What if I claimed to be channeling God’s Spirit, the way that More Light Presbyterians say the Holy Spirit descended upon the PCUSA’s General Assembly during its recent vote to allow Presbyterians ministers to officiate at same-sex marriages in state’s where gay marriage is legal. (If you’ve got the Spirit, feathers and all, why does state law restrict your ministry?) I mean, by those Spirit-led rules, why would a search committee object to an Orthodox Presbyterian trying to secure a post on the pastoral staff of a PCUSA congregation? Sure, it would be odd. But the economy has yet to rebound fully and the PCUSA still marshals lots of financial resources. Even more, the PCUSA, as it indicated in its recent vote, tries not to discriminate against the marginal and oppressed. The OPC may not be oppressed, though the PCUSA’s 1937 suit against the OPC for choosing a name (i.e., Presbyterian Church OF America) too close to the mainline denomination’s collection of initials sure looked like sour grapes. But Orthodox Presbyterians are surely not mainstream. If the PCUSA wants real diversity and to demonstrate real love, why not call an Orthodox Presbyterian? This would be perfect, by the way, because the Greek and Hebrew I learned and have long since forgotten would not be needed in a church that runs according to the Spirit.
Could it be that the PCUSA actually discriminates against religion the way that a team of researchers recently found:
Résumés that made no religious reference, that listed a generic student group, received about 20 phone calls and e-mails from employers for every 100 résumés sent. This was 20 percent more callbacks than the average of the other seven groups.
The Muslim résumés were the big loser. Résumés that listed involvement in a Muslim student group received only 12.6 phone calls and e-mails from employers for every 100 sent. This was about 40 percent fewer callbacks than the control group résumés. Simply adding Muslim to a résumé decreased employer interest substantially.
The remaining six groups fell in between the control group and Muslims. Among them, the pagan résumés did relatively well, the atheist résumés did relatively poorly, and Jews, evangelicals, Catholics, and Wallonians were in the middle. (Our New England findings were published in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility in 2013; our Southern research was published recently in Social Currents.)
So yes, religious discrimination in hiring seems to be very, very real. Our study seems to confirm a social norm in America: that religious expression should be compartmentalized and private, something kept at home or brought out only in specific, limited circumstances. Publically identifying oneself with a certain belief system can be a faux pas with real and negative consequences. This norm applies to a wide range of religious and irreligious expressions. As such, both the proselytizing evangelical and the adamant atheist are suspect.
In point of fact, everyone discriminates (especially when they buy a car) and Americans might live together a lot less frustratedly if they gave up the hokum about being open minded and simply advertised truthfully about what goods or truths they actually believe and advocate. The PCUSA’s problem (as if there’s one) isn’t that it discriminates. It’s that it doesn’t know that it does.