Recently, I was having a conversation with a good friend who is in the restaurant business. His comment was that, since the easing of pandemic restrictions and the return of patrons to in house dining, he has noticed that a large proportion of these customers have forgotten how to behave themselves. While in seclusion it appears that these customers have come to think it acceptable to yell at staff, to show great impatience and to be generally surly.
This is not an isolated case either. There are reports coming in from various parts of the country, as has been reported here and here, among other places. It is no wonder that so few workers want to return to this environment, especially when there is equal or better pay options without the need to face rude customers.
I suspect that this phenomenon is not isolated to just the food service sector. In fact, I suspect this attitude has even infected how people treat their local church staff. As one author put it, there have always been complainers in church. He describes “The constant-critic church members. These church members always had some complaints for the pastor. In fact, your pastor may be dying a death by a thousand cuts. They are likely still complaining even though they have returned to in-person services. Many of them will not return at all.” Unfortunately, it seems that before they stop coming altogether, they will make life miserable for the pastors and staff.
I am not sure why this is going on. One would think that people would be grateful that they can get out and about again; go to movies, dinner, parties and more importantly church. All this was happening before any talk of renewed pandemic restrictions. You would also think that with the labor situation so dire people would be even more kind and patient than usual. For myself, I am not about to piss off the kid at the drive through who is preparing my MUST HAVE fast food!!! I suspect that the vast majority of people are grateful. It is just that not only does the squeaky wheel get the grease, but it is also the thing that looms largest in your mind.
More to the point, we should never treat anyone the way these people are being treated. It is especially distressing to think of someone being so blatantly rude to my local church pastors and staff. Awhile back, I wrote about the damaging consequences of conflating the merely important with the essential. It seems time to revisit this. What we as Christians all have in common is our belief in the risen Christ as our Lord and Savior. We hold that our faith in Jesus, as risen Lord, puts us right with God and repairs the relationship with God, so damaged by sin. This is what is essential.
What is merely important is how we implement this in practice. We will have disagreements as to how to implement and live out God’s Kingdom here on earth. We have differing backgrounds, education, personality types, and skills. Of course, we are going to differ about many of these practical things. This disagreement is healthy, and it helps us learn.
However, how we disagree is what marks us as followers of Christ. If we hector, complain and demean then we bear false witness to the God that has given us everything. If we steadfastly refuse to consider the viewpoint of the other and insist that we are wholly right and they are wholly wrong and worse, that they are ill motivated, then we are treating others as less than human and acting ourselves as less than human.
Yes, I understand that the pandemic and the response has created a difficult situation and stressed us all out. I have been clear that I am not a fan of the shutdowns, the governmental mandates and the top down, one-size fits all approach of the last 18 months. This includes wishing that my church had reopened sooner.
Let us set aside political leaders, who operate with immoral coercion (however well intentioned), and just focus on leaders of voluntary organizations, in this case church leaders. About these leaders, I have not once, not even for a moment thought that these church leaders were acting with anything but the best and highest of motives. I cannot for the life of me contemplate anyone getting in the face of their pastor or a staff member to grill them about matters like what church service is now available or how communion is distributed.
Again, disagreement is fine but for Christ’s sake (literally), do it with love and respect. We should treat everyone this way of course but if someone cannot treat their local pastor with dignity, how in hell are they going to welcome the stranger among us? Think about who these people are; they are the ones you trust to help guide you on your faith walk. Is there a more important group of advisors and counselors in your life?
So, if you are stressed and feeling like teeing off on your local pastor or local church staff, please don’t. Take your concerns to them in a gracious and loving manner that would be a closer imitation of Christ. As importantly, if you see someone else mistreating these people, then gently and graciously call them out for it and ask them to please stop. You have scriptural support for such action.
More than not teeing off on our local pastors and church staff, we should all go out of our way to thank our pastors and staff for doing everything possible to keep us connected during an extraordinary time. We need not agree with every decision taken to appreciate how difficult this has all been on them. This has just exacerbated the reality of pastoral life; they have their own shit to deal with as well as the shit of everyone in the congregation and all while living through the most fragmented time in our lives.
So, take the time to offer your gratitude for the work they have done, commit to gracious disagreements, if necessary and never forget to offer gratitude to God for these people. After all who do you think put these people in our lives in the first place?
Praise Be to God