“It’s Wear It Rainbow at work this week. Not sure what to do."
“It’s Wear It Rainbow at work this week. Not sure what to do.”
I got that private message on Facebook the other day, and it’s one of several I’ve had in the recent past. And it’s invariably from someone who is in a bit of a fluster because the day that their company board has decided to celebrate all things sexually diverse has been sprung on them.
No one wants anyone to be discriminated against in work, right? So if that’s you, you’ll wear it rainbow, right? You can see the dilemma right there for those who hold to a traditional Christian sexual ethic. Do you keep your head down? Take a sickie? Do you hold your head up? Come to work that day dressed in resplendent grey, like the morose, miserable homophobic cloudburst you undoubtedly are.
How do we navigate a work space in the public square; in which the work place has been leveraged as a major platform for social change, much of it at odds with a Christian view of sexuality, and some of it, at least, at odds with lots of other groups? That’s become a critical question, and it’s all happened so quickly.
So what would you do? I ask that now, before Wear It Rainbow Day arrives at your workplace perhaps, because there’s the old saying “You can’t fatten a pig on the way to the market”. Now you may be perfectly okay wearing rainbow colours because you are committed to that cause, but it’s still worth reading on to get an understanding of your work colleagues who may not be. And good work relationships spring from understanding each other.
Well here a few pointers for you, a way to fatten the pig as early as you can, so to speak.
1. Commit To A Strategy Early
It’s like anything. Don’t assume you’ll dodge this particular bullet. Instead sit down with like-minded friends and talk through what they would do and what you would do if that day arrives. If you’re the praying types, then pray for each other.
If you’re trying to come up with a strategy the week of the event, it’s too late. You’ll inevitably panic, lose some sleep and wonder if you’ll get it right or wrong. Wonder if you’ll come across like a homophobic bigot. Write down what you’d do, what you’d say and how you’d respond to a variety of situations.
2. Trust Your Character
I wrote last time about being a “non-anxious” presence in the workplace. Christians don’t need to be anxious about anything. If the quality of your character in the workplace hinges solely on whether you wear rainbow colours, then perhaps you have to check upstream to see how you have behaved.
And if you have gay and trans colleagues then I assume you have treated them as God wishes all humans to treat all other humans; with dignity, value and respect. Christians in the work place build their character over time.
3. Have a Conversation With your Superiors
I know that sounds hard, and it may indeed be your superiors who are running the program, but honesty is always important. If you are honest in the things that will cost you in the workplace then you are going to be trusted with the rest. A conversation may start along the lines as to why from your Christian ethical framework you respect people, even when you deeply disagree with them. You may also say that rather than be dishonest and chucking a “sickie” in a way that would offload the cost of your disagreement to your work, you are going to turn up on the day, dressed as normal, and bear that cost yourself. After all Jesus bore the cost himself. That’s a start. It’s not all, but it’s a place to work from.
4. Don’t Assume You Will Be the Odd One Out
My friend got back to me yesterday about how it went. Apparently the buy-in was pretty low for their Wear It Rainbow Day, despite it being a traditionally progressive industry. Just assume there are other people who are either hostile or disinterested in being told what to wear to work and why.
Never forget in the culture wars there are two extremes, and a whole bunch of people in the middle who are more than happy to let everyone live and let live. And keep an ear open for conversations. It may surprise someone in your workplace who actually is hostile towards sexual diversity to hear you affirm your gay colleagues. And it may surprise someone in your workplace who is hostile towards you for not holding to sexual diversity, that you can still respect and admire your colleagues without having to affirm their lifestyles.
Your pre-planned strategy may go well. It could result in you being viewed with more esteem than before. Well done. Your pre-planned strategy may go poorly. No matter how winsome you are about it you may be viewed with suspicion and overlooked from that point on for promotional positions. Either way, there’s something more precious than a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for those who live with integrity, in accordance with what they believe to be true and right.
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Stephen McAlpine works both as a pastor at Providence Church in Perth, and for City Bible Forum. He writes and speaks on matters of culture, theology and the church, and blogs at stephenmcalpine.com. Stephen and his wife Jill have been involved in church planting in Perth for more than a decade, while Jill also runs a Clinical Psychology practice and trains churches and other organisations in establishing good models of pastoral care. They have two children, Sophie and Declan.