“Technically of course I am not allowed to ask this, but…”
I smiled warmly, curious of what was to come. The woman at the other side of the desk looked down into her papers, visibly uncomfortable having to ask what the Law would forbid her to bring up. I didn’t care, she could ask anything and I would try to answer – I was fresh out of University and this was my first job interview, of course I wanted to do well.
“… are you a Christian? It is very important to this particular family that anyone we choose is also… Christian.”
The job was to serve as a personal assistant to a child, a girl of 9 with special needs. It wasn’t exactly up my alley, as I was an archaeologist after all, but I needed a job so I was open for anything.
“A Christian?” I hesitated. This job… I needed it. And by Law my personal faith shouldn’t matter anyway. At the same time, I hate lying. Might as well be honest. “Well, I am baptized and confirmed… ”
Before I could continue the interviewer cut me off.
“Good! Moving on…”
Well, alright then. Eyes on the prize, I thought. I need this job. Need this job. This job, I need it. Christian, I could be that. It was… almost true? Partially true?
(To you who have not visited my blog before I might offer a quick explanation. I am an eclectic polytheist, walking my own path without following a set religion. More about that HERE. )
I got it. Oh happy day, I got it! Of course the family could still turn me down if they didn’t like me, but I was the agency’s choice. Already the week after I went out there, nervous as newcomers are, and finally met the family.
“The agency said you are a Christian,” the father said and smiled. He was showing me around the house and introducing me to the other family members. There were bible quotes and angels on the walls in every room. “Are you married? Of what faith is your husband?”
“He is… more or less an atheist.” I explained. “A scientist without religious interest.”
“Oh!” The father paused to consider, but then shrugged. “Well that’s better than being of the wrong faith at least, he’s not… a Muhammedan or something… ”
Keeping my smile on was hard. I hate, absolutely hate lies and deception and even if I still had not told an untruth, I had most definitely lied by omission. A big part of me just wanted to tell him that I was not the Christian he thought me to be, but I needed that job. And, to be honest, with that statement of his, his questioning not only of my faith but that of my husband, he lost my respect.
There are reasons why religion by Law is not to play a part in whether you get employed or not. There are reasons why, at least here in Sweden, the question of religion isn’t even allowed in job interviews. Still it remains a factor. Still people are denied work because of what religion they profess to or do not profess to, still people feel the need to hide who they are in order to not get discriminated against.
And still, right and wrong aren’t obvious. Whose rights are more important? My right to work regardless of my religious views, or the family’s right to decide who they will take into their home and work with their daughter? It wasn’t right of me to lie by omission, deceive the employer into thinking I was a regular Christian. But it wasn’t right of them to ask in the first place. So who was wrong? Both? Neither?
For me, accepting other faiths, or lack of faith, is simple. To me, we are all just taking different paths through the same forest, and while I of course think that my own path is right, that doesn’t necessarily mean others paths are wrong. And most importantly, I am just human. I can not judge who is right and who is wrong in these matters because I do not see the full picture, that in itself is at the core of my beliefs.
Trouble is, there are a lot of people whose faith include condemnation of those who think differently. And while I accept and respect their faith, they won’t do the same for me. To them, I am just wrong.
When your religion clearly states that all others are wrong, how do you accept those of other faith? Is it a matter of letting everyone make their own mistakes? Even if you believe that will lead them and their families to eternal suffering, do you let them make that choice? If you are a good person, would you not want to save them from ruin?
Accepting people of varying religions is not always easy. But in the world we live in it is necessary, unless we want to live in a continuous state of strife and injustice. Most see that, it’s said a thousand times a day, that we need to accept people’s freedom to choose their religion. But how? That, the hard part, is often forgotten. If it was easy we wouldn’t still be having trouble with it. How do you do it?
Humility. There is the key to so much. Regardless of your religion, understanding and accepting that you do not see the full picture. None of us do. And without the full picture you can not truly see who is right or wrong. And so, none of us are in a position to judge the faith of another.
So what happened with the job? It didn’t work out, I left after a few weeks. Why and how, that’s a completely different story.