Saturday, January 1, 2011

Etiquette in another's house of worship

This is an issue I often have some difficulty with, because what my own gods expect from me is quite different than what other people's deities expect from them; though my understanding is that most of the cultural polytheistic world views are similar to my own. So the appropriate response for me when interacting with folks who are doing a ritual with deities I do not worship (a dirty word for some, but I take the word at face value) is often to simply not participate in those rituals; and generally no one bats an eye.

There is, however, a bit of a dilemma when I am expected to perform specific actions in the context of my (current/future) profession, especially in a Christian, and specifically Catholic context. There is a remarkably high likelihood that I will very soon be working for a funeral home which caters to an overwhelmingly Catholic clientele. As far as I know, the fact that I am not a Catholic is perfectly fine, this may change, I will know more at a later date, but I do not expect it to. No my issue is with a specific action pertaining to my duties as an FDA/FD, and that involves the practice of genuflection. My experience working Catholic funerals has involved some sort of genuflection, unless specified by the funeral home to not do so, in all cases.

I fear I may simply be over thinking the entire thing, after all a genuflection is not a sign of obeisance so much as it is one of respect. Given that I am in the house of worship of another deity, I suppose a little respect is not a lot to ask for, even if I do not particularly care for said deity. I suppose so long as I am able to separate the notion of genuflecting from prostrating, I haven't really anything to worry about. Plus, I suppose it would be the hospitable thing to do as well, showing respect to the "master of a house" is proper etiquette after all, and I would most certainly be a guest in said "house".

I would love to have some feedback on this one.



  1. On occasions like that I go through the motions along with everyone else - I'll bow my head when they do, kneel and clasp my hands in prayer when they do. I wouldn't want to draw attention to myself by being the odd one out, because I'd feel it can be distracting to others, and I'd rather not come across as rude or disrespectful.

    I don't generally say anything, though, because I don't feel comfortable saying things I don't believe in (and I don't feel it's appropriate to lie to other people's gods...). I guess I feel comfortable doing as everyone else does - it seems polite and less distracting - but I don't think I could accompany the actions with words that suggest my devotion and obeisance to a God I don't worship.

  2. I think you should consider this simply a professional matter and not one of personal devotion or belief.

    An architect that's asked to build or refashion a temple will do so with respect towards the details of worship, regardless of his/her personal beliefs; an actor that's hired to play the part of a biblical character will do and say things he otherwise wouldn't. It's part of their job, not their religious practice, and the same is true for you: you were hired to play a part in a funeral rite according to the will of the deceased.

  3. I appreciate the advice.

    I must admit though, that I do not "go through the motions" when in another's place of worship(and this is almost always a Christian church), and fortunately this isn't something required on the job. I will rise and sit when asked to, though I do not kneel; never had a problem with sticking out though.

    The only issue with the professional vs personal, is that I do not separate the two. It is largely a mater of UPG, but this is what I have been "called" to do; as such divorcing the secular from the religious is difficult. I can certainly compartmentalize my beliefs vs those of another; one of the fortunate aspects of polytheism is that I can acknowledge the god(s) of another.

    I have thought about it, and upon reflection it was simply a silly bit of over thinking on my part.

  4. I don't think it's silly to consider the appropriate response when your job meets religious issues. I've had to consider the same things.

    A couple of years ago I worked in a Catholic school with a young man who needed some assistance with his behavior in the classroom. I also attended mass with him each week. During worship I stood and sat, but when others knelt I simply sat quietly. Father never had a problem with the therapeutic support staff as long as we were respectful and kept our young charges from climbing all over the pews. My client asked me once why I didn't kneel, pray, or sing and I gave him a short answer about different people worshipping in different ways, which satisfied his curiosity.

    I think you'll do fine. When in doubt, check with your boss about the best way to be professional without disrespecting your own religion. I'd love to hear a bit about your venture in the funeral business when you are hired somewhere, how interesting!

  5. Oh no, that is a perfectly reasonable thing to be concerned with. The silly comment was more to do with my over thinking the whole thing, and considering that I answered my own question in the post, all the more apparent. Still, some interesting comments came as a result, so was none the less worth the while.