Most of us remember being told that there are two topics we should avoid discussing: religion and politics. Why? Because they can often cause arguments and get you in trouble. Nonetheless, I tell my students that a values-based leader should be willing to discuss any topic, as long as it is discussed in a respectful, balanced way and you “seek to understand before you are understood.”

So, realizing this will definitely be controversial for some folks, I have a religious topic to discuss this week, and a political one for next week.  As always, these are my “opinions”, not necessarily the “answers”, so buckle up! 😉

Regarding  “Are we really becoming more accepting of one another?”, my opinion is we have made progress in some areas, and we are actually regressing in others.  Here’s what I mean:

At 68 years old, I have vivid memories of what it was like when I was growing up in the U.S. 50 years ago for someone to openly state that they were gay or lesbian. They were often made fun of and ostracized. Blacks were often treated as inferior, and women were usually expected to stay home with the children. While I realize we still have a long way to go to achieve equal opportunity in many areas, I believe we have definitely made progress.  This progress is critically important and is very consistent with my personal religious beliefs of “love your neighbor as you love yourself,” and that means ALL neighbors. You may be different than me in race, gender, age, or sexual identity, but you are still my neighbor, and I am committed to loving you, no matter what the difference.

Okay, so what’s my issue. I am thrilled that we are making progress in many areas, but what about people with religious beliefs and preferences? My sense is that not only are religious beliefs often viewed as unacceptable, they are frowned on as interfering with what others prefer to do.  As one example, look at the abuse that Chik-fil-A has dealt with because they chose to be closed on Sundays given the leader’s religious beliefs. Why is this viewed as unacceptable? Aren’t there enough other places to eat on Sundays? Another argument comes from investors and shareholders who believe that Chik-fil-A’s sales and earnings would be higher if they were open on Sundays. That is true, but if investors are unhappy, they are free to choose to invest in retailers that are open on Sundays, aren’t they?

I recently came across another interesting example of the issue: “Supreme Court showdown over Sabbath could change workplaces across US.” In this case, a US Postal Service letter carrier was fired because he was not willing to work on Sundays because of his religious beliefs:  “The Bible says that we‘re supposed to keep the Lord’s day as unique and holy, a day’s that’s set apart to worship and honor God,” the article quotes the man. One of the interesting facts in this situation is that the US Postal Service has not historically even been open on Sundays! They decided to start deliveries for Amazon as a new offering.

Okay, so instead of firing the guy, why not assign people who are willing to work on Sundays? Or here’s another idea, since I think we are in a recession, how about hiring some people that are currently unemployed and need a job? Another perspective is that those who don’t have a religious obligation on Sunday feel as if they are being mistreated by not having the opportunity to decline working on Sundays. Think about this for a minute: we are supposed to “accept one another,” but not respect those with religious beliefs?

It’s not as if some of us having religious beliefs is a new phenomenon.  I seem to remember reading that our Founding Fathers said something about “One Nation Under God.” And please don’t misunderstand me, I am truly respectful of the fact that some of my fellow Americans may not believe in God. That is their choice, and should be their choice, but they should please return the favor and respect those with religious beliefs.

Okay, now I have to get ready for your comments, and prepare the “political issue” for next week’s blog post. 😉


Photo by Brett Wharton on Unsplash