May 9, 2001
9:16 AM   Subscribe

A Jacksonville aviation company and others are making daily prayer meetings, chaplains and burning frankincense a permanent part of the workplace. Should we thank God, or pray this doesn't happen where we work?
posted by rcade (29 comments total)
What a great day for religion!
posted by starvingartist at 9:30 AM on May 9, 2001

Of course, issues of favoritism and discrimination should be dealt with seriously, but otherwise, who cares? I'd be glad to know where my boss stood, one way or another, as long as s/he didn't force me to participate in her/his religious practices. Good for them.
posted by ChrisTN at 10:01 AM on May 9, 2001

Yes, I'm glad that someone knows they're working for Ned Flanders.
posted by solistrato at 10:05 AM on May 9, 2001

Anyone see the movie "The Big Kahuna"? Two senior salesmen and one rookie go to sales convention for their company and have a big party/sales meeting in their hospitality suite, expecting The Big Kahuna to show up and vindicate their struggle at sales with a huge purchase. Rookie ends up meeting TBK without knowing it and talks to him all night long - about religion. Abrasive senior salesman screams at him, tells him to go to the party he's been invited to and try to make the sale. Rookie goes to the party and talks to TBK again - about religion. That's all he cared about. Making the sale didn't matter - bringing people to Christ was his only purpose.

I think it's great that the owner of this company has so much faith. I think it sucks that he's making such an important part of his business, and I really hope that his employees who don't share his beliefs either take him to task for it or quit. I know I would.
posted by starvingartist at 10:15 AM on May 9, 2001

"God has no place within these walls, just as facts have no place within organized religion."
posted by ahughey at 10:19 AM on May 9, 2001

I'd be the first out the door if I worked at a job that suddenly found religion. What are the odds that a non-religious person at a workplace like this is going to move up the ladder as fast as a member of the God squad?
posted by rcade at 10:21 AM on May 9, 2001

I think the article downplays the possible issues of favoritism and discrimination. I also think it's short sighted to believe there would be none.

If some one's faith is so strong that he must make it an integral part of his business life, what are the odds that I, an avowed non-Christian, would receive the same treatment as an equally competent but ardent believer in Jesus Christ?

The business owner's inherent belief system is such that he feels a person who has accepted Jesus Christ as his or her personal savior is superior to some one who has not. That's a basic tenant of fundamental Christianity. Thus, on the basis of my religious beliefs (or in this case lack thereof) and not my abilities, I might be turned down for promotions or even passed over for a job.

If layoffs become a necessity, which person is this business owner more likely to fire? The Christian, who participates in all the prayer meetings and doesn't balk at opening the day with a hymn or sneeze at the Frankincense, or the non-believer, who keeps her head up and her eyes open during the prayers?

Would people react with the same positive response if the business owner were gay, and hung gay pride posters and banners all over the office, and started each meeting with a rousing chant of "We're Here! We're Queer! Let's discuss the third quarter financials!"
posted by jennyb at 10:23 AM on May 9, 2001

The business owner's inherent belief system is such that he feels a person who has accepted Jesus Christ as his or her personal savior is superior to some one who has not. That's a basic tenant of fundamental Christianity.

No Jennyb, that idea is not found anywhere in Christianity.
You will might very well find some favoritism in this persons workplace, but that is no different than any other environment. Favoritism is a part of life. The difference is that Christianity teaches us to love one another as God loves us - and God loves us all equally, regardless of whether or not we believe in him.

If that's their goal, I applaud them.
posted by catscape at 10:32 AM on May 9, 2001

Yes, in theory, God loves us all equally, regardless of our beliefs. But too many times I've heard horrible, horrible things from "good Christian souls" about all those evil non-Christians. Where did God's equal love for us all come into play during the Crusades? Or when Christian ministers justify the murder of abortion providers? It takes all kinds, even on the side opposite yours.
posted by starvingartist at 10:36 AM on May 9, 2001

No Jennyb, that idea is not found anywhere in Christianity.

Actually, it is extremely widespread in Christianity. It is not, however, anywhere in the Bible.
posted by kindall at 10:39 AM on May 9, 2001

Or to be more precise, the New Testament, the supposed foundation of Christianity.
posted by kindall at 10:39 AM on May 9, 2001

The fundamental question there is "why does God allow bad things to happen". That is a question that has been asked for centuries, and will continue to be asked. In a nutshell, it's because God gave us freedom to choose good or evil.

