As I mentioned in an earlier post, I got laid off from one job right before Christmas, but got picked up by the same company on another contract a week later. I thought it was a blessing. Little did I know!
The job I had been working at for most of last year was awesome. The folks were like family and everyone (well, mostly) was wonderful to work with. I had taken on a new position as a demobilization assistant. I was helping entire units, rather than individual soldiers, to reintegrate and get home. It was damn challenging, but I was getting the hang of it. And I was loving it.
To say that I was shocked when I learned that we were getting laid off has to be the understatement of the world. We were called into the conference area on a Thursday morning and told that we were no longer going to be working there as of 1700 the next day. I was super impressed and proud of all of the civilians who were just told that they were losing their jobs 4 days before Christmas, though. We didn’t cry or carry on. Ever one of us wanted to know how this would impact the mission for the soldiers. It was a bright moment in an otherwise pretty dark day.
My supervisor lined up interviews for some of us at the JRC for an open position on that contract. I interviewed for it that Friday and didn’t have much hope that I would actually get the job. However, the day after Christmas, I got the call and started there that Friday. I was excited that I didn’t even have to apply for unemployment and would have a paying job almost immediately after losing my last one.
I was put in the RAPIDS/DEERS section of the JRC. It was here that I would issue identification cards to military members and also change their DEERS settings (controls their benefits). It took the better part of a week to get spun up and qualified to do the task, but I was up and running before our first unit came through on demobilization.
I took to the job like a duck to water, mostly cause it’s idiot proof. The program guides you through the entire process. It really wasn’t rocket science, to say the least. The downside? If we didn’t have a unit coming through, there was NOTHING to do. I mean that, literally. There was nothing to do. Our computers were not desktop computers, so we couldn’t even surf the net or anything. So we sat there, staring at the walls and engaging in conversation.
That’s where the issue came in. The conversation part.
See, everyone I worked with was a born-again Christian. Not that I have a problem with born-again Christians. I don’t. What I do have a problem with is people ramming their religion down my throat. And these folks took the directive to go out and spread the word in a very literal manner.
On the second day of the job, I was talking to the lady that was in the office next to mine. She was a divorced, single-mother as well and we were discussing the challenges that came with picking up your life after getting a divorce. I mentioned something about liking to do what are considered “manly” things (i.e., watching football, car care, handiwork around the house), and she said, and I quote, “If you accept God into your life, He will cleanse you and make you more ladylike.”
I was flabbergasted. Absolutely flabbergasted. My very first reaction was less than ladylike. I wanted to tell her, in a very Infantry like way, something that rhymes with “duck blue.” But, I (very admirably, I thought) bit my tongue and picked up the book that I had to pass the time.
Needless to say, I didn’t engage in much conversation with her after that.
So, out of 4 folks in the office, that’s one down. Three to go.
Two of the folks in the office were the supervisor and her assistant. They kind of kept to themselves and didn’t really come out and talk with the rest of us much.
So, two more down. One to go.
The last person that was always in the office, was an older gentleman that I’ll call H. H is the brother-in-law of a man that I had worked with at the last job, a man that I admire and respect. H seems genial enough when you first meet him, but he is all about the religion, too. H and I would fall into some theological discussions, but it would always turn to witnessing. I’m all for theological discussions, but the witnessing is uncomfortable.
One day, one of the other folks in the JRC came to the office to help out for a unit that we had coming through. Now B, as I’ll call him, makes no secret of the fact that he is a pastor for a local church. He reads the Bible constantly and has taken college courses to become a pastor. For him, witnessing is a way of life.
On this particular day, the lady that told me I would be cleansed? She had mentioned about the first same sex marriage that had been performed on the base where I work. Personally, I was thrilled with the idea that the military had repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and I loved that these folks could live their lives honestly and openly in uniform. However, this idea obviously didn’t set well with the religious folks in the room.
The conversation had gone on for about ten minutes and I had stayed out of the conversation as much as I could, but I finally had to say something. I said, “I don’t think it matters who you love. You love who you love and it’s a beautiful thing.”
