Friday, March 23, 2012

They'll Know We are Christians


I note that several online Orthodox Christians are all up in arms about the UK's current proposal to "ban" the wearing of a cross in the workplace. (Actually, I think the proposal is not to ban it, but rather to allow employers the right to ban it if they wish. But I could be wrong, I haven't paid much attention to it).

Even some normally reasonable and level-headed Orthodox Christians here in the U.S. - and not the U.K. - have taken this as some sort of a personal affront and are all upset about it, calling for all of their Christian friends to wear a cross which is visible to the public on this day or that day in a move of solidarity with cross-wearing Christians in the UK.

I have at least a couple of thoughts about this.

First, since when does an employer not have the right to set guidelines on what their employees can or can't wear at work? (Several Orthodox Christians might be surprised to learn that many Orthodox churches have expectations about what's appropriate to wear for church, too! Click on the link to "Sunday dress.") It seems to me that employers have always had that right, and that employees have the right to either take a job or not take it if it doesn't suit them for whatever reason - or to leave a job if it stops suiting them for whatever reason. But to sue a company because you can't wear a cross at work seems ridiculous.

Second, it is not wearing a necklace with a cross on it which makes one a Christian. It is not even wearing a necklace with a cross on it that most clearly identifies us as Christians.

I know several cross-wearing Christians whose words and deeds are sometimes not at all recognizable as "Christian." Heck, often I am such a Christian myself! And that's why (as I've said before), though I do wear a cross, I wear it under my clothing where it is not visible to the rest of the world. I don't wear it like some sort of a hello-my-name-is sticker to tell the world that I am a Christian. I wear it where I can feel it to remind myself that I am a Christian, and pray that it affects what I say -or write- and what I do. (Conversely, I know lots of folks who aren't even Christian at all - and so don't wear a cross - but who are more Christlike than many Christians.)

It isn't a piece of jewelry that identifies us to others as Christians. It's what's in our hearts and the love we show to others (all others, including those most difficult to love) which is the best witness to our faith.

I was talking to a wise woman at church on Wednesday evening at the potluck after presanctified liturgy and she mentioned that with church, too often people focus so hard on inconsequential things that they completely miss the really important things. She's right - and I think that applies here, too.

So today, on one of those "solidarity" days, I'm leaving my cross inside my shirt, which, for me, is where it belongs.

3 comments:

Dixie said...

I don't know that I fully agree. I understand and agree that an employer can dictate what one can or cannot wear to work. But how does an employer choose what is a religious symbol? Some religions have symbols that are not so obvious, so then it becomes unfair to those who practice a religion with a readily identifiable symbol. Plus, if necklaces are allowed, how is it, apart from safety, that the employer can dictate one's taste in style and say one kind of necklace charm is OK and another not? Better to ban all necklaces and/or jewelry. We do that in the manufacturing facilities where I work but it is for product safety, not merely dress code.

Plus, I was uncomfortable with the Archbishop of Canterbury's belittling of someone who chooses to wear a cross and the notion that Christianity should be lived and not displayed around one's neck. No doubt it should be...but me wearing a cross (and I have done so every day of my life for over twenty years) is not a little thing to me...it is a big thing. It is a comfort to me reminding me who I am and that God loves me no matter what the circumstances that surround me at the time and it helps remind me how I should act and react. I think that is what bothers me the most...the comments indicating that it isn't important. Can someone else tell me my cross is inconsequential? Unless we pretend to know someone's life or heart or pains...I would think we should not be so free to color every situation with the same broad brush.

This is my first comment on the issue but since you are my internet pal and I think you totally rock, I thought you would be OK with a dissenting opinion.

Cha said...

Once gain, with a little formatting:

Let me interline:

"... But how does an employer choose what is a religious symbol?"

A cross is undeniably a Christian symbol. I don't think there can be any dispute about that.

"Some religions have symbols that are not so obvious, so then it becomes unfair to those who practice a religion with a readily identifiable symbol..."

For an employer, I don't think it has to be about what *we think* is fair.(and let's face it, life just isn't always fair. I might not think it's fair that my hours are different from my colleagues' hours, or that our rates of pay are different. But if I take a job with a clear understanding of the expectations between myself and my employer, then we can either fulfill those expectations or find a job where the expectations are more in line with what we want.

"... Plus, I was uncomfortable with the Archbishop of Canterbury's belittling of someone who chooses to wear a cross and the notion that Christianity should be lived and not displayed around one's neck."

I haven't seen or heard about this, but I rather agree, at least to a point. If you have a link to this, can you post it here?

"No doubt it should be...but me wearing a cross (and I have done so every day of my life for over twenty years) is not a little thing to me...it is a big thing."

I have worn one every day since my chrismation, too - and while it is important - for *me* - I do not expect it to be important for anyone else, especially my employer. If it were that important *for me* and I was working in an environment where wearing it was not permitted, I would find a different job.

"... It is a comfort to me..."
Me, too. But at work, it isn't about me.

"... reminding me who I am and that God loves me no matter what the circumstances that surround me at the time and it helps remind me how I should act and react..."

As I mentioned, that's why I wear mine also. But if I worked at a place where it wasn't allowed, I would take it off until I got home from work. God doesn't stop loving me and I am not someone else because I am not wearing my cross. And while the reminder is helpful, I have lived with this knowledge since I was little. I know of God's love for me and how to act and react in various situations even without the reminder.

"I think that is what bothers me the most...the comments indicating that it isn't important. Can someone else tell me my cross is inconsequential?..."

Someone else can tell you whatever they want, and they will, whether or not they know what they are talking about, and whether or not it is true. But I think this is what bothers *me* the most, it the over-emotional emphasis of Orthodox Christians - particularly converts like me - not only on those small "t" traditions of the church which set us apart from other Christians and other people in general, but the focus on self that the emphasis on those sorts of things leads to.

"... I thought you would be OK with a dissenting opinion."

I am perfectly fine with all of your opinions, Dixie, dissenting or not. I don't think our agreement is the goal. Only our willingness to hear each other and to disagree in Christian love.

s-p said...

Good comments on both sides. I chose to not wear any "Christian" jewelry etc. in my work place. I would rather have people think "Oh, that makes sense" when they find out I am one rather than display it symbolically. However, I can see how it is personal rather than a "witness" kind of thing too.