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ShouldIReconsider Shawn wrote:

Hi, guys —

I am a practicing Catholic and a (carpenter/handyman) and I wrote up a proposal to do some repairs on the exterior of a Buddhist Temple.

They like my proposal to do the work but now I'm not so certain I should be working on this building since I learned they may be pagans and I do my work for the honor and glory of God.

  • Is it OK to perform the work or should I reconsider and tell them I can't do the work because I have other projects to do at this time?

ShouldIReconsider

  { Should I reconsider doing repairs to this Buddhist Temple now that I know they may be pagans? }

Mike replied:

Dear Shawn,

Your question falls into the category of theological or personal opinion so there is no doctrine or teaching that states you either, can or, can't do this work.

I personally would be bothered by this and just tell them, I have other projects to do at this time, but since you have already completed, and agreed to a proposal, it puts you in a tough place.

In your current situation, you could still go ahead and do this work for the glory of God.

Who knows, you may be the channel of grace God wants to use to bring the knowledge of Catholic Christianity into the lives of those who may know little about it. As faithful Catholics, we always have to remember that the Lord may wish to use us in unforeseen ways.

This is just my opinion; my colleagues may have other opinions.

Mike

John replied:

Shawn,

Like Mike said, this is one of gray areas that falls under opinion.

As the work you're doing is not materially cooperating specifically with their acts of pagan worship,  you're fine, but follow your conscience.   It sounds like you're just doing maintenance or repair to the building's structure, not to anything they specifically use in worship, like an altar or statues of pagan deities. Here is where it gets dicey.  If they then ask you to repair something like that, you may find yourself in a bind and possible legal problems.

If you say, No, but if you make it clear, you only have time to do the outside work, you should be fine . . . if your conscience says it's OK.

In a different situation, if it were making repairs at the local Planned Parenthood, I would personally have a much bigger problem.

If you don't particularly need this job, then maybe it's best to not take it but if they' have already accepted your proposal, that would create some problems. Telling them you can't do it for religious reasons, might cause them to sue you so be careful. You also don't want to lie to get out of it now.  Also, consider that if you do your job well, it might also open an opportunity for you to witness to your faith.

We are to live in this world, but not be part of it, meaning we don't participate in the sins of others, but we need to interact with all kinds of people. St. Paul was a tentmaker. He supported himself and the ministry by making tents.  We can only speculate how he conducted business.

  • What would have St. Paul done if the local Pagan priest asked him to make him a tent?  <We don't know.> 

Your case is a bit different because you knew it as a Buddhist Temple but it sounds like you didn't learn about their beliefs and practices until later, so now you need to decide if keeping your word and doing the best job possible, serves the Gospel, better than telling them, I can't do this:

  • because you guys make offerings to false gods, or
  • because I can't help a Buddhist fix his house of worship.

Before we talk about legal considerations consider:

  • what they will think of Catholics and
  • how will they understand your actions.

Yes, they could sue you for discrimination based on religion. While you could win the case, in theory, it could:

  • destroy your business
  • put you in the spotlight
  • cost you a ton of money, and
  • have the opposite effect you intended.

John

Shawn replied:

Dear Mike and John,

Thanks for that feedback!

I completed the project, and it was a back and forth battle for integrity:

Doing the best quality job I could versus their being good on their word on payments.

The Buddhists did have a lot of pride in their integrity and when I performed more than what I promised, and luckily did it to top quality standards, I received their payments and the final payment after some minor punch list items.

Throughout the project, I did a considerable amount of work ahead of the payments received. I also spoke to various monks in a respectable manner even though I couldn't speak their language and they spoke very little English. I noticed their attempts to learn more English and proper pronunciation almost daily.

For the most part, we shared a mutual respect. They gave me a tour through their estoppel building where they store the ashes of fellow Buddhists. They are big on artful design in their construction. They brought the men on our crew, water bottles and fruit drinks in bottles. They are searching for peace. What a shame they do not know Jesus Christ or God in the Trinity. Their lack of communication with other Christians outside their enclave and their inability to speak Good English is their Achilles heel to knowledge about Christianity. I'm not sure how to deal with it or if I should even attempt to deal with it.

At one stage, in getting paid for a progress payment, the spokesperson for the temple and the monks asked me if I was afraid I would not get paid as I had said I was not a bank for them and needed to fund some of the payments of the men and materials from my savings until they caught up with payments needed to cover working capital.

I told them I was good for my word and they already had obtained referrals from the material suppliers I was purchasing from. They paid me the next day and I finished in good standing with them.  Anyway, they are mere men as are we, but they have a questful need to know, honor, and love God.

Thanks again,

Shawn

John replied:

Shawn,

I'm thrilled that it all worked out. I would have actually made the same decision because backing out would have sent a bad message.

Obviously we need to be mindful of the kind work we do. You wouldn't want to want do this kind of work for a strip club or an abortion establishment but your witness as an honest man, who does good work is important, and if we box ourselves in, we miss opportunities to touch lives.

Buddhist Monks are usually beautiful people. They should be applauded for their desire to be better human beings. You never know what opportunity will pop up because of this. Perhaps your interaction with people, might have been God's way of training you for a future opportunity.

You might get a Buddhist that wants work done on his house, so you can start the dialogue by mentioning the work you did for the temple, and if that new client wants the conversation to go in that direction, you've already broken the ice. When talking to him, you will have a little bit of a reference point.

Please, stay in touch!

Warmly,

John

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