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Monday, October 2, 2017

Faith, the Flag, & the Workplace

A friend of mine and former player for the New York Jets sent me a powerful video a few days ago. It’s from Brandon Tatum, a police officer from Tucson, Arizona. As an African American, he has made a powerful case for whether NFL players are making a smart decision with protests around the national anthem. (Video link below.)

As Tatum wisely states, there is a role for social activism. But the flag or the national anthem is neither the cause nor the cure for the ills that affect our land. Both the problem and solution are found in the hearts of people working together on constructive solutions.

The protest sensation all started, of course, with a single player—former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. I say former because he’s having a hard time finding another QB job after choosing to kneel rather than stand for the national anthem. Most everyone knows what has happened since.

Jim Brown, the Hall of Fame running back and legend of the game, said it this way: “Colin has to make up his mind whether he’s truly an activist or he’s a football player.” And why is that? Brown added, “If you’re trying to be both—football is commercial. You have owners. You have fans. And you want to honor that, if you’re making that kind of money.”

Jim goes on to comment about his love of country. He knows there are problems. He’s determined to work those out. As he says, “in an intelligent manner.”

The divided spirit within our country is impacting the workplace in other ways as well. Last month, the New York Times ran a feature story titled, "When Colleagues Won’t Stop Talking Politics." These conversations have raised the frustration level for many.

According to the Times report, “More than a quarter of workers surveyed by the American Psychological Association earlier this year reported that workplace political chatter was having some negative impact on them, from increased stress to decreased productivity.” Another survey found a third of American workers have decided to avoid any political conversations to avoid arguments or discomfort.

The recommendation to those who are frustrated by this is to get people to change the subject. Suggestions like “I get enough of that in the news. Can we talk about something else?” That might help. If people don’t get the hint, discuss it with Human Resources.

So there’s another factor in this workplace discomfort. Injecting your “religious beliefs” into discussions on the job. Religion talk is also a concern in the NFL. A recent news item about another quarterback—Carson Wentz—related his desire to openly share his faith but avoid being “preachy.”

In 2015, we learned of the African American female Marine who was convicted at a court-martial in a real stretch of faith sharing. Lance Corporal Monica Sterling refused to remove a Bible verse on her computer! Her military leaders concluded this verse of Scripture “could easily be seen as contrary to good order and discipline.” Oh my.

Now I must tell you that I find the “politics and faith in the office” discussion a bit humorous. You see, in my workplace political talk and advocacy for faith IS our work. We choose to engage in these vital topics that most impact our lives.

The Bible does offer some good instruction in handling discussions of both faith and politics with those who don’t share your point of view. “Be wise in the way you act with people who are not believers, making the most of every opportunity. When you talk, you should always be kind and pleasant so you will be able to answer everyone in the way you should.” (Colossians 4:5-6, NCV)

Keeping our emotions in check while sharing our deeply held values may allow for conversations that otherwise might prove difficult. And, of course, learning to listen and value others' input regardless of viewpoint will also help greatly.

These are tough days in American life. Let’s not make the workplace a war zone.

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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