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munchymom

Religion in restaurants

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I went today to a new restaurant I had been eager to try, and the food was great. The only disconcerting thing was, right on top of the host stand was a plaque about 5 x 7 inches emblazoned with a Bible verse. It was Philippians 4:6, "Don't worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart." (Good News translation). If it had been hanging on the wall I wouldn't have given it a second thought; if it had said something like "God Bless You" or a verse like "Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth" I might have rolled my eyes but wouldn't have reacted otherwise. This particular verse - an instruction to pray - was the very first thing one sees as one walks in, the first impression the owner wants to give. As a non-Christian, it bugged the heck out of me.

Obviously, it's the restaurant owner's choice to make, and if he doesn't want my custom oh well, but doesn't it seem if not hostile, at least unwelcoming?

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While I'm not Christian, or member of any religion, that wouldn't bother me. If they started proselytizing at the table, that would be different.

How did you happen to notice it on the host stand? And take the time to copy it down?

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I noticed it on the stand because it was right there. Facing forward. Impossible to miss. It was literally the first thing I saw as I walked in the door, and to me that suggests proselytizing. It was an exhortation to pray, not just a generic Jesus Loves You statement. I didn't copy it down, just remembered the chapter and verse and Googled it afterwards (the only Bible I have in the house is the Revised Standard, which renders it as "Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God." which is rather less catchy.)

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djyee100   

I find religious preaching of any kind unwelcome, in a place that is supposed to be there for all. The last time I flew Alaska Airlines, a piece of paper with a Judeo-Christian prayer came with the airline meal. I complained to the company by email, got some kind of blah response back, and stopped flying Alaska Airlines.

That said, people mean well when they push their religion in your face. I suppose these precepts have meant a great deal to them, and they want to do something "good" for you. However, on the receiving end, their proselytizing can come across as intrusive, narrow-minded, and obnoxious--especially when their religion is not yours. Frankly, that restaurant placard would have bothered me if it were hanging on the wall.

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DickL   

//This particular verse - an instruction to pray ...//

It seems to me that at least grammatically it is an instruction on how to pray rather than an instruction to pray.

//...to me that suggests proselytizing.//

Agree with you there. But it seems a pretty mild form of proselytizing, and I would probably find it either vaguely annoying or mildly amusing (in either case, eye-roll material), depending on my mood of the moment.

//...the food was great.//

Ah, that's the important thing. And if the prices were reasonable with respect to value (including wine prices, if applicable), the religion wouldn't bother me enough to keep me from going back.

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heidih   

I really really dislike having such things thrust at me. I have my own beliefs, thank you. This, however, seems extremely mild and quite gentle in its intention. Having a thankful heart as we sit down to eat perhaps. Without analyzing the passage, I suggest thinking about whether walking into an Asian restaurant where an altar is frequently displayed causes such concern. Are we more accepting of faiths more "exotic" to us, and less of those that send bells & whistles off harking to televangelists? If that was the only "message", it was not reinforced, and the food was good, I would return.

ETA: In n' Out Burger puts little bible passage notes on their wrappers! I have eaten there, never really noticed it, and could care less. Here is one site that shows them: http://www.badmouth.net/in-n-outs-bible-passages/

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Will   

This, however, seems extremely mild and quite gentle in its intention. Having a thankful heart as we sit down to eat perhaps. Without analyzing the passage, I suggest thinking about whether walking into an Asian restaurant where an altar is frequently displayed causes such concern. Are we more accepting of faiths more "exotic" to us, and less of those that send bells & whistles off harking to televangelists? If that was the only "message", it was not reinforced, and the food was good, I would return.

That's true to a point, but I think (with the group I mentioned above as one of the rare exceptions) Asian religions tend to have a more syncretic philosophy, and they tend to proselytize much less (both in the US and in countries where they are more widely followed). So I don't think it's just exoticising or Orientalizing to not be bothered by the kind of thing you describe vs. religious texts that seem to be aimed at the customer.

