UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Apologetics 315! Thanks for the link Brian!
UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Free Canuckistan! Thanks for the linky, Binky!
UPDATE: Welcome visitors from The Happy Catholic! Thanks for the link, Julie!
Today, I’ll talk a little bit about how to go about raising your colors in the workplace. Before we start, here are some catch-up posts on why apologetics matters:
- Does the Bible teach that faith is opposed to logic and evidence?
- Douglas Groothuis on the Six Enemies of Apologetic Engagement
- Why men stay away from the feminized church
- Why does talking about religion make people uncomfortable?
How to be yourself at work, without making other people angry
First of all, concentrate on working hard for the first 3 months after you start a job. Your ability to to raise your colors in the workplace is conditional on your ability to do your job well. For example, I decided to cut my career short a while back in order to go back to school and achieve some more goals, before returning to work:
- get a Masters degree in computer science (3.9 GPA)
- get computer science articles published in peer-reviewed journals
- present research at professional conferences
- apply for and be awarded patents
Secondly, never fight about work-related conflicts. Your job is not the means by which you will make your mark on the world. You make your mark solely by being an ambassador for Christ. Never sour a work relationship by arguing. State your reasons, and document your dissent. Christianity isn’t about you. Or climbing a corporate ladder.
Let me be clear: With respect to your Christian commitment, your pride, popularity and reputation are expendable.
Thirdly, take every opportunity to make yourself the servant of your co-workers, especially those who may not be as senior or technical as you. In every job I have had so far, I’ve tried to help clean things up, wash dirty coffee mugs and dishes, and keep a supply cough drops, and other healthy snacks, etc. Also, don’t get promoted to manager.
Fourth, after a few months, start to build your bookshelf at work. To start with, only stock debate books from academic presses, especially Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press. These kinds of books connect evidence to the claims of Christianity. It is much easier to discuss public, testable evidence with your co-workers than whether they are going to Hell or not .
Here are some examples of debate books I stock:
- Theism, Atheism, and Big Bang Cosmology, Oxford University Press, 1995.
- Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA, Cambridge University Press, 2004
- God?: A Debate between a Christian and an Atheist, Oxford University Press, 2003.
- Darwinism, Design, and Public Education, Michigan State University Press, 2004.
Leave these books out on your desk as you read them, with a bookmark to show you are reading them. If asked to explain them, take no position but explain both sides. Speak quietly and don’t interrupt. Stop talking after 2 minutes. Offer to continue the conversations off-site. Learn what your co-workers believe as they talk to you about your perfectly acceptable debate books.
As you read, note arguments and evidence used for and against your beliefs. When you eventually do get to the point where you are explaining your beliefs to people, you’ll need to link them up with evidence and defeat objections. Keep the discussion on public evidence, show you are operating at a research level, and you should be able to avoid blow-ups.
Fifth, expand your book collection with books from any academic press. Your goal is to show that these topics require study and can be debated rationally using evidence. Even if you only read popular level books to start, it is important to project to your co-workers how you approach faith just like any other discipline – by studying it.
- Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, Cambridge University Press, 2007.
- Philosophy of Religion: A Reader and Guide, Rutgers University Press, 2002.
- The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
- Hume’s Abject Failure: The Argument Against Miracles, Oxford University Press, 2000.
- The Evidential Argument from Evil, Indiana University Press, 1993.
- Warranted Christian Belief, Oxford University Press, 2003.
If you get no flak from anyone, you can add more books on other issues, like the history, foreign policy, health care, education, philosophy of religion, astrobiology, global warming, economics and family/parenting. These books allow you to link your beliefs to other areas, so that turning the conversation to Christianity becomes easier.
The academic books are useful to convey that you have a serious approach to faith. But you probably will face much more ordinary objections. So, you should be reading mostly popular books to address them. That’s where books by people like Lee Strobel and Paul Copan are useful. After those two, you can move on to edited collections like “Passionate Conviction” or “Signs of Intelligence”.
An important rule is never to discuss the person’s personal life or morality. And never discuss Christian-ese hymns, prayer, church, feelings, emotions, intuitions, religious experiences, or your own life. Untestable faith claims scare people. Stick to the public, testable evidence. Debate whether DNA is designed, not whether they should stop shacking up.
Only talk to people who don’t offend easily and who don’t subscribe to politically correct ideologies. I avoid talking about spiritual things with people from groups that vote overwhelmingly democrat, such as single or divorced women. Eventually, the victim-mentality people will learn to behave in order to talk with you. Avoid breaking cover to anyone in your chain of command.
Sixth, you need to get comfortable with opposing views. In order to do that, you need to get used to being quiet and tolerant, and listening for extended periods of time, while ideas you oppose are forcefully presented. The goal is to be able to recognize your opponent’s arguments and argue for them better than they can themselves.
Start with these university debate transcripts: (print them out, leave them on your desk)
- William Lane Craig vs Bart Ehrman (Resurrection)
- William Lane Craig vs Edwin Curley (God)
- William Lane Craig vs Kai Nielsen (Meaning)
- William Lane Craig vs Richard Taylor (Morality)
- William Lane Craig vs Ray Bradley (Hell)
Your goal is to speak about Christianity the same way Craig does. Move on to audio and video debates in this list, only after you master reading debates. Debate your friends and family first for practice. I will write a separate post on what to buy to augment your resource collection with actual debates and lectures that you can lend out.
Another important point: your goal is not to win during the discussion. Try not to beat up your opponent. Instead, explore the issue from both sides using public, testable evidence. Let the person decide for themselves what they think, after the discussion is over. Here’s a great book on tactics that will help you.
An example of authentic Christianity in the public square
One last thing. You may be encouraged by listening to some lectures by Dr. Walter L. Bradley (C.V. here). Bradley is the best active proponent of public, authentic Christianity. He is the Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor. He has a huge pile of grants and research papers, and directed a research lab when he was at Texas A&M.
Here are a couple of different versions of the same lecture on integrating faith and vocation:
And here are a few other Bradley lectures I really like:
- Is There Objective Truth in Religion? (59 min,clear sound, Q&A)
- Walter Bradley’s Journey to Faith (30 min, no Q&A, clear sound)
- Is there Scientific Evidence for an Intelligent Designer? (91 min, clear sound)
More Bradley lectures are here.