Monday, January 28, 2008

Gone shoppin'...

I ordered a couple of shirts at Cafe Press recently and they showed up today. I'm slowly starting to experiment with just how much secularism I can get away with wearing on my sleeve at work. Most of the coworkers with whom I am closely involved know how I feel about stuff and have basically been nothing but cool about it, which is actually a bit surprisin' to me since my three best friends (the lot of them completely awesome) at work are a.) a guy who plans on going out west and preaching the Bible to children after retirement, b.) an ex-Mormon, currently non-denominational ghost-hunter, and c.) a practicing, if low key, Evangelical with a degree in Biblical studies. (Just goes to the show the obvious, if often forgotten, fact that any group of people can get along if they see each other as people first.)

I've had a bit more sideways glances and grumblings from some folks in the other department, most notably one with a large and collection angel stuff cluttering up the shared desk in the Adult Community Empowerment Services section, but really nothing that was at all bothersome. In all honesty the fact is that I live in the south and therefore have some concerns about outwardly expressing my non-belief. I'm certainly not in the majority around here and Kentucky is not necessarily known for its civil and measured discourse about religion.

In any event, I picked up a couple of shirts that should hopefully get some conversations going here and there. This one is getting worn in tomorrow, while this fellow here is probably going with me Friday. Honestly my main concern isn't my coworkers getting offended, because I don't think they will and, even if they do, enough of them wear religious shirts and paraphernalia that I can make a decent equal treatment argument. No, if anything I'm concerned that some of my (mentally disabled) clients might get upset and/or sic their caregivers on me. Such things have happened before to other trainers over other matters.

I teach a social skills/current events class on Friday and I've considered trying to use the "Imagine No Religion" shirt as a springboard for discussion, but it really isn't my place to proselytize secularism to the mentally handicapped. One thing that has consistently surprised me about working with the developmentally disabled though is the ability of some of them to summon up pretty decent critical thinking skills (all things considered), so I think some of them could handle at least a world religions discussion, but there's a couple whom I would expect to get upset. I noted one Christmas season that we have no reason whatsoever to think that the historical Jesus* was born on December 25th (Seriously, one of them asked how we knew what his birthday was and I replied that we don't.) and ended up with one of the higher functioning ones screaming at me that "It's baby Jesus' birthday!"

*I'm willing to grant that there was a historical Jewish prophet named Jesus who preached an ascetic, apocalyptic message and was eventually crucified. See this book and related works for a good argument that this was case.

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