Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Faith and the workplace

I was thinking a while ago about how hard it sometimes is for me to get my Young Women calling done now that I'm working fulltime. (It was hard before, too, but for different reasons.) This made me think that a secondary reason for the Church encouraging mothers not to work outside the home might be a simple workforce issue. Or should I say, a callingforce issue. Without all the at-home moms giving obscene amounts of time to Primary, Young Women, Relief Society, Activities Committee, and other callings, not to mention taking care of children while husbands serve in their own gender-specific callings, whotheheck would run the dang Church? GOSH!

(I think maybe I've watched Napoleon one time too many.)

But another reason occurred to me that is more complex, and bear with me while I think it out a bit.

When I was at home with my kids, I was immersed in a gospel-centric environment. By this I mainly mean that my friends were almost all church friends and my social activities almost all church activities. When I heard an opposing viewpoint on the radio (I continued and continue to be a rabid fan of This American Life, with which I often disagree) it was easy for me to dismiss it because, I knew, all my friends agreed with me. It can be a very insulated life when you're a mom at home.

Not that I have any good excuse for insulating myself so completely. I didn't grow up in a heavily-Mormon area. I went to high school in Pennsylvania and Alaska. Plenty of people disagreed with my beliefs, I know. But those who let that be known were easy to dismiss because they were mean-spirited and rude (Ben Seekins, if by some weird chance you are reading my blog, you have to know that I will never forget when you passed around your "Mormonism's Temple of Doom" pamphlet in AP History). And those who didn't let it be known ... well, maybe I was just too immature to recognize it.

And I've worked before with people who were not members of the Church. But that was in Utah. It was still easy to be recklessly, sometimes thoughtlessly confident about my faith, because that's what it's like to be in a majority.

It's not like that now. Right now I feel like I have to give a lot more careful consideration to opposing viewpoints because I work with and know personally many wonderful, intelligent, caring individuals with whom I disagree on important issues. The last several months have been an adventure as I realize, maybe for the first time, that my beliefs are just plain bizarre to most of the people I work with. We have a new assistant who I'm fairly sure is lesbian. Another woman in my office is the wife of a local evangelical minister. My office mate is secular-Jewish. I've never been in such a diverse workplace, and while I love it, I can also foresee interesting things coming down the pipe as California continues to confront things like same-sex marriage. (And by the way, my own stance on that is not exactly in line with the LDS Church, but it's also not too close to what most gay-rights activists are looking for. I think the government ought to get out of the marriage business altogether and just perform civil unions for anyone who wants them. Let the churches define and perform marriage as they will.)

(In a funny synchronicity, there's an interesting article in the March issue of the Ensign about this. It arrived at my house yesterday, but it's not online yet. I'll come back and link it when it comes up.)

Anyway, I haven't arrived at conclusions about this. Is it good for my testimony, my being in this office? In the long run, I hope so.

What about you? Is your work good for your faith?

And maybe sometime we'll have a followup: is your faith good for your work?


liltreefrog said...

A very interesting post. A few years ago I was hired by a woman to represent her in a criminal trial. She was accused of assaulting the son of her partner. She was a lesbian, and the families did not approve of their relationship.

She asked me point blank during our first meeting whether the fact that she was a lesbian would keep me from representing her. I told her absolutely not. We went to trial and we won.

Over the next few months, I noticed an increasing volume of calls from same-sex couples looking for help - setting up wills, powers of attorney, etc. Apparently other attorneys in the community were not to inclined to assist them, but word had spread that I would.

In that sense, my faith had instilled in me a sense that all people are equal and everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. The idea of Christ as mediator and counselor makes sense to me, because that is a big part of my job and I try to emulate Him.

Is my work good for my faith? I don't know - I see the worst of people sometimes. It can be disheartening. I also think I have become more tolerant of others' mistakes, because I work with so many decent people who have made really stupid choices.

Ben said...

"[T]hey were mean-spirited and rude (Ben Seekins, if by some weird chance you are reading my blog, you have to know that I will never forget when you passed around your "Mormonism's Temple of Doom" pamphlet in AP History)."

Anna - By some weird chance I read your blog. A coworker was looking for a web site I had been listed on and plugged in my name. He was quite pleased to discover that I had in fact offended someone in my life. I have learned over time to give more consideration to the impact I have on others rather than being as confrontational as I have been in my past. I still try to actively engage others, but my methods are more in line with my objectives. My objectives though, are not to be mean-spirited; I don't think they ever were. I hope that looking into the past you don't think of me as someone who was mean spirited.

Many of my favorite people in life have been Mormons. I do feel that there are serious problems with the Mormon church as an institution. Over time I have been able to better understand that the beliefs of the institution are not always the beliefs of the individual. I personaly disagree with my own church on occassion. I also note that in your own blogs you express a disagreement with your church on occassion. In fact, I feel that most any church will stray from God's message over time in that churches are run by people, and people get things wrong. I also believe that it is the specific relationship that an individual has with Jesus that determines salvation rather than the teachings of an institution.

Having learned this differentiation over time, many of my beliefs have changed. In the past I believed that the problems which exist in the Mormon church were so severe that a Mormon individual could not be considered "Christian". I don't believe that way any more. I still believe that the Morman Church has problems, but I believe that Morman individuals can have the type of personal relationship with Jesus that would result in them being saved.

When I brought in "Mormanism, Magik, and Masonry" it was not for a mean spirited purpose. I can understand how it would appear that way after having the delivery influenced by: a limited understanding of effective communication, excessive testosterone, and general teen social awkwardness. From my point of view I was ethically obligated to bring this type of information to the attention of you and others. I cared about you, and my other Morman friends (still consider you a friend after all these years). I wanted you to get into heaven and as such wanted to expose the problems with your church that I felt would prevent you from getting there. I wouldn't disagree with your characterization of "rude", because teen boys are pretty much rude in most everything they do, but I would disagree with the term "mean spirited" because I had no such spirit when I undertook the act. I'm sorry for hurting your feelings.

P.S. - About the workplace v. church calling to be home with kids. When I have such conflicts in my life, God seems to repeat the message to me that I shouldn't worry about these things too much because he has a plan for my life. I try to remember that there is a plan, and try to keep myself open to changes and to what that plan might be. From what I know of you Anna - you are different - always thinking, always questioning, but still possessing a desire to do what's right. You seem to have a unique perspective on many issues, and have personal strengths that most people do not possess. Raising the children and taking care of home and church activities are huge responsibilities and by no means inferior to any other responsibilities. However, it does seem that God has given you particular talents that suggest a particular plan for your life. I expect that his plan for your life includes responsibilities outside of homemaking and church activities. I expect that there is plan to utilize your special gifts.


Ana said...

Ben, thanks for your thoughtful comment. We were all less than mature at 16 or 17, and sometimes when I look back at those days I forget to apply whatever maturity or wisdom I might have gained since then. I have gained a little, I hope!

I apologize for applying the words rude and mean-spirited to you. They reflect how I felt at the time, but looking back I think you're right that it was just the awkwardness of expressing a different point of view when we were just kids and still forming our views within ourselves.

I don't have a way to reach you, but hope you get this apology. Thanks especially for the kind words about me personally. It means a lot to be remembered that way, especially from a time I can look back on and see so many mistakes of unkindness and self-righteousness and being easily offended. It's nice to think that if our circles overlapped today we would have a much easier friendship.