Is it time for “a theology of being fired”?
Pastors should prep their people for costly conviction in the workplace
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When the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark Obergefell ruling in 2015, triumphant proponents of same-sex marriage lectured opponents with the refrain, “Our gay marriage won’t affect you.” But we already knew this was a promise made only for effect. A year earlier, Mozilla executive Brendan Eich was forced to resign due to his donation to a non-profit group promoting traditional marriage in California. The forces of moral progressivism always intended to coerce.
Soon the pressure campaigns built, targeting businesses such as Chick-fil-A and others for their donations to Christian organizations. Athletes like Drew Brees were shamed for appearing with organizations like Focus on the Family. Clearly, access to civil marriage rites was only the beginning and now anything short of a full embrace of the entire spectrum of LGBTQ+ is considered bigotry.
Nowhere has this ethos been adopted more than in the executive suites of corporate America, where everything from cookies to cereal is rebranded in service of the shibboleths of the sexual revolution. But what about Christians of conviction working for these multinational conglomerates? Increasingly, many are facing enormous pressure to participate in the quasi-religious rites during seasons such as Pride Month.
I recently had a conversation with someone who works for one of America’s iconic brands. He shared that in company meetings, overt LGBTQ+ advocacy is expected of employees, leaving many afraid to push back for fear of losing their jobs. Companywide directives are issued, requiring total employee buy-in, including displaying or wearing LGBTQ+ symbols and requiring the use of “preferred” pronouns in company email communications. The employee to whom I spoke has managed to find some refuge in newly formed groups of Christians who are thinking through what it looks like to be faithful in an increasingly hostile environment. But Christian employees must keep a low profile, amidst Slack channels and corporate gatherings where even mild dissent is not tolerated.
I was struck by this conversation. As a pastor and denominational executive, I’ve mostly worked in Christian environments, free of the pressure to declare support for something that so directly violates my beliefs. But for many of our brothers and sisters in Christ who make a living working for America’s corporations, these are constant questions of conscience. These employees struggle with when to speak up and when to be quiet and what, if any, legal resources they possess.
This is where Christian pastors are needed. We must equip God’s people to live out their faith in Monday through Friday vocations. Not only are we urging them to be witnesses, finding appropriate opportunities to build relationships and evangelize their coworkers, but we also must help them avoid being evangelized by the false ideologies around them. We still need Christians present to change secular institutions, but we should be mindful of the way these institutions might be changing them.
Thankfully, Scripture is not silent and offers us guidance for such a time. The Apostle Peter, written to a first-century church increasingly ostracized for refusing to participate in pagan religious rituals, gives Christians a framework to faithful witness:
“If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Peter 4:14–16).
Christian employees should be model employees, exhibiting the fruits of the spirit and avoiding the temptation to seek confrontation for confrontation’s sake. Yet, like the three young exiles in Babylon, who didn’t seek martyrdom, sometimes trouble finds us, simply because of our faith. Like them, we should refuse to bow the knee to the false gods of the age. This is what John Stonestreet often calls “a theology of being fired.”
This kind of courage comes with costs, costs that pastors and churches must understand. Christian employees in hostile corporate environments need pastors willing to bolster them with gospel courage. They need a community of faith providing spiritual and material support when they must make a hard choice to fight or go public or if they lose their job. Perhaps Christian businessmen and evangelical non-profit organizations might be ready to step up and provide employment.
This kind of environment, once unthinkable, might become reality for many of our fellow Christians. Yet, we should not be alarmed, for Jesus promised that to follow Him would invite, at times, opposition from the prevailing culture (John 15:18). Peter warned that these kinds of “fiery trials” should not be surprising to us (1 Peter 4:12). We can meet this moment with both courage and joy, our lives pointing others to a better way in Jesus.
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