My Cubicle Farm, My Mission Field
I work in a militantly secular corporate culture. The low point came recently, when two people from another department came to my cubicle and loudly asked, “So, how much are you giving to the AIDS walk?” I had the distinct feeling I was being given a litmus test designed to ferret out anyone who's not absolutely thrilled about gay rights and causes. I like my job, but how do I live in an environment like this without getting totally discouraged?
So you're a missionary. Working in a thoroughly secular culture (as 99% of us do) is a lot like making a daily parachute drop behind enemy lines. The good news is: That's where the souls that need conversion to Christ tend to hang out.
I know a colleague who, in a similar situation to yours, went to his human-resources department and told them he didn't like being pressured to participate in politically correct, extracurricular activities. HR swiftly implemented a “No Office Solicitations” policy. That kept the agenda-pushing activists at bay, but it also blocked out fundraisers for good, apolitical causes.
This strategy is analogous to pretending to be out when Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons come calling. Some of us actually relish such encounters. My wife, for example, gets excited when she sees the guys in the white shirts bicycling down our street. And why not? She's schooled in philosophy, and she knows a New Evangelization moment when she sees one.
Just a couple of pointers to keep in mind if you're up to the challenge of turning the tables on militantly secular workplace “evangelists”:
First, overcome the aggressors with kindness. Care more about their cause than they do. Then state your perspective without fudging:
“Thanks so much for interrupting me for this very worthwhile cause. I am totally in support of helping people with AIDS and helping people with same-sex attraction. After all, I'm a Christian and I believe in the inherent dignity of every human person. The problem is, I don't think that the AIDS walk really helps enough. I think the antics of a lot of the marchers can hurt the cause of AIDS prevention by alienating and offending many people who would otherwise contribute to the search for a cure, and I'm not sure how much money really gets to researchers. So I find it better to give to (name a Catholic charity) or to a group like Courage, which deals more directly with these issues.”
Second, be ready to counter-evangelize:
“Sure, I'll give you a few bucks for the AIDS walk if you'll read this.” (Here's where you whip out your copy of The Gospel of Life, The Splendor of Truth or The Theology of the Body.) “I'll check back with you in a week to see how you liked it!”
Bottom line: Have confidence in the truth of the Catholic faith, and don't be ashamed to hold to it when you're pressed by forces indifferent or hostile to it.
If presented with charity and understanding, the faith will make its own friends — and win its own converts.
Art Bennett is director of Alpha Omega Clinic and Consultation Services (aoccs.org).