Jesus Goes to Hobby Lobby

At my university, I manage a student organization for creative writers. In addition to workshops, readings, etc., we host craft nights that pertain to writing and literature. Since we are located in a smaller town with few available art-centric resources and since I am admittedly not always the best planner, I occasionally end up buying some of our supplies from Hobby Lobby, the begrudged craft store not far from campus. For example, the organization’s Writer’s Block Party required acrylic spray that would add a glossed finish to members’ works, and I (poor planner that I am) ended up at Hobby Lobby on the day of our event asking an employee to help find the product. Alas.

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Me with that damned Hobby Lobby acrylic spray. *pitch forks! fire!*
Someone! Quick! Mop that floor.

With a more liberal-leaning membership and support system, some people voiced concerns about purchasing products from Hobby Lobby. Our more conservative members were silent. They didn’t praise our “support” of Hobby Lobby. When asked, many of them said they didn’t care at all and thought the whole thing was being “blown out of proportion.”

The popular view in the media was that conservatives were going wild over the Supreme Court decision to favor Hobby Lobby’s charged mandate against providing female employees with contraceptive coverage. Hobby Lobby has claimed to be a reflection of Christian values. (I guess, this explains why I never see any snazzy Margaritaville signs in their stores.) Many conservatives who support the pro-life movement thought Hobby Lobby was making a crucial stand for their freedoms and quickly joined in the crusade by posting their opinions on social media websites. The most popular question being, “How can the Government make Christians pay for abortions?”

On June 30, 2014, the Supreme Court decision was made, and conservatives celebrated. Many considered this ruling to be a success for freedom of religion and began writing posts on Facebook and Twitter about a “rare triumph. . . in the war against Christianity.”

During all this yaysaying and war victory celebrating and liberal head shaking, we failed to see one simple detail:

“The most straightforward way of doing this would be for the Government to assume the cost of providing the four contraceptives at issue to any women who are unable to obtain them under their health-insurance policies due to their employers’ religious objections.”

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

Who is “the Government” exactly? Well, taxpayers. Me, the conservatives and their pro-choice neighbor. In celebrating the rights of for-profit corporations to have religious freedom, many conservatives failed to see the scope of this detail. Corporations were the winner in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. Not conservatives or Christians or protesting activists. Hobby Lobby decided not to pay their share and thus burdened taxpayers. None of this is a new story. Pacifists have long been paying taxes that go to military support. Atheists have shouldered a larger tax responsibility, because many churches are tax-exempt.

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Hobby Lobby sold its case as being a huge victory for the conservative pro-life movement to garner customers and higher sales. It made Christians believe that their corporation was carrying some huge burden for them on the front lines of the “war against Christianity” when really this court ruling was a huge loss for everyone but Hobby Lobby and other future corporations that could possibly pass off their fiscal obligations to taxpayers.

It does make me feel somewhat disgusted to find myself shopping in Hobby Lobby and to know that I will probably end up there again sometime in the next year, but it’s not because of my anti-religious leanings. It’s because of my feminist ideology. I am exhausted at women being treated like objects again in some sort of religious contest. I am exhausted at seeing the working class woman disproportionately affected by a demagogic corporation. I am exhausted by reading another ridiculous gender-based legislative act. Here is to hoping that we remain conscious of the disingenuous nature in these acts and the consequences of such ubiquitous crusades.

Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’ Adaptation: The Roar of a Heavy Shower

The US premiere of Darren Arnofsky’s Noah is upon us.

I have been thinking a lot about why people enjoy watching the depiction of religious figures on film. In some ways, cinema is just another medium engaging in the act of religious critique. Perhaps people watch these films to see the characters as more personable. Maybe some viewers have a white savior complex or merely wish to visually experience the human divine. The possibilities are endless and subjective.

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In the past few weeks, I have seen both negative and positive responses to Noah. Some Christians are excited for a high-budget, religious film while others are more hesitant. I can already foresee the critique on skin color. (It happened with The Hunger Games. It will happen again here, as it should.) Nonetheless, I understand the skeptics’ point-of-view. People do tend to be more critical when looking something that has been classified as a religious interpretation, and many have been very quick to write off religious films as a type of marketable Hollywood fetish piece.

My biggest apprehension when it comes to religious films is an underlying fear for the actors and actresses. By becoming the face of a contentious film, they are opening themselves up to a new type of ostracism and social commentary.

Even while setting my personal opinions about Noah’s story aside, I admittedly found Russell Crowe’s thoughts on the benevolence of Noah controversial. His ideas seem to cast Noah’s character in a more “negative” light. For me, however, Crowe is making Noah more humane by recognizing imperfection. Crowe addresses “the preconceived notions” of the story and describes Noah’s task as “the worst job you could get.”

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Emma Watson, who plays Ila the adopted daughter of Noah, describes the film as being similar to an “epic Shakespearean drama.” I am sincerely interested in what feminine voice and quality Watson will provide a traditionally male-dominated tale. Even Watson notes that Noah is a “dark story.” She carefully calls the film “all his [Aronofsky’s] imaginings” which points to the screenplay’s direct reliance on Aronofsky’s graphic novel, Noah. Thereby giving one reason to say that while Aronofsky’s film is influenced by the Biblical story, it is not an interpretation of the Biblical story at all, but rather a script conditioned and guided by Aronofsky’s graphic novel.

Many laughed at the film’s “untold story” claim, but Aronofsky says the film is about breaking expectations. He sought to delve deeper into the darker world that God wished to eradicate through the great flood hence the apocalyptic nature of the film. Aronofsky understood the delicate process of expanding Noah’s story, and he attempted to accomplish this expansion by surfacing the themes of righteousness and parenthood. Aronofsky immediately notes that the act of destroying creation is an inherently dramatic theme. While Aronofsky claims the film is “for believers and non-believers,” he does seem to have the “21st century [Christian] believer” in mind primarily. He described the film as not another one of “your grandmother’s Bible movie[s].”

Some critics have noted that the film carries a more environmental message than a theological one. Honestly, that just makes me want to see Noah more. I am interested in the landscape which was filmed in Iceland and the portrayal of the animals. I want to see how Aronofsky has balanced the theological with the environmental challenges present in Noah’s tale. As a side note, here’s to hoping the animators of the film actually get paid. (Looking at you, Life of Pi.)

I would like to see Noah at some point in theatres once the fuss is over and the crowds have dispersed. I can’t promise that I will write a formal review of the film so much as a meditation. If nothing else, at least there will be popcorn.

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