workplace spirituality

April 11, 2007

politics / spirituality

The other day, I was part of a conversation, or a series of conversations. Among other things, one of the topics was workplace spirituality. Most of the other voices in this conversation are quite a bit more conservative than I am, which may or may not explain our differences of opinion on several of the issues.

In any case, one of the topics was prayer in the workplace. The observation was made that Muslims are allowed to take regular prayer breaks in order to comply with the pillar of Islam that states that one must pray five times daily. I’m fine with this. At my workplace, anyone can take prayer breaks, as far as I have heard. But in any case, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt, and assume that this might not be a stated thing at other workplaces, and that there might be workplaces where Christians, or Jews, or whoever, is not allowed to take prayer breaks.

The most obvious thing, here, is that if this kind of discrimination did occur and was reported to the right people (hey, maybe the ACLU isn’t that evil after all), it would be a huge public spectacle and would almost certainly be righted very quickly with a lot of financial gain. The ACLU has stood up for Christians and churches on several occasions when they were within their rights. So, where public life meets faith and spirituality, I cannot believe that this kind of discrimination would survive, apart from a victim mentality that didn’t bother reporting it.

But, I think there’s also a more private way to consider this. Many, and probably the vast majority of, American Muslims (who the conversation was concerning) are very faithful to the five pillars. More faithful than the majority of Christians are at anything. If Americans who claim the name of Jesus were given prayer breaks, what would they do on them? Talk on the phone… gossip with other coworkers… maybe talk about how spiritual they are… take an extra smoke break… eat… and any number of other things. I venture to guess that most would not actually pray. American Christianity is so separated from discipleship, and from everyday life, that I think it’s an assumption that Christians don’t need prayer breaks.