Thursday, December 4, 2014

Advent rant

Working these past nineteen years in a company where it is impolitic to be expressive of Christian sentiments, any such accidentally emitted either overlooked with evident embarrassment, or harshly and mockingly censured by others who have tactical authority to do so, people tend to categorize anyone suspected of this as ‘religious’ and an enigma to be avoided when possible.

Hence, there is no one who ever asks to go to lunch with me, except one who is likewise a Christian (a practicing Roman Catholic), and who when first hired was my close co-worker. It wasn’t always this way. When the company first started, whole groups of people went to lunch together, as many as six or eight, including me. There was no categorizing, no polarizing or marginalizing in those days.

As a historian, from my studies of books and life I have noticed a consistent pattern. Things always start out beautifully, harmoniously, supportively, and generously. Then, gradually, and at first hardly noticed, things start to devolve. Conditions between humans deteriorate and are excused as ‘human nature,’ or smoothed over by statements like ‘everybody makes mistakes.’

True, it is human nature that is modifying the environment human and terrestrial, dooming to chaos, destruction and death what originated in order, creativity and life. Unless you are a Christian you find others to blame, never yourself, and even as a Christian the temptation to shift the blame is sometimes overwhelming. Sunday brings me, ‘among sinners the chief,’ home to truth.

Still, it bothers me when people I have sometimes known for years pass me in the hallway and look the other way, or with silence and an expression on their face that seems to ask, ‘What? Isn’t he dead yet?’ A newer co-worker bumped into me this morning in a doorway with a look of apprehension and, again, silence, not a smile. Was he afraid I would turn into a three-headed monster before his eyes?

This is not about me, though the ideas come from my daily experience on the job. People who work at close quarters—my experience as a summer employee at the post office during college years initiated me into this—often come to ironically misguided conclusions about others. Whether it’s unchurched people keeping Christians at arm’s length, or talkatives pushing quiet people into untouchability.

Is it the fear of the unknown that makes us feel unsafe with people who are different? Is the side-lining of Christians or other people perceived as intrinsically dangerous part of this fear? Breaking the silence, from the Christian’s side, from my side, sometimes parts the waters, but then, a day later, the waves come crashing back into the seabed, and I am back to being accused as pharaoh’s murderer.

Accused, but not convicted. Things don’t usually go that far, though I have known and worked with people who were likewise ostracized in a politically correct way, till the weight of the accusations—in reality false suppositions—brought about their demise, even ‘old timers.’ A friend whom I’ve known and worked with on and off for nearly forty years was ‘let go’ in this way. He was fired for being ‘subversive.’ His actual crime, being a Christian.

Advent season is finally here. For me as an Orthodox Christian, the Christmas Fast. For some reason it’s easy for me to forego the piles of chocolates and other goodies that have started coming our way here at the factory. I positively cling to my ‘vegan plus sometimes fish’ diet with the tenacity of a fundamentalist, but actually I’m just glad to have the opportunity to eat little and healthfully.

Thank God I am not on anyone’s hit list for a luncheon date, except my one friend, with whom I dine on Fridays at a Thai restaurant, always ordering something vegan, an easy and delicious choice. Come the season of Christmas, I will prove my allegiance to holy tradition by ordering a plate of ‘drunken noodles with beef’ on any day we lunch together until Holy Theophany.

So much for my ‘Advent rant,’ by which in your hearing I have once again proven myself a fool and a sinner, and even partly performed my Lenten confession publicly. If I believed in the sinfulness of such things, I would confess in advance that at the only Christmas dinner I have been invited to, on Friday, December 12th, I will probably eat meat and dairy products. But then, that evening is also Hanukah. Luckily, my Jewish side can kick in, as long as I don’t mix meat and dairy in the same gulp!


Sasha said...

Gave me quite a few chuckles, brother! All of these: "Was he afraid I would turn into a three-headed monster", "pharaoh’s murderer", "drunken noodles" and the "Jewish side" as well. :)

> Things always start out beautifully, harmoniously, supportively, and generously. Then, gradually, and at first hardly noticed, things start to devolve.

Yeah, and that is sad...

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Thanks for commenting, and a happy Christmas to you (it's just around the corner!)... by the way, I didn't get to go to the company Christmas party after all. It was off-site in a part of town I never go to and, despite several tries to find the place, in the darkness, rain, and confusing traffic, I just gave up, found the exit that took me back to Portland, and went home, where I had a couple of garden burgers washed down with some green tea ginger ale. So, it really does work after all... always say 'Yes' to any invitation and, if the Lord doesn't want you to go, He will change the conditions, and get you out of it with no hurt feelings. No wonder He's such an unpopular God with certain party-goers!