Question: I’m seeking to become a missionary, and have views about evolution that do not align with many conservative organizations or churches. Should I volunteer that information in seeking employment with an agency, or in seeking funding from churches that might disagree with my stance?
Last week I proposed
that you probably don’t
have a responsibility to disclose your disagreements in advance. Here I want to take up the contrary case, and suggest that (in fact) you do—though perhaps at a point in the hiring process which is not at the beginning.
When we pursue employment, we enter into a covenant with one another that carries with it responsibilities that are more than merely transactional. If we are to work humanly, then we have to feel the full force of those duties and abide by them as best we can. Otherwise, we risk simply being cogs in the functioning of the machine: we perform our tasks, but without any of the sense of responsibility or accountability that infuses those tasks with an aliveness and awareness of the persons around us. This is especially true, I think, within the Church and within parachurch organizations—where the imagery for the functioning of the whole is organic, a body.
One implication of this within Christian communities, then, is that we have a responsibility to prevent—insofar as is possible—scandalizing our fellow believers, especially those who are weak in the faith. The language of ‘scandal’ means something stronger than merely offending a person, or causing them mental distress: it means placing them in a situation where they are liable to sin as a result of our actions, of bringing them into a temptation which we might have avoided.
In the context of hiring, it’s hard to see how this might apply. But suppose that you think it wrong for an employer to make fidelity to a certain amount of the earth’s origins a requirement for employment. Suppose that one thinks it is wrong, in fact, in a strong sense—that it is unbiblical for them to do, and that in doing so they do something bad. One might think that, of course. But it does not exonerate him from inviting scandal by deliberately provoking or prodding the person about their position. Ironically, if one thinks it morally wrong to make a determination on the basis of that judgment, then one ought seek to avoid putting them in a situation where they are compelled to follow their conscience in a way that would be morally bad for them, and for their organization. Every time an organization makes a decision to hire or fire on the basis of such a position, it becomes more central to their character and identity. For those who think that’s bad, it would entail avoiding putting them in a position where they are impelled to do that.
That way of reasoning through things, of course, rules out the opportunity to prophetically critique an organization from the inside. But by and large, I think people ought not seek employment where they know that will be part of their responsibilities.
Such a stance seems to preclude even applying for a position. But I don’t think it has to, unless one knows absolutely and in fact that an organization is going to make a stance on evolution a condition of employment. In cases where the stance is more ambiguous, though, I think applications are reasonable—and disclosure in the application process is sensible. After all, the decision to fire commits an organization to a stance much more rigorously than a decision to not hire on the same basis. And if you want to avoid driving an organization further in a direction you think it ought not go, it is prudent to disclose your disagreement early.
But I also don’t think that one is obligated to tell the organization first thing. Part of the aim of pursuing employment, it seems to me, is not simply to find out whether there is ideological disagreement, but to discover the character and temperament of the person who is being considered. This is especially true, it seems to me, in “hiring” missionaries and pastors. Disclosing disagreement at some point later in the process, after they have begun to gain a robust picture of your faith and its seriousness may shape their decision about how they want to weigh such disagreements. Leading with such a disclosure short-circuits the work of practical reason for the organization, and possibly conveys that the issue is more important than one actually thinks it is. So tell them, I think—but at the right time.