Friday, August 3, 2007

Fridays @ Work: Spirituality in the Workplace

Spirituality in the workplace is not just at issue during the winter holidays. No, it is an ever present reminder of our differences or similarities. Being cognizant of our coworkers’ spiritual standing may not be relevant to the task at hand, but it does come up. When it does come up, prepare to be

a) Alienated

b) Comforted

c) Offended

d) Surprised

e) Irritated

f) Happy

g) Supported

Watch yourself, calmly now, become offended at not only what people believe, but what they do not believe. For example, my wonderful coworker was taken aback when another woman referred to her Buddha Belly (she was pregnant). She did not like the Buddhist term applied to her child. Not only did this affect my coworker, but myself. I felt a little taken aback also. What was wrong with a Buddhist belly? Although I am not Buddhist, I do ascribe to some of the qualities of Buddhism, including those of Kwan Yin. I felt like she was saying that the concept and practice of Buddhism was wrong, and somehow morally bankrupt. However, upon further thought I realized that was not the case. She just felt uncomfortable embodying Buddhist concepts as a devoted Christian.

In another circumstance, I noticed that all of the women in my department (there are no men in my department) are Christian of some variety, and they regularly go to church. They talk about church, confirmation, baptism as a matter of course. There is no analogue to this regularly scheduled spirituality in my life. I do try to go to solstice occasions at the local Unitarian Universalist location. However, it is not that regular. I don’t feel anywhere near as comfortable talking about this as they do about their churches. They can so on and on about what the preacher said in the sermon, what kids wore for baptism, and so on. But I would not feel comfortable talking about Wicca, what craft we performed, what blessings we spoke, or what ceremonial garb we wore. It is just not as normal, or as accepted. Sure, if there are Wiccans out there reading this you might think: well, come out of the broom closet for Goddess sake! However, I don’t take lightly the decision to potentially impact my professional career.

Not only am I Wiccan, but psychic. What a fantastic resume booster! Where others can write: Elks (read: Christian Charity) Club as a reference, I might not get as far being a member of a Wiccan community group. After all, some people still think Wiccans worship evil spirits, or the big baddie himself (whose name I will not deign type here). Others think that it is just a big RPG for preteens and computer programmers. (I did just find out that my URL Rowanwand is actually the name of a clan of witches in a RPG. I, personally, am close with the name Rowan since it is my mother’s maiden name, and it is also known as a magical tree.)

Other times I think about the fact that we get all the Christian holidays off, but Jewish, Muslim, and other holidays? Well, we’re out of luck. Not to bemoan the fact, but that can be alienating too. People celebrated full moons for many more years than they have celebrated the great sacrifice of Jesus, or the dominion of one all-powerful God.

I’ve veered off-topic.

What I want to get to is this. Religion and spirituality are tricky topics. Remember The Passion of the Christ (still haven’t seen it, meant to, just for reference)? What about the Blair Witch Project? Think about how mosques are being conflated with centers of warfare in some places in this world. I hope we can continue to share our faiths, and keep openminded about the results of our discussions. Spirituality adds such richness to our lives, and is such a big part of the personality I’m not sure we could ever hope (or want) to leave it at home.


FranIAm said...

This is such a good and provocative post Rion.

As you can tell from reading my blog, I am part of an organized church (gulp, Catholic even!) although I am there as a loyal but vocally critical member.

What gets my goat on all matters religious is the need of others to worry about saving me or you or someone else.

Then religion becomes a control issue, what a surprise.

Spirituality is about going deeper- Wiccan, Christian, Buddhist, whatever.

Religion is about control and order.

And the workplace is almost never a good place for it to be discussed.

Rion said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Unlike many other "alternative" people, I do not loathe those who are Catholic or Christian. I think that Catholicism, especially, is a lovely and symbolic practice (regardless of some of the activities and standpoints of The Church). Interestingly, it is easy for people to demand to be treated as individuals, but very hard to treat others as individuals regardless of their group affiliation. When I catch myself assuming that another person always follows the "party line" of their religion, political party, or even sports team...well, I try to think first.
I am not sure discussion of religion at work can be fully avoided at my workplace, as it is such a small company we are all very close knit. The simplest thing, like a movie, can bring it up. However, I do think that religion is a dangerous topic. It is hard not to feel closely or less closely affiliated to people due to such a personal and cultural decision.

Oh golly, I'm not making any sense.

I just realized I say O God a lot at work and that it could offend people. That level of knowledge, at least, is warranted. Thanks Fran for your thoughtful response.

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