I know that many claiming to be on God's side have done despicable acts of violence. They don't speak for God, and they will be judged by God. There are times when I am ashamed to admit to being a Christian. Every time some jerk like Eric Rudoph claims to be a Christian, I want to hide. Jerks come in all types
posted by catscape at 10:46 AM on May 9, 2001

That's kind of avoiding the issue, isn't it, catscape? The Crusaders believed they were doing the right thing - in the name of God. The Christian ministers promoting justified homicide believe they are doing the right thing - in the name of God. Actually, if they found out that you think they're wrong, they'd probably say the same thing about you that you just said about them. As a non-Christian, it's extremely difficult for me to know who is really promoting Christian values and who is not, when the whole group is so plagued with internal conflict. And anyway, how do you know they don't speak for God? Do you speak for God? Then maybe you have all the answers?
posted by starvingartist at 10:57 AM on May 9, 2001

catscape, I readily admit that I have a bias on this issue. However, I'm not convinced that Christianity as an institution doesn't encourae a feeling of moral superiority towards non-Christians. Otherwise, why would anyone try to convert people to that system of beliefs, or try to dictate how some one else should act, particularly if those actions have no effect on that person?

I am not suggesting that the owner of the business in question not believe as he choses, or even be open those beliefs. As long as he pays his employees, he can send his business profits to the church, or burn them in his backyard so they go directly to Jesus for all I care.

I am suggesting that in a business where people with different kinds and levels of faith work, Christianity (or Judaism or Buddhism or Satanism or Universal Unitarianism) should not play such a major part in how the business is run, for the reasons I stated above.
posted by jennyb at 10:59 AM on May 9, 2001

The fundamental question there is "why does God allow bad things to happen".

No, the fundamental question there is "why do many (not most) christians do bad things in the name of Christ?". It's not god's fault that this woman's a hateful bigot.

Just because you think this business owner's message is a good one doesn't mean that his behavior is a good idea. I like jennyb's "We're here, we're queer" analogy. Another, possibly less controversial one would be a muslim business man who kneels and faces Mecca several times during the workday. How would that go over for you?
posted by jpoulos at 11:09 AM on May 9, 2001

Jennyb, I can't speak for anyone but myself. I can understand why you would feel that way about Christians. I used to feel that way too.

Back in the late 70's while waiting on a bus, some guy with long dirty hair and a guitar started following me, talking about Jesus. I just wanted him to shut up or to go away. His actions shaded my opinion of all Christians. About 10 years later I met some people who seemed to genuinely care about me and my situation. They didn't care if I believed the same way as them. They turned out to be Christians, and that also affected my opinion - enough to start seriously looking into what the whole deal was about.

If I talk about Jesus or God, it's not because I think everyone should believe as I believe. For me it's like this: If someone came along and deposited 100 million in your bank account, would you tell others - or would you keep it to yourself?
posted by catscape at 11:11 AM on May 9, 2001

jpoulos, it would not be a problem for me - as long as he didn't force me to go along with it.
posted by catscape at 11:13 AM on May 9, 2001

Another, possibly less controversial one would be a muslim business man who kneels and faces Mecca several times during the workday. How would that go over for you?

Again, bully for him. If you read the article, you'll see that they're not just talking about Christian business owners, but religious business owners in general (they talk about a Buddhist, for instance). I'd never support overt proselytization, but if that business owner tries to inject a bit of humanity into the business by focusing on something aside from cutthroat competition...well, hell, go for it.
posted by ChrisTN at 11:27 AM on May 9, 2001

company prayer time is good and all, but i'm out of there the moment they mention witch-burning at the company picnic.
posted by jcterminal at 11:34 AM on May 9, 2001

catscape, all due respect to the wonderful things that Christianity has brought to your life. But step back a moment. How would you feel if where you were working, your Muslim boss decided to begin every working day with a prayer to Allah, and invited employees to join him? What if you were the only Christian employee amid a group of Muslims? Would that be appropriate, or would you sense discrimination?

I don't feel my religion has any place in the formal working environment. I believe that's a basic, fundamental principle on which the United States was built, and I worry about any attempts to change it, just because the people changing it have Jesus on their side and all the wonderful things that might mean. It has nothing to do with how I feel about Christians or Christianity, and everything to do with how I feel about personal liberty and religious tolerance.
posted by dhartung at 12:47 PM on May 9, 2001

Now this is sort of interesting. Lots of English football teams, for instance, have a club chaplain -- often the local priest for the parish containing the ground. There's no "mission" as such, just an acknowledgement of the clergy's traditional pastoral role, dating from long before the professionalisation of "counselling". He (or she) is there when needed.

