In the same issue of the New York Times Magazine with the story about Jeff Arnett and emerging adulthood this Sunday, there was a remarkably offensive (for me at least) column by the “The Ethicist” Randy Cohen. A reader had gotten an EKG done by a technician who’d said, among other things, “Only divine creation could have created such an organ” (the heart), and asked whether he or she should report this to the technician’s boss.
Cohen’s ultimate advice seemed reasonable to me: yes, the reader may (he said, should) report the conversation, but the boss’s response hopefully would not be more severe than “reminding the technician to be alert to the patient’s feelings.” But he stuck in several tasteless jibes at Christianity—a reference to “the biblical injunction to put to death those who work on the Sabbath” and a concluding jab about heart disease: “surely that, too, is God’s handiwork, or does he only get credit for the design successes?” I wasn’t sure whether Cohen is ignorant about religion—and got his talking points from the new atheism books—or simply trying to be provocative, and doing so with precisely the kind of offensive manner he warns against with his advice.
I also found myself thinking about what the technician should do. If she felt called to evangelize overtly as she performed her job, she might risk losing her job. In my view that would be the price of her faith (as with Peter and the apostles in Acts 5, when they say that have no choice but to speak of Christ, even if compelled not to), rather than a reason to sue. But I suspect most of us would conclude that it’s appropriate to be discreet about when and how we share our faith, which may mean being a bit more subtle in the EKG room and saving the boldness for elsewhere.