Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Difference Between Religion and Faith

For some reason, I am lacking in fear for authority figures. It takes about 20 minutes to lose that initial intimidation factor. Not exactly 20 minutes, but pretty close. I came to this realization by interviewing for a position in my church's district administrative office. Not only was I subjected to the normal interview questions regarding my strengths and weaknesses, I was also asked a variety of lifestyle questions. A normal person would downplay any questionable habits and give nice, Christian answers. I would have done the same if those questions had come at the beginning of the interview. Unfortunately, the District Superintendent had spent quite a bit of time and charm disarming me and making me comfortable.

I confessed immediately that I was a closet smoker when asked. Disappointed at the turn of questions but knowing where they were headed, I added that I also had a beer now and then. I emphasized that I didn't drink in front of people who might take issue with it. He then asked if I felt that I was sinning because I took pains to hide both of these habits. Stunned at the question, I responded that I was ashamed of smoking because it was a horrible habit. I was careful about drinking so I didn't offend anyone who had a problem with it. He then asked if I would be willing to give them up to take the job and I came to a nice simmer.

I told him I would be willing to try and quit smoking since I wanted to anyway but, I would not stop drinking to uphold a mixed message. It was pointless for them to condone drinking but enforce abstinence among their employees. If the office had a problem with my drinking and didn't hire me that was fine, but I couldn't compromise my integrity. Surprisingly, this answer and my indignation went over quite well. He even told me he respected my answer and agreed that it was not a sin. Then he asked me how I felt about gambling and my gentle simmer turned to a rolling boil.

Suddenly realizing this interview had been a waste of both our time and irritated that he actually expected a thoughtful response, I began answering the questions with every intent of showing just how irrelevant I thought the subject was.

"I don't have a problem with gambling."

"Do you gamble?"

"I haven't yet, but I haven't really had an opportunity."

"So, do you want to gamble?"

"I've never really thought about it before, but it might be fun."

"So, if someone called me and told me that they saw you at a casino, what would you expect me I say to them?"

"Well, I would expect you to say, 'Oh yes, she told me that she was going to be out there playing bingo this weekend.' Because chances are, if I am going to gamble, it would be on Bingo. And, knowing me, I would talk about it nonstop the entire week before. Oh, and I would expect you to follow up by asking them how they enjoyed the casino."

When they called and offered me the job a week later, I was speechless. About a year in I jokingly asked if I could get my eyebrow pierced and he said yes. So, I did. At the pastors' retreat, they wanted newly pierced me to offer the group prayer at lunch in front of over 200 pastors and their wives. When I saw they weren't kidding, I pretended to get up and go for more food. Before I could make my escape, I was gently taken by the arm and led up to the front of the room. It was the weirdest mix of anger, satisfaction, embarrassment and affirmation I have ever felt. After I moved on to another job, I found out that I was quite unpopular with the district churches. He spent a lot of time on the phone shutting down people who called in to complain about me. I suspect that having me pray was a response to that backlash in addition to his phone conversations. He told me he answered every call the same way. "God cares about her heart, not her eyebrow. And I feel exactly the same."

That man helped shape the way I look at everyone including myself. Good on ya' wherever you are.

PS, I totally forgot the question that I think turned the tide for me. He asked what I would do if grown men started chasing each other around the office with squirt guns. I told him I would pull my preloaded super soaker from the bottom drawer and return fire.


  1. Wow! You never shared this with me? I was surprised at the anger I felt at the churches in my conference that would make such an issue at the "outside of the cup". Of course I was angry because they were judging your heart, which they had no knowledge of. Then I remembered that I was so grateful for your eyebrow ring because it changed my judgmental attitude toward people who choose to choose to live their life in freedom instead of dominance under society. Like me wearing my hair gray. I am learning that judging is judging. To judge Christians who don't know better is still judging, thanks Shakes! Love the you that is you!

  2. Love you, your eyebrow ring phase, your honesty and your ability to teach others lessons without even meaning to. :)