Over coffee with a colleague the other day the subject of the Government’s Same Sex marriage bill came up. At work I try to avoid controversy. I don’t expect people to agree with me, and everyone is entitled to their view, and the work place is not, for me, somewhere for argument over things unconnected to my job. My colleagues, to a woman, agreed with the Government, and while I tend to keep my views to myself, it was noticed that I had said nothing. So my view was sought, and I gave it. It went better than I had thought, but as we walked back to the office, one colleague said to me: ‘I didn’t know you were a Christian, you seem so normal!’ It took me aback, and it was only talking to Chalcedon on the way home that I began to wonder about it.
He laughed, as he tends to, being entirely pragmatic about what you can expect, especially if you work at a University. He has a crucifix up in his office, and he has an icon on his wall, along with a prayer card with the image of the Virgin Mary on it. He often comments that the day is surely coming when someone will complain. When they do, he intends to point out that other colleagues have secular posters up in their offices, as well as pictures of their wives and children, which might well make the childless feel ‘uncomfortable’; he will fight fire with ridicule and fire. Thus far it has not happened. But, as he said, when he began working, homosexual people kept their preferences secret – now Christians do.
I have heard people say that we should lose no opportunity to evangelise, but I would not think my work place an appropriate place to do that. I wear a crucifix which is visible, but not obtrusive; other women wear necklaces, and I suspect my colleagues simply regarded my crucifix as decorative. Is it, I found myself wondering, cowardly of me in some way not to go on about my faith? I don’t think so – but then I clearly have, so far, managed to pass for ‘normal’.
I asked the colleague, a day or so later, what it was she expected a Christian to be like? She said she thought we well all ‘Bible bashing fundamentalists’. I asked whether she’d ever been in a church, and she said that except when friends got married, she hadn’t been, ‘but everyone know what Christians are like’, was her answer. She confessed to being puzzled about how to reconcile that view with my ‘normality’. Inspiration struck, and I asked whether she thought that all Muslims were fanatics who wanted to fly aeroplanes into buildings. She said that of course she didn’t. I pointed out that some people did, and that I agreed with her that that was to demonise a majority for the misdeeds of a minority, and asked if she didn’t think that was what she’d done with Christians?
To my amazement, she agreed that she had done that, adding, ‘you’ve made me think about that – thank you.’ So, there I was, witnessing despite myself.