On a slightly different note: you see plenty of team sports in the US embellished by highly visible religious displays. So, do "separationists" turn a blind eye to their teams, at times when it's expected of them to join in the huddle before the big match and ask Jesus to do his bit?
posted by holgate at 1:05 PM on May 9, 2001

I believe this religion zealot ought to read the bible once in a while, as opposed to thumping it in the workplace.

Matthew 6:5
"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward."


"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."

So there you go. These pseudo-religious hucksters openly defy biblical mandates to stoke their egos. Pathetic.

posted by MikeN at 1:37 PM on May 9, 2001

So there you go. These pseudo-religious hucksters openly defy biblical mandates to stoke their egos. Pathetic.

No. Read the article. The business owners in question, Christian and Buddhist alike, are setting aside a separate, private location (their "closet," if you will) for their religious practices. Pathetic? Only you can make that call for yourself. But pseudo-religious hucksters openly defying biblical mandates? Hardly.
posted by ChrisTN at 4:35 PM on May 9, 2001

holgate: if praying to God would make the Redskins win the Superbowl, I'd convert in a New York minute :)
posted by owillis at 4:51 PM on May 9, 2001

"The only problem I have with Christianity are all these Christians" Nietschze paraphrased

I understand exactly why many of you rail against organized religion but please understand there IS a difference between Christianity and religiosity.

Full disclosure: yes, I am Christian, no I am not a "fundamentalist."

I have worked for a fellow who founded his company on the same principles as in the article and my experience was very positive. He was also a businessman and understood that running a successful business meant not holding revival meetings continously. The only overt mention of his faith was he would often ask if I had anything he could pray about for me. This was a significant improvement in working conditions over working for large greedy corporations who had absolutely no interest in the individuals they employed. To summarize: this type of business climate should not automatically be labeled negatively.
posted by nofundy at 7:07 AM on May 10, 2001

My wife works for a professional sports franchise, which is owned by an extremely religious man ("Nathan: one question. Have you invited Jesus to your wedding?" I really wanted to say 'Well, spaces are tight and I want to only send invites to those who I'm sure will actually show up,' but I didn't...).

Anyhoo, at this workplace, they've recently hired a chaplain who leads a prayer group prior to work. The owner, as well as many of the employees, attends these group meetings and there is definite pressure to conform to this schedule. My wife is understandably nervous about this sort of thing. After all, in such an environment, the extra familiarity that being at these meetings could bring favoritism whether religious based or not -- it's a question of access to the purse strings, and not just one of being in the "youth group," which is my derisive name for the particular cabal of employees. When promotion time comes, who has the edge?

It also brings up another question to me, which is how valuable is faked civic religiousity anyway? It's the same deal with prayers at football games, or school, or graduations, or whatever. Why do these watered down expressions of McChristianity do anything for the conservatives at all?

(side note -- I can't believe they didn't mention this. In His Steps, the book by Charles Sheldon mentioned in the link, is also the origin of "What Would Jesus Do?")
posted by norm at 8:03 AM on May 10, 2001

I don't feel my religion has any place in the formal working environment. I believe that's a basic, fundamental principle on which the United States was built

Can you point me to the fundamental document containing this notion of freedom from religion anywhere you don't want it to be? Because I've looked through everything I've got on the shelf, and I can't find it.

On point, I don't think that genuinely religious business owner would use your participation in workplace prayer groups or such as a measure of your worth as an employee any more or less than a gung ho golfer boss would use your ability/willingness to golf with him (and clients) and/or join his club as a measure of your worth as an employee. Same with a myriad other non-work "joining" events that are often related to pet causes of bosses. And if so, or if the rah rah Go God atmosphere becomes cloying, you are more than free to find other employment.
posted by Dreama at 9:17 AM on May 10, 2001

Dreama, go read your history and find out exactly why the Pilgrims came here, OK? And the Quakers and Mennonites and Jews. And ... but is my point clear yet?

Also, note the wording. When I say MY RELIGION has no place in the working environment I am speaking to my own behavior, and asking the same of others. I am not asking for freedom "from" religion, which is, in my experience, a vicious and deliberate misinterpretation of the meaning of religious tolerance. Yes, there is an atheist organization using the phrase, but I don't speak for them. I speak for ecumenicism.
posted by dhartung at 9:51 AM on May 10, 2001

Well, actually, Dreama, I think you have a valid point, although your usual gloss of acidic sarcasm makes it irritating to draw out. Just because I don't think a business owner should introduce their religion into the public space they provide doesn't mean that the government ought to step in, or that there is a statutory right to be able to avoid religion. I think that we should do a lot better job of trying to convincing people how to act and not as much in taking those people to court when they don't act the way you want them to.
posted by norm at 11:07 AM on May 10, 2001

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