An alter of a folk god or a Buddha doesn't bother me, because it's not aimed at converting me or anyone else... the owners of the restaurant have it there, probably because they want prosperity for themselves and their business.

Maybe people are overly sensitive about fundamentalist Christians, but that's because these groups tend to be obnoxious and pushy about their beliefs in the first place. Once bitten, twice shy. And of course there are some potential class overtones as well. I fully accept the fact that I may be being a little classist when I'm more bothered by a "God, Guns and Guts" style sign than a Thai-Chinese restaurant with a kitchen god alter above the cash register.

While we're on the subject, I don't believe the trope about respecting other people's beliefs. I'm not religious, and I don't feel any obligation to respect someone's religious beliefs, even if I respect their right to have whatever kind of beliefs they want. They're welcome to put whatever religious stuff they want up in their restaurant too; just don't expect me to go there.

On a related note, how about In-N-Out's bible verses on drinking cups (the Snopes article linked there also mentions that Alaska Airlines puts a bible verse on each meal tray). [edit: just saw that heidih wrote about the same thing just above]


Edited by Will (log)

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Let's go back to the first sentence of munchymom's first post that got all this started.

I went today to a new restaurant I had been eager to try, and the food was great.

Shouldn't that be the bottom line?

If the only hint of proselytizing was a piece of paper on the host stand (which I never would have noticed) I don't see why this has turned into such a big deal.

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gfweb   

Its a big deal because its ok to bash/complain-about Christians. People feel justified for some bizarre reason. I don't get it. Substitute any other religion in the OP and it never would've been written in the first place.

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Religion is one of those things that should be kept behind closed doors. It has no place in restaurants, all that's going to occur is alienating a proportion of people, which is the opposite of what a restaurant is supposed to do.

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For the record, I'm not bashing Christians. In this neck of the wood, probably at least nine-tenths of the restaurants I patronize are owned by Christians. I don't have any problem with that. If the owner had chosen to keep his favorite scripture on his desk in his office, great. If it were stitched on a sampler and displayed as a wall hanging - less great but I wouldn't make an issue of it. Having it displayed at the host stand as the first thing that guests see - I feel like it's a big sign pointed at me saying "YOU DON'T BELONG HERE".

Asian restaurants with altars don't bother me. I think a Christian equivalent might be to display a cross, which I also wouldn't have a problem with. I don't mind people observing their religion, and I don't mind people displaying things that make the statement "I am observing this religion". Where it gets sticky for me is when they display things that say "YOU should observe this religion," which is what that Bible verse communicates to me.

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If the only hint of proselytizing was a piece of paper on the host stand (which I never would have noticed) I don't see why this has turned into such a big deal.

Just to be clear, it wasn't a piece of paper lying down on the host stand that I had to crane my neck to see. It was a plaque displayed upright on a support, like a picture frame, facing the customer. The clear intent was that anyone literate who approached the stand would read the verse. Trust me, you would have noticed.

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Down the road from me is an auto-body shop. Tim, the owner, is one of the best, and certainly most honest, body repairman I have ever known. He is also a Christian and keeps a large bible open on his desk - where estimates are given and bills paid. He reads the bible during his lunch break. Because I'm not a Christian (or anything else), should I not patronize his business because of this?

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I'm certainly not saying what other customers should do - just my own reaction to the plaque. In the case of the Bible-reading car repairman, I'd be happy to patronize his business if his work was good. (Heck, as a librarian, these days I'm happy to see people reading just about anything.) I would choose not to use his services if he decided to accompany every estimate and bill with a proselytizing statement, which I would find annoying and offensive.

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janeer   

May I cf everyone to the thread on the death of the owner of Geno's steaks (sorry, don't know how to link to our threads), who had a sign posted to please order in English? Is this different? I actually think it is, and that it is worse. Regardless, it is certainly your choice not to patronize the place.

