That narrative still has some unfolding to do, but in the meantime we can prepare ourselves for its eventualities, first by deeply understanding the claims it is making, second by living blameless lives among our colleagues and friends, and third, by constantly showcasing Jesus as the one who did no harm to anyone. And fourthly, and perhaps most confronting, by wearing the scorn and shame in the way he did, even though he did no harm.
So you finally convince your work colleague Ethan to come to an apologetics talk on Friday night. You’ve been friends for a while, and you’ve had the chance to chat about spiritual matters. He’s at a bit of a loose end, having been through a relationship break-up. Following a coffee after work one evening, you strike up the courage to ask him along. People are often open after difficult times, right? Besides you’d love for Ethan to hear about how Christianity is still plausible in this modern age. After all, he’s familiar with the visiting speaker, who is a well-known apologist, because you’ve shared some Youtube clips with him that were great conversation starters across the cubicle.
So on the night you introduce Ethan to some friends, grab a quick bite beforehand with them all (they clicked well with Ethan, from what you could see), then you head to the talk.
The lecture title is “Can you be happy without God?” It’s sharp, punchy, funny and emotionally on the money. You glance sideways from time to time and Ethan seems to be laughing at all the right spots.
The QandA after is a bit more intense and at one stage the speaker is quizzed about homosexuality, with a questioner pushing hard on why God is even bothered about who we sleep with. The speaker handles it well, giving a big picture answer, using Romans 1 as a launch pad. He gets a round of applause from some in the crowd, which seems a little strange, and one brave, lonesome cat-call. The moment passes, and afterwards you try to pick how Ethan might have felt about the talk, but he says he isn’t up for going out for coffee with the group, and heads home early. Oh well, you can speak on Monday at work.
On Monday at work, however, things seem strained. More than strained. Ethan brushes off your approaches to talk about the event. In fact he seems distracted and somewhat distant. It’s only on Tuesday that things heat up. Turns out he’s asked to shift desks, to the other side of the office. He avoids eye contact, and is too busy to hang out at lunch. You notice the HR representative chatting with him later that afternoon. You go home wondering what has happened.
It’s only on Wednesday, when you are called into the HR department, and your supervisor is sitting there that it clicks. After exchanging pleasantries the supervisor starts the real conversation:
“We just wanted to have a chat with you, to get your side of what might have happened.”
“Happened? About what?”
“Just some concerns we have about how you and Ethan might be able to continue working on the same project as we move forward.”
“Why wouldn’t we? Is there something wrong with our work? Has Ethan got a problem with the way I work?”
“Well not exactly about the way you work. He’s come to us requesting he move teams. He’s a bit upset about that Christian meeting you took him along to on Friday night. I know it’s in your own time, but we’re committed to making the work space a safe place for everyone, whatever their views and opinions. We want to discuss with you whether it was appropriate to ask a work colleague to an event like that.”
“Really. Ethan hasn’t said to me. Besides that’s not a work issue, it was a private event.”
“Well it’s become a work issue now, and we have to resolve it for the sake of good relationships in the office. Perhaps it would be helpful if you began by explaining why you invited Ethan to something that he found a little bit triggering.”
You can see where this conversation is going. And if you think that could never happen, then you’re actually behind the eight ball already. Companies and civil service departments across the Western world are already taking measures to ensure that work colleagues cannot put other work colleagues in so called “harm’s way” when it comes to non-working hours functions. And in our current climate harm includes any event or public that could appear coercive around matters of sexuality, or that speaks of sexual diversity as something less than positive.