Archive for the 'religion' Category

Religion in the Workplace

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld Christian-based aid organization World Vision’s practice of hiring – and retaining – only those who affirm the organization’s statement of faith.

Three former employees filed a lawsuit for wrongful termination when World Vision fired the employees after determining they no longer believed in the deity of Jesus Christ nor in the Trinity.

The legal issues in this case are many and complex:

  • whether religious-based groups have the right to hire only those of their own faith
  • whether religious-based nonprofits that receive government funds should be able to hire only those of their own faith when using government funds
  • whether employees who are performing satisfactorily in a secular capacity should face the possibility of losing their job solely because of religious beliefs

Dissenting judge Marsha Berzon writes that Title VII “makes a narrow exemption for institutions devoted to prayer and religious instruction, but expanding that exemption to nonprofit organizations tips the balance “toward a society in which employers could self-declare as religious enclaves from which dissenters can be excluded despite their ability to do the assigned secular work as well as religiously acceptable employees.”

World Vision is a Federal Way organization; I drive past it when I go to visit my sister. I’ve had friends apply for work there unsuccessfully because of the religion issue.

My personal opinion? Even a private organization is subject to equal opportunity employment hiring law, unless the job specifically requires professional practice of a particular religious faith. A pastor or director of religious education? Sure, they must be Christian, and of the right make and model. But the church secretary and accountant? It shouldn’t matter one bit.

The same should apply to organizations like World Vision. If they’re hiring a missionary to spread a specific type of Christian gospel, then by all means, a Christian statement of faith is relevant. If they need an IT professional, a project manager, a logistics assistant, again, the faith issue shouldn’t matter, and under EEO law, should be an off limits topic. The use of federal funds should make that process even more rigorous.

I realize that’s an overly simplistic view of the world, and that the law is far more complicated than that. Still, I don’t want my tax dollars being spent on humanitarian support that come a side of proselytizing or prejudicial, discriminatory hiring practices – I’d prefer they went to strictly secular organizations instead.

You see, I don’t believe America is a Christian nation. (Sorry, Christian friends!) I passionately believe we’re a pluralistic nation that happens to have a Christian majority – which I am only marginally a part of – but we are also a nation with a strong commitment to freedom, tolerance and mutual respect.

Posted on Monday, August 23rd, 2010 by Jeri
Under: rant, religion | 6 Comments »

Joy, Sorrow & the Divine

I posted a thought for the day earlier today:

We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them. ~Kahlil Gibran

My friend and colleague Duncan responded, “Profound. I’m a firm believer in the Lord chastiseth those whom he loves. Some sorrows are in many cases not of our choosing but rather chosen for us by someone who knows what is good for us.”

This particular aspect of faith, though, is one I struggle with on a visceral level. I’m not entirely sure I believe that, on an individual, human basis, the Creator has our individual happiness and best interests at heart, at least here on this earth, during this lifetime.

Imagine a giant, divinely inspired maze, with God the mad scientist and we faithful – or somewhat less so – humans the rats. (No, this is not a special edition of Who Moved My Cheese; I detest that book.) In this cosmic model God administers jolts of joy and sorrow to his lab subjects to steer them toward their reward, whatever that may be. Purina rat chow? Increased rat status and pay raises?

Although I am not a biblical literalist, the most specific assurance of God’s love for individual humans that I am aware of is here, and it seems somewhat indirect and conditional:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

This seems to say that God defines the reward at the end of the maze. What if the reward is a published paper for God the mad scientist? That’s not very motivational for the average rat. Oh, wait, I overextended the metaphor. ;)

Balancing that assurance, we see many stories of God allowing anguish, pain and suffering for His/Her glory. In the old testament, don’t we have examples like Isaac, Job and Jonah? And in the new testament we have Lazarus, Stephen, and the crucifixion of many of the apostles.

This would be the rat-maze equivalent of God directing his favorite rats through the maze with a taser. Or a BB gun.

If I could choose between living a peaceful, joyful, fruitful life here on earth, or painfully enduring to my maximum capacity, serving as an example and/or cautionary tale for God, I’d surely prefer the former, as I think might much of humanity.

