Following up on the evangelical persecution complex, Hobby Lobby and tribalism

Following up on the evangelical persecution complex, Hobby Lobby and tribalism February 3, 2013

Alan Bean offers some constructive clarification of my recent post on the persecution complex of white evangelicals.

I borrowed the term “sociopaths” from Christian at Homebrewed Theology, but Bean (rightly) suggests that’s not quite accurate:

True sociopaths are not delusional; they know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it. The folks Fred Clark discusses in the entertaining post below aren’t sociopaths precisely because they are self-deluded. They have successfully convinced themselves that their religious liberties are being progressively stripped away, layer by layer, by a great and evil secularist conspiracy.

They believe this largely because it feels good. It feels good because the folks these men are trying to impress get excited when they hear this kind of paranoid blather from their leaders. Over time, preacher and congregation reinforce each other’s paranoid beliefs in an unending cycle of mutual reinforcement even though, objectively considered, their right to practice the religion of their choosing hasn’t been encumbered in the least.

Good point.

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Now, given that one can be either delusional or sociopathic, which of those would you say characterizes a CEO who brags about the profit margins on knick-knacks “produced overseas for pennies on the dollar”?

That’s David Green, founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, and self-proclaimed moral superior of all who support preventive health insurance for women. Jason Dye provides a bit of background on Green, courtesy of a Forbes magazine profile of the gazillionaire Christian:

Here, Green is valued as a pious hero of capitalism who claims that it’s religious devotion and God’s favor that has raised his capital worth to well over $3 billion. Forbes, being the capitalist cheerleaders they are, could smell Green’s veiled business plan a few thousand miles away. In China, for instance.

It doesn’t take more than a few minutes with the founder, walking through a local Hobby Lobby store, to see the reason he has been able to expand his company into a well-oiled, moneymaking machine without bringing in any outside investors.

Stopping at a display marked 30% off, Green explains how a kitschy rooster ornament is produced overseas for pennies on the dollar, then sold as part of an in-house brand of home accents.

The rest of Dye’s post explores Green’s other views on morality and corporate ethics, so go read the rest. But — spoiler alert — it doesn’t rise above that essence of Green’s moral outlook: “overseas for pennies on the dollar.”

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Finally, it’s a bit awkward for me to link to William Lindsey’s post on “Tribalism as Illuminating Category for Discussing American Catholicism and Evangelicalism,” since he speaks so kindly of me in it.

But just as he says that my discussion of evangelical tribalism has informed his own thinking about his Catholic tradition, let me say that his insights into the tribalism of his, um, tribe, have helped to shape and illumine my thinking about mine too. And he’s got some links there to lots of other good stuff on the subject of religious tribalism.

Lindsey says this is a conversation “worth continuing in 2013,” and I heartily agree.


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