Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Religious symbols

I find myself quite incensed about all this fuss over a woman who wants to wear a cross pendant to work. The constant media comparison of her right to openly display her religious affiliation with the rights of Muslims to wear hijab or Jews to wear yarmulkas is all well and good, but I have an objection.
The difference between the two cases, to me, is that one is a voluntary witness to faith, while the others are compulsory observances according to doctrine. I have never heard or read any theological argument for the wearing of jewellery in the form of a cross: there is no instruction from Jesus, any prophet or apostle or even a Pope or archbishop that says, "Thou shalt wear a piece of jewellery to prove thou art a Christian".
There are, as I understand it, doctrinal reasons in the respective faiths for the wearing of hijab or a Sikh's turban or a yarmulka. In the case of hijab, for example, it is a scriptural command, although the interpretation of the necessary level of coverage may vary. In the case of the yarmulka, the coverage has already been reduced to a symbolic state, but it is worn to obey a Talmudic command.
For these reasons, I have little sympathy for the airport employee who wants to wear her cross pendant at work (and it should be noted that she is not being banned from wearing it, only from having it visible). If she is so concerned about displaying her faith for all to see, she had much better do it by acting as a Christian than flashing a bit of expensive metal around. After all, wasn't it the founder of her faith who derided those who tried to make a visible show of religion: "By their works shall ye know them" (Matthew 7.16). To paraphrase the old saying that was drummed into me at Sunday School: "Wearing a WWJD bracelet does not make you a Christian, just as living in a garage does not make you a car."
I hate to say it, but it was people like this woman, who thinks she is making a public stand for her religion, who caused me to question -- and, although other reasons came into it, ultimately reject -- my former faith. I think she should get off her high horse and live her beliefs in humility, not just walk around wearing its trappings like the Pharisees beating their breasts in the temple (Matthew 6.5-6).

Ah well, as I have said before, plus ca change.... If Jesus could see her now, he'd be turning in his grave.


true2life said...
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Grangry said...

Beche, thought provoking and stimulating post.

On the other side of the coin, we have also just had a case here of a woman insisting on wearing a full veil in the classroom whilst working as a teaching assistant helping to teach english to children many of whom did not have english as their first language. This woman did not wear her veil at her interview for the job, although at least one of the interviewers were men. The school requested her to remove the veil in the classroom while she was teaching, although they were happy for her to wear it elsewhere in the school at other times. The prime reason for this was that the children were experiencing difficulty hearing her because the veil muffled her voice, and difficulty understanding and learning from her, because they could not see her facial expression or her lip movements. She refused. The teaching assistant was suspended and took the school to an Employment Tribunal alleging discrimination. The Employment Tribunal ruled that school was not discriminatory in asking her to remove her veil in the classroom, but awarded her a compensation payment because of a technical failure in the way the school applied the rules for discipline and dismissal. The Muslim Council and other learned students of Islam said that there was no reason for her not to remove her veil in the classroom and said that she should have been prepared to do that. The other lady wished to wear a cross - an accepted but not prescribed symbol of her faith.

The lady with the cross was asked not to wear it because it may offend others, the lady with the veil was asked not to wear it because it rendered her unable to do her job. Both say they are being discriminated against. Both have a choice, within the doctrine of their chosen faith, whether to wear the 'offending' article or not. Both are making the most of the opportunity to publicise their beliefs and declare their faith.

I don't have a 'side' to take here. I don't subscribe to any faith. This is, on the whole, a very tolerant country. Provided they act within the law of this country, people are free to believe what they want, wear what they want and say what they want. However, in any relationship or society there is a need for COMPROMISE. Otherwise, how will be ever all be able to live together in peace?

Duane said...

Hi Beche,

I enjoy your blog. Only just discovered it because a friend of mine who works on my blog under a category called 'Adams Two Sense' looked you up. (Something to do with the common name??)

Anyway, I just thought I would let you that your post has been used at my blog to make some other points.

I don't like trackbacks, so I thought you'd appreciate the info.