Jobs My Faith Wouldn’t Allow Me
There is lots of good commentary out there about why the whole Kim Davis story is ridiculous. She was elected to a government office that she wanted to fill, choosing to act as a representative of the government. She took an oath saying she would fulfill her duties without partiality, among other things. Now she has decided she doesn’t want to do her job. She doesn’t just resign, though. Instead, she insists that she gets to do her job her way instead of the way of her employer. The employer in this case is also the government, so by “their way” we really just mean “the law.” She thinks she is still entitled to the job that she refuses to do. Some Christians paint her as a martyr standing up for her religious freedom.
Let’s be clear here: there are no religious rights being violated. She hasn’t been told she can’t practice her religion. She hasn’t been told she can’t teach her religion to others. What she’s been told is that if she wants to keep her job, she has to keep actually doing her job. You know, like the conditions present for almost everybody else who has a job.
That’s as much as I’m going to talk about it directly because as Benjamin Corey points out, how much we’re focusing on this instead of real needs (and real religious persecution) like the refugee crisis shows how messed up North American Christians’ priorities are.
That leads me to an interesting thought experiment that becomes much more personal than fighting over Kim. That’s this question: what jobs would I be unable to do because of my faith?
Before starting, here’s my qualifier: this is my list. Some things in the list are because of things I would consider central to Jesus’ teachings and therefore I have a hard time imagining how any Christian could do it. Some who are genuinely trying to follow Jesus would disagree. Other things have to do with my own convictions that I know aren’t representative of all Christians. I definitely do not want to say that anybody who does them are evil or not real Christians. My list does not have to be your list.
Member of Parliament
Like most Anabaptists, I would not consider being a Member of Parliament. An MP decides things like when to employ violence against other people, internationally or against your own citizens. They also decide things like cutting development of a clean water supply to a Native community that is in desperate need. Those kind of decisions will inevitably lead me to a conflict in priorities where I wouldn’t be able to do what my constituents wanted because of my faith.
In the Canadian system, the more localized government gets, the less I see potential for serious conflict. Municipal governments don’t have the same problems of whether to go to war, for example. It gets fuzzy as you move down.
The early Church unanimously opposed military service. Historically so have Anabaptists, including me. I cannot say in anything close to good conscience that I am loving my neighbour or turning the other cheek while I shoot them. Military is not limited to those doing the killing. Providing medical care and chaplaincy for soldiers are two fuzzier areas which I don’t think I could do but I don’t think are anti-Christ either.
This may seem fuzzier than military, but unfortunately I’m come to realize that the role of police often has much more to do with maintaining the status quo – regardless of the cost – than it has to do with real justice or common good. In theory I do believe police can be a huge help for their community without using violence, but that’s not really how most policing works right now, so at least right now, I couldn’t do this job.
Some Churches and Ministries
I love working with lots of people who I disagree with on various questions, and I do at the Canadian Bible Society, an ecumenical organization. I could not work in some churches or ministries that actively promoted things I considered to be harmful, though. I can typically call those people my brothers and sisters in Christ – when they are genuinely doing what they think it means to follow Jesus – but I could not be a part of promoting those things I see as harmful.
I could not take a job that actively encourages greed. I’m ok with marketing in general, and would do it for a product that I think actually can make lives better. However, much of marketing is built around convincing people that they need something they don’t or that they deserve to spoil themselves. Greed is the second-most criticized sin in the Bible after idolatry. I want to encourage people to live simply and generously, not trick people into giving their money to the rich.
The problem for many is an underlying bad theology about how to live as part of the state and the Church. They want the two to be the same – everybody to be forced into the same value systems – so they never are inconvenienced by decisions like whether to take a job. But that’s not what Jesus calls us toward. He calls us to take up our cross, ie willing to die on a very painful execution device for him and for each other. He calls us to live in a way fundamentally different than the ways of our world, including our government’s ways, embracing peace and grace when most want judgement and xenophobic violence. Having some limitations on which employment I would accept is tiny compared to the call Jesus gave us. If I can’t even stay faithful in the minor inconvenience of less job options, how could I claim to be anywhere close to following Jesus?