according to the faith we are defined by. Hobby Lobby’s CEO David Green wrote in a statement, “These abortion-causing drugs go against our faith, and our family is now being forced to choose between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and have supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families.”
There is a bigger picture and it is the same broad view that Dietrich Bonhoeffer realized in his own country. It’s about speaking out for those who have no voice. This is a stand against the injustice of the countless number of babies murdered each year but it is also about the freedom to not be subjected to the ethical worldview of lawmakers; the right to live according to the religious freedoms provided to us by our Constitution handed down to us by God not man, and the right to live that faith openly and not just with in the walls of our churches. Pay attention, Church, to this case that will go before the Supreme Court–and pray for Hobby Lobby, and the Justices that will determine the fate of religious liberty in our country.