The “besiegement narrative” that the Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson talks about in his recent article found on The Daily Beast is indeed a theme I frequently saw and heard during my sojourn through many of this country’s more [religiously] conservative Christian denominations.
Such an “us vs. them” theology has a long history in Christian thought, going back to at least the time of the persecutions and martyrdoms of the early church, and even further back into ancient Judaism. And, in fact, in examining other faiths, you quickly find that it is a universal theme. This is because such a narrative is a good way to define the boundary between who is and who is not one of “us” (whoever “us” is). It is a theme that can bind people together; generate and focus emotional and physical energy upon a (real, potential or imagined) threat; and define what it means to be “us” by making it crystal clear who and what we are not.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. Being able to draw a line that separates “us” from “not us” seems to be necessary – because if a group cannot define that boundary, it has a very difficult time explaining who they are, what they stand for, why they should continue to exist, and why you might want to be one of “us.”
The Hobby Lobby decision implies that it is OK to treat others differently, and unfairly, merely because our religious beliefs dictate that we should do so. This is the sort of logic used by the religious extremists found in any faith: they believe their faith gives them the right to treat others in a way that is not respectful of them or their humanity.
To be specific, the Supreme Court deems that “closely held corporations [shall not be forced to] provide health-insurance coverage for methods of contraception that violate the sincerely held religious beliefs of the companies’ owners. … regulations that impose this obligation violate RFRA, which prohibits the Federal Government from taking any action that substantially burdens the exercise of religion unless that action constitutes the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest.”
The justices go on to state: We do not hold … that for-profit corporations and other commercial enterprises can “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.” … Nor do we hold … that such corporations have free rein to take steps that impose “disadvantages . . . on others” or that require “the general public [to] pick up the tab.” … And we certainly do not hold or suggest that “RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on . . . thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby.” … The effect of the HHS-created accommodation on the women employed by Hobby Lobby and the other companies involved in these cases would be precisely zero. Under that accommodation, these women would still be entitled to all FDA-approved contraceptives without cost sharing.
So, at first blush this all seems fairly reasonable, and it was such reasoning that helped lead to the end of the so called “Blue Laws” in many states that required businesses to be closed on Sundays. At that time – a generation or two ago – it was determined that such laws proved an unfair burden for – for instance– Jewish small business owners, who were already closing their shops on Saturdays due to their sincerely held religious beliefs.