A Defense of Hobby Lobby’s March 19, 2020 Letter to Employees

Last week I saw a viral post going around on Twitter.

Of course, I read it–and found nothing in the letter to support her accusation. What I read was a heart-felt letter of support from a devout Christian to his Hobby Lobby employees. Nowhere in the letter does it state that stores were staying open. “Belt-tightening” is a far better alternative to laying off large swaths of employees, as many other companies have already done. This pandemic will be financially devastating to the U.S. economy. According to according to an article in Fortune.com, the St. Louis branch of the Federal Reserve estimates 47 million people may lose their jobs by the end of June.

This tweet was the first of a very long rant posted on March 21, 2020 from someone who clearly has an axe to grind against Hobby Lobby (actually, to be fair, if you go through her other tweets, you’ll notice she spends every single day on Twitter raging against the unfairness of life through the politically biased lens of her worldview–which, given the infinite amount of unfairness life has to offer, has got to get exhausting). Her tweet got overwhelming support from the Twitter outrage mob (37.9K retweets and 79.4K likes as of this moment–I had to keep correcting these numbers because they continue to climb). The comments that follow are filled with vitriol and anti-Christian bigotry. I found this annoying, because I consider lies, vitriol, and verbal abuse annoying, like much of Twitter, and figured the controversy would eventually blow over and the Twitter outrage mob would find another straw man to burn in effigy. Then I opened up my latest (April 3, 2020) copy of The Week magazine and read this blurb on page six:

An inaccurate and biased misinterpretation of Hobby Lobby’s letter

This is basically the same accusation Ms. Brown made on her Twitter account, which was that Hobby Lobby was staying open because “his wife had a vision from God.” It’s irritating enough when someone carelessly tosses out false accusations that go viral on social media, but it’s inexcusable when a news organization does it, especially one that I thought was attempting to avoid ideological bias like The Week.

I wrote a letter to the editors of The Week and sent it through their website yesterday afternoon. I don’t have any idea if they care (for all I know, the person who read it laughed and deleted my letter right after being laid off), but I believe I have an obligation to “speak up” and defend Hobby Lobby’s letter, because only a few websites I’m aware of (The Western Journal, GetReligion.org, Snopes.com) took the time to fact-check the accusation.

The letter I sent to The Week via their website was ASCII text only. I included images and hyperlinks in my version below.


To Whom It May Concern:

I want to bring to your attention an inaccurate, disparaging, and irresponsibly written article, published in your April 3, 2020 “Only in America” section (volume 20, issue 969, page 6), concerning the letter Hobby Lobby CEO David Green allegedly wrote to his employees.

The summary claims that the CEO of Hobby Lobby is keeping his stores open because his wife “received a message from God.” This claim assumes three inaccurate premises:

  1. Hobby Lobby is “staying open during the pandemic.”
  2. Mr. Green made this decision after his wife “received a message from God.”
  3. God informed his wife… that He will ‘specifically protect Hobby Lobby employees.’”

Claim #1 is false. The letter makes no mention of whether or not stores will stay open. Also, according to Snopes.com, Hobby Lobby “has closed stores in locations where “non-essential businesses” have been required to do so (snopes.com/fact-check/hobby-lobby-coronavirus/).

Claim #2 and #3 are misinterpretations of metaphorical language used by Christians.  Nowhere does the letter state that Mrs. Green “received a message from God” or that God will “specifically protect Hobby Lobby employees.”

I found a photo of Mr. Green’s (alleged) letter on Snopes.com after seeing it uploaded onto that verbal cyber mosh pit called Twitter.

David Green writes in his letter:

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.

What David Green wrote in this paragraph is, in essence, what Christianity is all about: (1) God exists; (2) God is with you; and (3) God is in control. Without these core beliefs, Christianity falls apart.