At this point, B and H proceeded to parse the word “love” into different Greek words. I don’t remember all the words, but I know that they used one that was defined as “brotherly love,” and another that was defined as “passionate love” (that one was ‘eros,’ I do remember that). They proceeded to state that a man should only have brotherly love for another man and that if they had passionate love it was a sin.
It was at this moment that I backed out of the conversation. Mostly because I was steaming mad. Why was I mad, you ask? Well, let me explain:
Whether or not you believe that homosexuality is a sin, if you are Christian, you should hate the sin and not the sinner. It’s very simple. In fact, it’s a directive from Jesus Christ, himself. Jesus Christ broke bread with those that were considered the worst sinners at the time (tax collectors and whores) and declared his love for them. To do anything less that what Jesus Christ did and still call yourself a Christian is the ultimate hypocrisy, in my mind. It is just this hypocrisy that turned me away from the church. As Ghandi said, “Christianity isn’t bad. It’s the Christians I can’t handle.”
Now, I want to add here, for the Christians that are reading my blog, I don’t generally give a darn about what you believe or espouse. And I certainly don’t dislike Christians, just because they are Christian. What got me so upset about this situation was the fact that I was considered “less than” by these folks because I wasn’t someone who thumped a Bible and witnessed at every turn. That is what upset me. That they could be so hypocritical, yet consider me the sinner.
As the conversation continued and I continued to not say anything, H looked around at me and said, “What, you don’t have anything to say? I can’t believe you don’t have anything to add!” At which point, I stated, “I need a job more than I need an opinion and I don’t feel like socializing with hypocrites today.”
The conversation between H and B came to a screeching halt at that point. Soon after, I went to the supervisor and told her that I was “offended” by all of the witnessing that was happening in the office (and for those of you that know me, you know how hard it is to offend me). Soon after that meeting, she spoke to the rest of the folks in the office about the witnessing.
The next day, all conversation in the office ceased. No lie, I spent one week in that office with no conversation happening at all. We sat there for 8 hours a day and didn’t say a word to each other beyond “Good morning,” and “See you tomorrow.”
Eventually, I moved out of that office and spent the last three weeks or so at different locations, doing the same job. Thank goodness.
My mother told me years ago that there are three things you don’t talk about in public: sex, politics and religion.
Safe to say, she was right.
Bottom line, if you respect my beliefs, then I’ll respect yours. I won’t try to convert you to my system, as long as you don’t try to convert me to yours. I fully believe that religion is something that is very personal. Lack of religion is the same way. For those of us that don’t subscribe to any kind of religion, we have our reasons. We may not want to share those with anyone, so please don’t ask. Suffice it to say, we have thought about it and made our decision to live our lives without religion in it.
That being said, do I pray? Yup. I surely do. I believe in a higher power, but not one that is defined by humans. Do I consider myself to be Christian? No, I surely do not. Why? Well, I think Bill Maher sums it up very nicely with this quote:
“One of the complaints leveled against me is, ‘Oh, Bill, you’re such a meanie. Why do you have to go after religion? It gives people comfort; it doesn’t hurt anything.’ Okay, well, other than most wars, the Crusades, the Inquisition, 9/11, arranged marriages to minors, blowing up girls’ schools, the suppression of women and homosexuals, fatwas, ethnic cleansing, honor rape, human sacrifice, burning witches, suicide bombings, condoning slavery, and the systematic f**king of children, there’s a few little things I have a problem with.”
I do not subscribe to any man-made religion, Christian or not. I pray to a Higher Power who I think moves through our lives. I can talk the talk like a Christian (I spent many years working in the Catholic Church) and I find religion fascinating, but it’s not for me. I don’t practice it, I don’t live it and I don’t teach it to my children.
But I have zero problem with you if you do. I think that’s awesome for you. But it’s just not for me. And there are many reasons why. So, please don’t try to witness to me, especially in a work environment. That’s not the place for it. At all.
And, by the way, I’m pretty durn ladylike – when I want to be.
But, I’m still gonna change my brakes on my car and I’m still gonna root for Peyton Manning.
Cause that’s who I am. And I’m ok with that.