So, how can a God who loves us ignore our agonized pleas for help and relief and instead administer a plan that serves His/Her glory rather than mere human happiness? I’m not asking “Why does God allow suffering?”, but “How can I serve a God that prioritizes His/Her own glory over individual happiness and welfare?”

On a related note, I also realize prayer, even in the desperate, darkest hour, isn’t a giant wish list in the sky. In many ways it primarily serves to draw us nearer to the divine, rather than the converse, which is actually rather amusing when you reverse the phrasing that way.

Still, my initial concept, “We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them,” is essentially, to me, one of self-determination. Our intentions and our beliefs drive our actions and create self-fulfilling prophecy in our lives.

I am fine with a God who randomly drops joy or abundance into my life – but random sorrows, as part of some cosmic, divine rat-in-a-maze plan, just don’t fit comfortably into my theology. I’d really rather wander the world without that particular type of help.

I have friends who are religious and philosophical scholars, of both a Christian, pantheist and atheist bent, who can probably expand on this subject much more eloquently than I.

My faith continues to have blind spots the size of the Bermuda Triangle, and yet I stumble on. I wonder what’s around the next corner?

Posted on Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: religion | 7 Comments »

A Skeptic’s Easter

SunriseEaster is a supremely religious holiday, and I am not a particularly devout person. The Christian Easter creed is:

Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.

The act of belief, of faith in that basic, sacred divine progression is one I honestly wrestle with.

As most of my friends know, I self-identify as a Christian, albeit a very liberal, progressive, left-leaning one. I believe that the most important part of my faith is this:

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these. Matthew 22:30-31

I wholeheartedly believe that God is a positive, creative, loving influence in our world, and we Christians and other good men and women are God’s hands here on hearth. It is our responsibility, our sacred obligation, to love, serve, accept, encourage and give generously.

What I have a harder time with is the more metaphysical dimensions of faith.

I’m not sure I believe in a literal heaven and hell or eternal life, or verbal inspiration of the bible. (I do still believe it’s a sacred text, with many truths that stand through the centuries.)

I don’t believe in spiritual warfare, in angels and demons warring over our every action. (If there are angels, I think they have more important things to worry about than my F-bomb habit.)

While I certainly believe we humans have the power to destroy ourselves in any number of ways, I’m very skeptical of the second coming of Christ, and find any debate over pre- or post-tribulation rapture to be kind of ludicrous. (How about feeding the hungry instead?)

I can believe, in a symbolic sense, that Christ conquered death and hell to give us life. That Christ taught us, through sacrifice, what unconditional love is, and through him we can learn about love and selfless living. That Christ, as God made flesh, is a transformational bridge between the human condition and the divine that makes divine love accessible to us all.

With that, in spite of the stubborn blind spots in my faith, I can celebrate Easter.

Alleluia! Christ is risen.
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Posted on Sunday, April 4th, 2010 by Jeri
Under: inspiration, religion | 4 Comments »

Sowing Hate

1 a : the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God b : the act of claiming the attributes of deity
2 : irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable

Go ahead and hate your neighbor,
Go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven,
You can justify it in the end.
      ~From “One Tin Soldier”

I will start this short post by saying that I am a Christian. I am a humble, doubting, questioning, liberal believer who clings fast to one core belief and not much else: God is love.

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.
      Mark 12:30-31

So, I ask this question: isn’t it blasphemous to claim the right to judge on God’s behalf? Isn’t it blasphemous to hate and wage war on your neighbor?

The Christ I follow consorted with tax collectors and sinners. He embraced lepers and fishermen, and lifted up prostitutes and thieves.

Mine is not a deity who hates sinners and nonbelievers, and I cannot respect those who claim to follow Him but sow hate on his behalf. That is true blasphemy. Instead, try:

Mutual respect.

I wholeheartedly believe love is ever so much more effective a change agent in this world and beyond.


Written in support of Blasphemy Day 2009. H/T to the always-insightful Janiece at Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men.

Posted on Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: religion | 7 Comments »