Last Friday, I found the following on the Raleigh District UMC Facebook page:
How do we maintain our faith everyday but Sunday?
At work this week, I had the opportunity to visit the cube/office of a fellow Christian. We both work in a well-known financial concern. As I was assisting him with a computer issue, I commented to him about the brochures, books, and invitations he had on display to various church events. He readily offered to give me anything that I wanted. I told him quietly of my involvement with my church and that I was only checking out their materials.
Then he told me that for over ten years he kept the materials more prominently displayed where those walking by his cube could see them or take them without actually entering his assigned space. It seems that a person of a different faith or no faith had made a complaint to HR. Looking around the expanse of this particular cube farm, I realized there are folks from all over the world, with different accents, skin tones and beliefs. A diverse work environment is a good thing.
I was reminded of the lesson we taught our confirmation students about early Christians having to draw “fish” in the sand and meet secretly. I read about religious persecution in the news and see images of violence on TV. I guess we only need to look a couple of rows across the field of cubes to see our own version of this at work. I am also reminded of the cuts to the prison system budgets to eliminate the positions of many chaplains, who help regardless of faith so many inmates, staff and their families.
Pastors – your workplace is full of expression of religious beliefs through art, music, symbols, and discussions. Lay leaders, how can we equip our brothers and sisters to be people of faith Monday through Friday, 8-5 AND keep their employment?
An interesting topic! We can discuss it here, without persecution!
I’m sure the initial reaction of many of us reading this for the first time is to feel persecuted. For all my progressive ideas and championship of diversity, there was a part of me that felt that way. Kind of like “How dare they take away that man’s right to freely practice his religion!” In reality, it’s more like “How dare they take away that man’s right to foist his particular belief on everyone else!” But, that’s really a sideshow here. The gentleman who wrote this saw through to the crux of the matter: a lot of us don’t spend the week in an atmosphere conducive to our faith. Because we’re not immersed in a spiritual setting daily, we have to find alternative ways to pursue our faith. For me, it’s reading and writing. There have been times that writing this blog is the only thing that’s kept me tied to my faith. It’s not easy being a radical and a heretic in a conservative world. Here, I’ve been able to say things I’d never get away with in church (which doesn’t say much for my visibility on the net); things like my embrace of the LGBT community, my rants about social and economic justice and the idea that everyone is my neighbor. As for where the reading comes in, where do you think I get all those wild ideas? Except fo the “everyone is my neighbor” part, I stole that from Andrew Fischer.
I think the ways we maintain our faith are as varied as the people who hold that faith. In his seventieth birthday speech, Mark Twain said that “we can’t reach old age by another man’s road” and that holds true in this instance, too. You have to find what works for you; following someone elses path is doomed to failure. Unfortunately, broken as we are, people tend to look for a checklist or a rulebook for their faith. They want something they can look at and say “If I do this, I’ll be fine”. But, it doesn’t work that way, every situation is different and requires it’s own particular approach. Even though it was beaten to death in the 90’s, the phrase “What would Jesus do?” is a good place to start. As long as you remember that Jesus probably wouldn’t withhold food, water and medical attention from others so he could live in a McMansion and drive a gas-guzzling SUV.