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The real reason the press is obsessing over Hobby Lobby's artifacts

Hobby Lobby, cuneiform tablets, clay bullae
A Hobby Lobby store and samples of smuggled artifacts, a cuneiform tablet (L) and a clay bullae (R), seized by the U.S. government. |

Over the last three weeks there has been a spate of new coverage of the return to Iraq of an artifact which had been looted from Iraq before it eventually was sold to Hobby Lobby. The coverage is obviously agenda-driven, working hard to get the words "looted' and "Hobby Lobby" into the same headline. But what the headlines leave out and the stories play down is that the Greens had nothing whatsoever to do with the act of looting, nor were they aware of it when they bought it. The coverage is an elaborate exercise in 'blame the victim.' The Gilgamesh "Dream Tablet" was purchased by Hobby Lobby from Christie's, not some guy in Baghdad wearing a trench coat.

The Greens and Christie's were defrauded. And all of this is really old news. The revelation of the origins of the artifact and its being taken from the Greens occurred in 2019. The only new news now is that the artifact in question is currently in the process of being returned by the U.S. government to Iraq, so the heavy coverage of the topic smacks of a desire simply to rehash the same old misleading accusations.

Why is the press to anxious to rehearse two-year-old smears? I think we know why. All these accusations are at base just revenge for the Hobby Lobby case, which got religious liberty reaffirmed by the courts. There are, after all, many thousands of looted relics floating around, held by many art collectors, auction houses and museums, and yet where are the headlines about those other buyers? The other buyers don't get the same play as the Greens because the Greens are a frequent target of the left because of their high-profile stance on behalf of religious liberty and the sanctity of life.

But I'd like to go a little deeper than our politics and look at some of the little appropriately symbolic providences of this case. The Greens wanted this tile because it tells the Babylonian version of the flood story.

But the Babylonian version is different from the Bible version. The God of the Bible sent a flood to wipe out the evil of cascading violence. Why did the Babylonian gods send a flood? Overpopulation. Too many people were making too much noise and disturbing the sleep of the gods. Isn't it appropriate somehow that this is the particular tile on which the media has focused? Not that they know what they're doing, consciously. But at some level, this campaign against the Greens mirrors the worldview in the tablet in question.

The roots of the abortion movement are in Malthusian fears of overpopulation, especially fears of too many of the ‘wrong’ people. Before abortion/contraception movements were sold as personal freedom and self-actualization, they were founded by our ruling class (our version of the gods,) who were worried about the teeming masses of noisy people marring America, disturbing their peace and power. The Greens are under attack, not because they are artifact thieves, not because they accepted a tablet describing the Babylonian flood myth, but rather because they rejected the philosophy etched into it.

In the end, Gilgamesh is about the supremacy of the state as the only antidote to chaos. The Greens' real "sin" is in rejecting the supremacy of the state and adhering to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. This is the tablet which was sold by Christies to Hobby Lobby. But before it was looted, it was held by the Iraqi government. It feels appropriate that the epic poem extolling the tyrannical Gilgamesh was owned by Saddam, who thought of himself as a modern version of the Babylonian tyrant Nebuchadnezzar.

And it also seems symbolically fitting (though unjust) somehow that this is the poem over which the Greens are being attacked. The final message of the Epic of Gilgamesh is that there is no eternal life, and that the city is the closest thing there is to eternal life and that man finds his meaning only in conforming to the role which the state gives him. The Greens resisted that when they refused to fund abortion in their benefits program. Our Gilgamesh class was not pleased and tried to destroy them. But God rescued them, and they prevailed. For this, they are hated, expelled from the City of Man.

And when the persecution against Hobby Lobby was at its most intense, they put a billboard above their corporate headquarters quoting the Bible: "Our God who we serve is able to deliver us." It's a quote from Daniel 3, during an act of persecution from… you guessed it… Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian state, the heirs of the myth of Gilgamesh.

Jerry Bowyer is financial economist, president of Bowyer Research, and author of “The Maker Versus the Takers: What Jesus Really Said About Social Justice and Economics.”

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