Hobby Lobby is sickening
David Green, the Evangelical billionaire owner of Hobby Lobby, on March 19th tells employees the craft store chain will stay open when many “non-essential” business are closing. In a bizarre memo, he lingers on the theme of his company being “blessed” by God, and mentions that his wife had a vision assuring everything would be all right.
“My and Barbara’s confidence, and comfort, comes in large part from knowing that you are part of our Hobby Lobby family,” he writes.
On March 27th, all hourly employees were fired. “We hope this layoff will be temporary, but we cannot predict how COVID-19 will affect Company operations,” the impersonal memo states. “We encourage you to file for state unemployment benefits. We appreciate your service to the Company.”
Signed: “Yours in Christ, etc.”
On March 28th, the company’s executives told store managers to try and stay open by arguing with local officials they were an ‘essential’ service. A new memo reads: “The reasons could be: because we sell educational materials, because we sell products for home based businesses, or because we sell materials to make PPE (personal protective equipment.)”
With all hourly employees gone, however, they weren’t able to clean the stores. Employees told Business Insider that the company’s website was claiming “extensive cleaning” was happening that wasn’t.
The employees said they were worried about their personal safety and a lack of resources needed to maintain a clean and sanitized workspace. The North Carolina employee said her team was not allowed to wear gloves or masks while working because management told them “it would make customers uncomfortable.”
It seems that employees had to leak internal memos out of desperation with the management. There was no other accountability.
In response, the management takes to communicating via phone. I get the impression of David and Barbara unable to grasp they they were in a P.R. disaster.
They made no move to be generous or conciliatory. It was lies, punishments and threats all the way down.
Hobby Lobby has said so many times they were serving God in some unusually intense way, and had been “blessed” as a result. The Green family have used their wealth to pay for activism on sexual issues: abstinence education, restrictions on abortion and a ban on gay marriage.
It might’ve been nice to see them—in a time of crisis—caring about people in some way that was identifiably “Christian.”
As it is, when their profits are threatened, they seem to behave far worse than “secular” and “unblessed” companies. Many companies were making efforts to keep employees on at full pay, with several having executives offering to cut their own pay to make it happen.
As many companies were re-tooling to produce protective masks, it seems odd that the resources of Hobby Lobby, which involve sewing and fabric, weren’t. mobilized to help their communities.
The Greens are celebrated for having $6 billion dollars. They often say their money comes from biblical financial management. As Green says in an interview last year with Christianity Today:
My wife and I both grew up in Christian families who actively served in their churches. As children and teenagers, we went to Christian camps and youth conferences. (Actually, the first time we met was at a church camp, although we didn’t start dating until later.) Our parents raised us to look to the Bible for life guidance and hope.
Like so many young families, we had to wrestle with raising children, making ends meet financially, dealing with debt and budgeting. In our case, we looked to the Bible for answers.
What he seems to really like about the Bible is its sales figures. He dwells on its bestseller status at length.
The Bible is the best-selling book around the world, regardless of culture, economic status, education levels, and political and social situations. Its status has remained unchanged. Daniel Radosh, writing for the New Yorker, points out, “The familiar observation that the Bible is the best-selling book of all time obscures a more startling fact: the Bible is the best-selling book of the year, every year.”
Surveying his Bible commentary there’s an unsettling lack of interest in themes of human love or affection. For him, “God” seems to be the spirit of selling—the divine ability to move product.
The Green family has another business also in the news. The Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. is being forced to return 11,500 antiquities—ancient pieces of clay and papyrus—that David Green purchased prior to the museum’s opening in 2017.
As Christianity Today reports on April 1:
Green said he acquired the antiquities before the Washington, DC, museum opened in November 2017, when he didn’t understand the importance of proper provenance and trusted the word of unscrupulous dealers.
“These early mistakes resulted in Museum of the Bible receiving a great deal of criticism over the years,” Green said last week in an official statement. “The criticism resulting from my mistakes was justified.”
The centerpiece of the museum’s displays were 16 fragments said to be Dead Sea Scrolls. An investigation found they were forgeries.
Other highlights of the museum’s collection had been stolen from other institutions. They had Egyptian papyrus fragments from the University of Oxford. It leaves to the Museum of the Bible, now, little if any historical significance. After spending a half-billion dollars, the “museum” is revealed as a theme park.
Is this how God “blesses” the Green family?
It looks to me like they took advantage of an Evangelical population that liked to do arts and crafts, running an ad campaign that cast the store as a church in itself. They made a vast fortune, and then tried to branch out into a “museum“ that was built on fraud and lighting effects.
The museum was intended, I suppose, to solidify a public perception of Evangelical ownership of the Bible. It should have been in Vegas—the lighting is that good—but that wouldn’t have furthered the impression that Washington D.C. is Christian country.
If there’s a blessing, it’s seeing through this hucksterism.