Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Work encounters of the religious kind

from Gyratory Circus:
In a previous post, I mentioned how I'm learning things about my new employer that are making me uncomfortable - well, another one walked right through my door not long ago.

I was just about to shut my door and eat my lunch when a man stopped by and introduced himself as the company chaplain. Huh? Chaplain? I worked at a hospital for a long time and was used to having all sorts of clergy around - there were rabbis and nuns and imams and Charismatic hellfire-and-brimstone preachers - but they were there for the patients, and there was no automatic assumption that everyone was Christian. Where I work now is a regular old office, not open to the public, so I had automatically assumed that if they offered any kind of employee assistance it would be a therapist or counselor - definitely NOT clergy.

The chaplain gave me his card and told me to call him day or night if I needed help resolving a workplace issue (I assumed he meant things along the lines of personality conflicts, not to have him help me with Excel formula questions) or just someone to talk to. His "welcome aboard" speech was obviously rehearsed and you could tell each word was chosen very very carefully to make him sound neutral and open-minded. Thankfully, he didn't stay long - I think he could tell that I wasn't very receptive to his spiel and went on to find easier pickings.

After he left I pulled up the website that was on the business card, looking for clues to see if the company he worked for had a generic non-sectarian Christian viewpoint or if it was more than that. On the Mission page, it spelled it out pretty clearly:

Our mission is to build relationships with employees, with the hope of gaining permission to share the life-changing Good News of Jesus Christ, in a non-threatening manner.

So basically the goal is to manipulate folks and try to gain their trust so they'll be receptive to evangelizing. Nice!

My first reaction is to contact HR and see if they have a non-clergy counselor available and see what the reaction is, but considering it took nearly 6 months for me to find out about this I don't think that the whole company is some sort of hotbed of proselytization.

from frog:
When GC told me about this, I thought she was kidding. I was sure she was kidding. I mean, what the hell is clergy doing in a corporation? In a hospital, yes, I can understand that. In a religious-based nonprofit (or even for profit) setting, I can understand that, too. Hell, I work in academia and I know that I can find clergy here if I want them.

But the idea of a clergy person showing up at my office, uninvited, while I’m working? That gets on my last Christian feminist nerve. It’s possible that it pissed me off even more than it did my pagan/Buddhist friend, who’s the one who had the chaplain in her office.

I’m no one’s idea of an evangelist, but the people I know IRL think of me as such. I’m given to inviting people to church for various events and to worship with me, but for some reason, the idea of a chaplain being employed to talk to me about my spiritual life during work bothers me to no end. I’m all for the idea of ministering to the whole person, as it were, but I’m not at all for the idea of someone trying to dictate to me or anyone else, on the clock, what my belief system should be or where I should turn for solace when that’s needed.

Separation of church and state should extend to being able to work at my secular job without God’s minions showing up at my door uninvited.


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