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Religion at Work

Given the increased prominence religion has had in America over the last several years, I suppose this is not so surprising, but it's not good news at all -- a big article in the NY Times about the Christianization of the workplace.

On the face of it, it's a nice idea:

One of the movement's objectives is to give Christians an opportunity to "out" themselves on the job, to let them express who they are, freely and without feeling persecuted. Few would argue with such a goal: it suits an open society. And if it increases productivity and keeps C.E.O.'s from turning into reptiles, all the better.

Even government agencies are getting in on the game:

In 2001, Angie Tracey, an employee at the Centers for Disease Control, organized what she calls a "comprehensive workplace ministry," among the first officially sanctioned employee religious groups within the federal government. She says that many colleagues have been "saved" at her group's Bible studies and other gatherings on government property, and she describes the federal agency's not-yet-saved employees as "fertile ground." Her program has spread rapidly within the C.D.C., and employees at other divisions of the federal government -- the Census Bureau, the General Services Administration, the Office of Personnel Management -- have contacted her about bringing the Word into their workplaces, too.

Apparently it is completely legal to do this at a government agency, although frankly it boggles my mind that that is so.

But even if workplace evangelism is legal, it's still got a big problem; that being the fact that part and parcel of the evangelical Christain faith is to prostletize. It sets up a dynamic tension between people who approve of that activity, and those who either have a secular orientation or who belong to faiths which do not have a tradition of evangelism.

On a small scale, who cares? If it makes for successful businesses and happy employees, why should anyone be concerned? Becasue these people have big plans. Some of them want to have not only Christian businesses, but all-Christian towns, and even an all-Christian America:

Later I met several of the men for lunch at the Olde Main Eatery downtown. One owns the local fitness center; another runs a heating-oil business. As they talked, their ideas and objectives expanded. It turned out that their group -- Pray Elk River -- is part of a network of municipal officials, ministers and small-business owners across the country that has the goal of winning whole towns over to Christ. [snip] Rick Heeren -- a businessman and the author of "Thank God It's Monday!" -- is the Midwest representative for the national umbrella organization, which is called Harvest Evangelism. He told me that Harvest Evangelism had chosen Elk River as a "detonator city" through which, ultimately, the nation will be turned to Jesus Christ. (Other detonator cities include Honolulu and San Jose.)

Frankly reading this kind of thing turns my stomach in a mix of revulsion and fear. The America these people envision is an America that this Jew has literally no place in. And there are a hell of a lot more of them than there are of people like me. Although the author takes great pains to detail how kind, how nice, and how loving the evangelicals he meets generally are, the important question is never asked: what happens when you expand out of your all-white, all-Christian suburbs and meet people not willing to live within your vision?

The closest they get is when the author asks one of the subjects of the article, bank owner Chuck Ripka, the following:

When I asked Ripka if a Jew or Muslim had ever applied for a job at the bank, his choice of language was a bit odd: "We don't really have that in our community at this point."

The bank is located in a more or less all-white suburb in Minnesota, so no surprise there. But it is a critical point the author never quite addresses. This phenomenon is here and is is growing. It's even fully legal. But what happens when the inevitable culture clash begins?

I often think that when America finally fails, it will be this schism -- the religious versus the secular -- that brings it down. If these differences calcify for a few more decades, it's not such a stretch to see the day come when the Christian heartland decides it does not want or need those ungodly people on the coasts who refuse to conform to their vision of an all-Christian America and seriously tries to form an America of its own.

And in my heart of hearts I have to say, maybe that's the right solution. It would certainly be better than the nightmare vision of a civil war over the future of America, or even worse, the repressions, deportations, or even executions that might emerge out of one America dominated by the theocratic mindset.


This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 31, 2004 10:20 AM.

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