I’ve been talking more often to a friend who works in a Christian organization. She is born and raised Catholic, but is the typical ‘seasonal’ Catholic – she only attends mass occasionally (during special occasions, or whenever she feels like it). She works in a company dominated by members of Christian sects (e.g. Baptist, Born Again Christians).
Her job application involved her writing an essay about her relationship with God, which she had to elaborate on during her job interview. On a daily basis, she is required to attend daily devotions, prayers before and after meetings. She organizes and attends mandatory retreats and full-day prayer sessions on special occasions. She is also surrounded by employees who like to quote the Bible and call each other ‘sis’ and ‘bro’. She has been asked, on occasion, to lead spontaneous prayers, share her reflections, participate in group sharing. It’s like a full-day Jesus party where she works.
As is to be expected from a person who has a brain and thinks for herself, this environment did not suit her. Unlike other organizations where prayer (even when organized by the company) is optional, her workplace requires attendance to all religious activities, and non-attendance has negative consequences on job evaluation. She has been reprimanded for being unaware of the negative influence of certain activities one would think was harmless (e.g. yoga). As a person in charge of recruitment, she has been asked to reject ‘unqualified’ candidates (specifically, candidates that are not Christian enough, such as Mormons, or immoral candidates, such as people who look like they are homosexuals). She hides who she really is – a funny, vibrant, person who curses and says dirty jokes- because this will lead to reprimands, which may include additional prayer reflections, being prayed over, or being thought of as a sinful, bad influence.
What is even worse than working in a company whose leadership is very, very prayerful is that the same religious, bible-thumping people are hypocritical, nepotistic employers. My friend has been working for weeks outside of her initial contract based on false promises of further employment. “We offer you spiritual growth in addition to a good career,” they said. By “good career”, they had actually meant further indefinite contractual employment with no benefits, on a job that they have described as “seasonal”, which was their official excuse for her contractual status (despite exceeding the 6 month period for regularization as recommended by law). In addition, my friend learned that this practice was not consistent for all employees. Some employees whose family shared the same church as management were actually immediately regularized, with no probationary period. Some are having contractual status while also enjoying the benefits of regular employees. Meanwhile, my friend met a fellow Catholic in the organization who has worked there for a couple of years on a string of short-term contracts with no benefits. It was obvious that Catholics in the organization, while ‘tolerated’, were marginalized for their half-hearted compliance with the majority’s religious practices. While one might say that this contract inconsistency is typical of other secular organizations, I find that these discriminatory practices (which, BTW, included flat-out lying to employees’ faces) are even more damning to an organization spouting Jesus talk eight hours a day. I thought Jesus judged dishonest, unfair people! Apparently he only judges the gays.
What was interesting to me was the effect of this type of environment on a person who actually believes in God. My friend told me that she actually feels like she has started to dislike God and Jesus and all that she thought it stood for, just because her officemates have fully bastardized any meaning left in it. How could anyone feel any affinity towards a concept that now stands for judgment, hate, dishonesty, and trite, petty rules? She described to me a hive-mind environment of people trying to out-Jesus each other with memorized bible quotes and disapproval of immoral behavior (and cheesy jokes about pastors), where people with different or dissenting beliefs hide their true colors and actually have to communicate covertly their opinions and lack of interest in ‘finding Jesus in their lives’. It seemed like a same-Jesus-shit-different-groundhog-day scenario, which her anecdotes being more ridiculous by the day. Who knows even if these so-called Christian people actually believe what they say, or if they’re just pretending to be like this for their careers? What is sure is that if you go all-out with your Christian-ness, you will be rewarded by Jesus (and by Jesus, I mean the bosses of this company).
Overall, she has described to me a daily experience of detachment, a little fear and a growing desire to stick immorality in their faces. We have discussed choosing the most immoral cartoon character for Kris Kringle, or the best workplace to say she transferred to when she resigns (HR manager for a gay bar), or inserting funny, sarcastic remarks in her daily prayer. Why did she accept it in the first place, you ask? Because the situation was too crazy-bizarre for the imagination to fathom (esp. for a person who doesn’t interact with these types of people). Why didn’t she leave immediately? Because she needed the cash, and her contract was supposedly short-term anyway. Why is she still there even if her contract has ended? Because they wouldn’t let her leave. She is planning on leaving the company soon despite the uncertain job market out there because she can’t take it anymore.
I described this experience so that we may reflect and Thank God for our secular workplaces and freedom to express ourselves in our own little corner of the internet. (I’m kidding about the God part, of course) To some of you, all religions are created equal (as in, equally false); to some, they are not. However, the freedom to actually choose one or none is sacred and a workplace where it is mandatory to practice only one religion is not ideal.