Preface: The thoughts and opinions expressed in this blog are mine alone and do not reflect the views and beliefs of any agency or person that might be listed below.
In addition to being a student and instructor, I find myself still employed in the corporate communication department at Adventist Health, a large, not-for-profit health care organization. As a faith-based institution, Adventist Health is tied to the Seventh-day Adventist Church whose rules inform the health system’s value structure, culture and decision-making processes among other things.
As a professional writer, one of my more irritating tasks is to write for the church’s magazines on behalf of the Adventist Health. I pen monthly feature stories extolling the virtues of the hospital system using employee features, health vignettes, patient stories and many mission-in-action type of narratives. The task is arduous in that I am constantly trying to find new ways to keep the material fresh month after month. One way I do that is to feature real people doing real jobs that really matter. Case in point: stories of everyday employees going the extra mile for patients.
This year for our annual “special edition” of one church publication (where I provide 8 long pages of copy), I decided to write stories about “Sacred Work,” a new perspective in Adventist Health that frames employees and their jobs as sacred. According to this line of thought, each one of us is sacred and every job is sacred because we are children of God doing our work to honor God as well as each other. It doesn’t matter if I’m a housekeeper or the CEO, I am sacred and so is my work. While I could spend a blog or a book on this concept of Sacred Work, I will just say I was intrigued by the prospect and sought to tell the real stories from the system.
My favorite piece was about three housekeepers from one of the Central Valley hospitals. These three women, despite the many rooms to clean and long list of tasks to complete, went out of their way to comfort a patient. He was in the hospital for an extended period of time without family or many visitors. These ladies took turns visiting him everyday, gave him a rosary and prayed with him. I thought it was an extremely touching example of Sacred Work and so I sent a photographer down to capture images for my story.
Fast forward several months and I’m knee-deep in the editorial process of the special edition. I will leave the best bitching out but suffice to say, the editor of the publication does not want to use my photo of the housekeepers for the cover shot because it might offend the conservative church audience. Her concern was that Adventist Health might not seem “really” Adventist because one housekeeper wore make up and gold hoop earrings (horrors!). Instead, she chose a sanitized photo of two smiling happy white nurses and I want to scream.
SERIOUSLY?! I can’t believe we’re really having this discussion. I didn’t even notice the fact that there was jewelry or makeup and I have to ask: WHO CARES?! The point is not about what these women look like but rather, what wonderful work they did for GOD that day, right? Furthermore, these women are Latina housekeepers who NEVER see the spotlight. They were so excited to have their picture taken that they dressed up special for it. I am so disappointed that now, thanks to the “editorial decisions” of certain people, they will not get the attention they deserve.
What really bugs me is that this is yet another example of why people don’t trust organized religion. Who are we to say what is “Adventist enough” or “Christian enough”?? We have these club rules that have NOTHING to do with faith or church or God. Does anyone really think that God cares if I wear earrings or eye shadow? I certainly hope not because those are the LEAST of my offenses, I promise you. I just wish we could be less judgmental and more open-minded and accepting. Think of what “church” could be then…
It occurs to me that I could probably get in trouble for this rant, and I usually take a more diplomatic approach especially in public prose, but I just can’t stand it right now. For the sake of Adventist Health, Adventism and any other church organization, I hope we can get our priorities straight one of these days and focus on the good work that people do and the good lives they lead, versus what they happen to be wearing from one day to the next.