I’m a Seventh-Day Adventist Christian. I’m also a high school teacher in the state system, where religion is not openly discussed. (Except for in scripture class, once a week, which is optional.) As a teacher, I can’t initiate a conversation with students on religious beliefs, because this could be seen as me trying to ‘convert’ them. If a student chooses to ask me what I personally believe, I am entitled to answer honestly and explain the basics of my belief system.
I’m a product of private Christian education. Even my tertiary education was undertaken at a private Christian institution. So why did I decide to teach in the state system? People have asked me if it was to ‘further my Christian agenda’ or ‘indoctrinate’ the teens I teach. This could not be further from the truth. I just knew it’s where I wanted to be.
In my staffroom, my religion always comes up the second I mention I don’t drink and that I don’t eat certain meats. My colleagues have been great about it, very inquisitive, but respectful. And in turn, I respect their beliefs.
I have had many conversations with students who for one reason or another are seeking something ‘more’. When I’ve been asked my opinion on certain issues, I’ve always been careful to explain that just because that’s what I believe doesn’t mean that they should automatically agree. I encourage them to explore things themselves, to educate themselves on religion, if that’s what they are searching for. They may well know some of what I believe, but I’ve never been aggressive when discussing religion. It’s not the time or place, and don’t believe it’s the right way to represent what you believe.
Kids are free thinkers. My seniors are blown away by the fact that I don’t drink, am a vegetarian, and that I observe the Sabbath. I’ve been told that whilst they don’t necessarily understand elements of my faith, that they respect that I’ve never ‘bible bashed’ them. That I’ve never pushed a religious agenda on them. That I openly admit that all organized religion is deeply flawed. That I’m not always the best example of a Christian. I think people tend to assume that if you call yourself a Christian, then you also believe you are superior to those who are not. Again- for me, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Whenever I’m asked, I give a crash course in the core fundamental beliefs of Seventh-Day Adventism. It can be difficult to explain why Adventists go to church on Saturday, not Sunday. That we have guidelines that are similar to the Jewish faith in a way, but are also a solid bible based Christian denomination.
I’m lucky to have had kids ask about my beliefs, because it’s started whole discussions on different religions and the way we should be respectful of a person’s right to worship in a way they see fit.
When I started teaching in the state system, I was worried I might slip up somehow. If I was covering a science lesson casually and I was teaching the theory of evolution, would I accidentally blurt out “No! I believe in creation!”.
This concern was ridiculous in retrospect. It’s always been easy to keep my professionalism.
I’m not ashamed of who I am or what I believe in, but have been careful all these years not to preach at anyone. I find more often than not, that it’s teenagers who have the highest level of a healthy curiosity mixed with respect.
Have you ever felt that you have to ‘hide’ your beliefs in the workplace? If so, why?