Exactly how God “put on Barbara’s heart three profound words” is not mentioned. It could have been as simple as a thought that came to her mind. Stating that the Lord put “words” on one’s “heart” is metaphorical language that comes from the Bible and is commonly used by Christians to convey one’s personal connection to God. Here are some examples from the Bible, English Standard Version (ESV):

  • “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (Deuteronomy 6:6)
  • “Receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart.”  (Job 22:22)
  • “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalms 119:11)
  • “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 3:3)
  • “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.” (Proverbs 4:4)
  • “…keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.”  (Proverbs 7:2-3)
  • “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts…” (Romans 2:15)

The Biblical definition of the “heart,” according to the website compellingtruth.org, is as follows:

The heart, according to the Bible, is part of man’s spiritual makeup. It is the place where emotions and desires begin; it is that which drives the will of man towards action. The physical heart is an organ that pumps blood. Poets also have a lot to say about the heart. However, the heart of man as described in the Bible is primarily a spiritual organ that drives man’s behavior.  

(www.compellingtruth.org/what-is-the-heart.html)

Taking the expression “put on Barbara’s heart… words” and re-writing it as “received a message from God” gives the false impression that the “words” Mrs. Green “received” was a literal “message from God.”  And nowhere does the letter state that “God will specifically protect its employees,” or that “God informed his wife.” These inaccurate statements have the combined effect of distorting David and Barbara Green into a caricature of kooky, superstitious Christian fanatics for non-Christians to ridicule or shame. This insensitive and biased misinterpretation of the Hobby Lobby letter is blatant anti-Christian bigotry and deeply insulting.

I’ve subscribed to The Week since 2015. I have been grateful for the summaries of national and world news, as well as the unbiased and politically balanced perspective The Week is known for. However, I am profoundly disappointed The Week chose to distort facts in a manner that portrays the CEO of Hobby Lobby and his wife, a devout Christian couple, into a target of ridicule. Belief in God is at the core of the Christian faith. This distorted summary of the Hobby Lobby letter is irresponsible journalism, an insult to all Christians, and an example of anti-Christian bigotry. Your subscribers deserve a correction and an apology, as well as David and Barbara Green, whom you very publicly insulted.

Check your sources. Do your homework. Report the truth. And it goes without saying (it should, anyway), a respectable news organization should not distort facts in order to caricature cultures, religious groups, or any other identity group. People lose faith in journalism when a respected publication such as The Week stoops this low. Inaccurate and biased reporting drives  frustrated consumers to alternate news sources such as Fox News (or Twitter, YouTube,  Reddit, or worse), invites ideological echo chambers, and gives credibility to President Trump when he calls out “fake news.”

For an introduction to the Christian worldview, I would like to recommend a recent lecture titled “Peace in Times of Suffering and Uncertainty” from a series called Questioning Christianity, from Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. His lecture can be found on YouTube at https://youtu.be/-a3j26a05H0 .

If you have any questions, you are welcome to contact me at —.

Sincerely,

Lisa Marie Hagerman


But Wait a Minute…

Right before I was about to publish my post, I did one final DuckDuckGo search on “Hobby Lobby letter” and saw this. (4/3/2020)

Now hold on, you may be thinking, but Hobby Lobby is defying orders to close.

And I’m like–what?

Yeah, Lisa, you and your lofty, carefully composed defense of Hobby Lobby’s letter, what do say about this?

Hobby Lobby Blasted by Texas Official for Ignoring Stay-at-Home Order – CBS News 4/3/2020

Coronavirus In Ohio: Hobby Lobby To Reclose Stores After Cease-And-Desist Letter – WOSU Public Media 4/1/2020

My defense of Hobby Lobby stops at the letter. Whatever Hobby Lobby is doing right now, I don’t have a clue.

What do you want me to do? Delete my post? Rage about it on Twitter?

Life is unfair. It’s Buddha’s first Noble Truth of Suffering. It’s exemplified by Christ, an innocent man who was crucified for the sins of humankind. The amount of unfairness life has to offer is infinite and inexhaustible. Obsessing over this can drive one to madness.

I’m going to publish my post and move on. That’s what. After that, maybe I’ll go for a walk. The sun is out, the day is lovely. Then I’ll finish editing my manuscript, and hopefully start sending it out next week.

And after that? Only God knows.

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