I’ll admit it. I don’t have the best sense of what’s behaviorally acceptable in any given setting. And my weird sense of humor often gets me in trouble. But this time, it led me to an important realization, and even a greater truth that I feel compelled to share with you.
First, some background. Like many people, I work in a large office space divided by cubicles, and my coworkers and I pop up and down to confer with one another like prairie dogs peeking out of their burrows. Sometimes we just stretch our necks and tilt our chins to talk over the walls by which we’re surrounded. But I have to be careful around the wall between me and my coworker Mike, who sits behind me. It keeps threatening to fall down. Three attempts by progressively better power tooled fix-it guys have not solved the problem; the partition between us continues to unattach from its mooring under his desk and tilt toward me. One of these days, I’m sure, it’s going to hit me on the back of the head and the shoulders. “We need to build a wall,” Mike keeps joking, imitating…well. You know who, I think. I’d tell you, but you see, that’s what caused me to get into trouble.
And not just a little trouble, but a “Cynthia, I need to speak with you, come into my office and shut the door” kind of trouble. The kind of trouble that negates any good work I’ve done, or the hours of overtime I’ve cheerfully (at least on the surface) agreed to perform, or the “yay team!” attitude I’ve attempted to show during the course of my “career” with the company.
So what did I do that was so terrible?
I printed out a two inch picture of our president (seriously, I’m so shaken, I still can’t bring myself to write his name), cut around him to get rid of the background, and taped it to a coffee stirrer. Like a puppet, made to peek over the falling wall at Mike during stressful moments when he’s dealt with a particularly difficult customer and needs to laugh.
I have to point out that I was NOT reprimanded for an inappropriate use of company supplies, or even of wasting time. (To be honest, we were unusually slow, and I did the actual construction while still remaining ready to assist a customer, so I wasn’t fooling around on company time). No. I got in trouble for daring to remind people that we have a president who some people don’t like. “It’s offensive,” I was told. “He’s offensive.”
Really? But…we’re Americans. He’s the president. Our president!
For the rest of the afternoon, I sat in my cube like an obedient seal, completely mollified. And mystified. I meant no offense, truly. I just wanted to bring a smile to a coworker’s face. Maybe several coworkers’ faces, as they passed by our falling wall.
Yet while I felt troubled (dare I say, “offended”?) by what had happened, as the afternoon wore on, I became angry. As I usually do (as we all should do, in my opinion), when faced with these emotions, I began to pray: Father, calm my mind and my heart. Remind me that it’s not what happens here on Earth that matters, but what is pleasing to You. Let me be pleasing to you, Father…
As usual, after this, my heart and mind did clear. In fact, He made me realize that I’d just had an encounter with censorship. I even looked it up to be sure, and found several definitions: Censorship is “the suppression or prohibition of any parts of books, films, news, etc. that are considered obscene, unacceptable, or a threat”, according to the Oxford dictionary. Another definition, this one from the ACLU (probably an institution my company would support), says censorship is the “…suppression of words, images, or ideas that are ‘offensive’ [sic]. [It] happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others.”
Funny thing about the ACLU: besides warning people about censorship, they do things like force towns to remove crosses—the symbol of our Lord Jesus–from Christmas trees and public monuments.
As a result of their efforts, and the efforts of others like them, we Christians sometimes feel unable to express our beliefs. Because our cross—our God—is considered “offensive”. (I won’t go into the contradiction of “imposing personal or moral values on others” that’s at work here). So while I feel perfectly comfortable displaying crosses throughout my home and on my person, and on my clothing or items—according to the ACLU, putting one in my cubical might be seen as “imposing my moral values on others”, and thus, be considered as non-acceptable as a photo of the president. In fact, I knew that when first setting up my desk, and I’ve realized it through the years even before I set foot in that office, or any other. For a long time now, telling people you are a Believer has become something you don’t do—especially at work—because it’s considered “inappropriate” or even “offensive”.
You might even get reprimanded.
Sitting at my desk after conversing with Our Father, I felt enlightened: if I’m personally affronted because I can’t display a photo of the country’s president—either in jest or in seriousness—why haven’t I been affronted, or brave enough, to display the symbol of my Lord, speak his name, declare myself a believer? Sure, the president is someone I should be able to at least name, and his photo is something I should be able to display. But even more so, shouldn’t I be able to name my God and display my faith in Jesus? He died for me; I can at least name Him and show my faith. And, I will. As soon as I’m done writing this blog post, as a matter of fact, I’m going to go find something—a decorative cross, a mug or some item with a bit of Scripture—and I’m going to proudly display it at my desk. Maybe I’ll really go for it and print out some verses to display. Let them call it inappropriate or offensive; I’ve suddenly realized that the consequences of censorship and of not standing up for Jesus—forget the president!–are far worse than letting non-believers dictate how and what I can and should believe. More than ever, when people are ranting and raving about how they’re offended by practically everything, (a picture! on a stick!) it is the time to be bold and to be brave enough to stand up for the important “unacceptable”, “inappropriate” and even “offensive” name of Jesus.
As it says in Genesis 50:20- You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. And in Psalm 118:6, The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? I might get fired for this display, but I’m ready for it. I have to ask: Are you?