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I wonder if you would feel differently if the passage omitted the word "God" and "ask him" (and replacing it with "ask"). I don't see the passage as a command to pray, but more as heidih says, it's a gentle acknowledgment of a thankful heart. Or a reminder to have a thankful heart in whatever you ask for. I mean, it's not a sign that says you have to say grace before you eat the meal you are served in the restaurant and here are the words. That kind of thing would be a little much.

If the passage offends you, let them know. Let them also know how much you enjoyed the food and the service so if you decide not to return, they know why. Find a way for you to be able to go back and for them to continue to have something important to them in place. Maybe find a different place to put the plaque so the staff sees it rather than the customers. I hope the conversation, if you have it, doesn't turn into an evangelical kind of thing....

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This thread is getting ridiculous, but I see no problem with someone from another country who has come here, taken the time and effort to learn the English language, and opened a restaurant insisting that English be spoken when ordering. My father's parents came here from Denmark at the turn of the last century and had to learn the English language before they could become citizens. Perhaps Genos's family had to do the same.

Getting back to religion, I earlier mentioned the auto body repair shop and the open bible on the desk. Sort of similarly, when I was young our volunteer fire department would occasionally try out a "new" used fire truck to see if it would be better than our old one. One test of this was to see if if a stream of water would get higher than the local Baptist (Christian) church steeple. The way this thread has gone I suppose someone could have found fault with that... :blink:

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djyee100   

Its a big deal because its ok to bash/complain-about Christians. People feel justified for some bizarre reason.

I don't think this discussion is about bashing Christians. But in the U.S., more often than not, the offensive evangelicals are Christian. The problem is more about evangelical over-enthusiasm and insensitivity to others. Someone once told me (with astonishment) about a small evangelical Buddhist sect he encountered. He didn't much like them, either.

Tim, the owner, is one of the best, and certainly most honest, body repairman I have ever known. He is also a Christian and keeps a large bible open on his desk

The difference is, the repairman keeps a bible on his desk for his own use. Is he trying to communicate anything to his customers by this act? It doesn't seem so. OTOH, the restaurant has a placard for customers to read as soon as they walk in. Keep in mind that not all religions practice that kind of prayer for those reasons. If I were at that restaurant I would say, "You're telling me to pray in a way that's centered in your religion, not mine, and that's offensive."

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ScoopKW   

I think the main problem for the non-religious is that they have tired (long ago) of the religious telling them what to do. We HAVE to have this engraved in the town square. We CAN'T teach this in schools. THIS book is evil, and must be removed from the libraries. THESE PEOPLE can't marry because [wrong skin color, wrong orientation, wrong religion].

Seriously, can't we even have a decent meal without the religious preaching at us? (Note, "at" not "to." Big difference, and I think the crux of the matter.) Chik-Fil-A and In-N-Out, I'm lookin' at you.

And it's not a Christian bashing thing. I don't care what cult knocks on my door demanding I convert or be damned. We get a LOT of that in Vegas, from surprising religious groups. I politely thank them and bid them a pleasant day, away from my house. What I WANT to say is, "You FREAKING MORON. I pulled a double last night and got home at 6:30 a.m., and now it's 10 and you want to tell me about a damned BOOK? What the [censored] do YOU know. You can't even dress yourself properly. And you think you have the wisdom to tell me about my spiritual path??!!?!? [censored] YOU, Charlie."

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SusieQ   

I think the main problem for the non-religious is that they have tired (long ago) of the religious telling them what to do. We HAVE to have this engraved in the town square. We CAN'T teach this in schools. THIS book is evil, and must be removed from the libraries. THESE PEOPLE can't marry because [wrong skin color, wrong orientation, wrong religion].

.

.

.

And it's not a Christian bashing thing. I don't care what cult knocks on my door

EXACTLY.

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rotuts   

I cant imagine anything more discrete that the In-N-Out burgers reference to a bible verse Couldnt be smaller. is not the verse itself but a reference. who knew?

they seem to treat their employes well, that seems to me to matter more.

now ... playing NCAA football on scholarship ...

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Snadra   

A few years ago I would have found it more disconcerting to see a business wearing its heart on its sleeve in this way (and to be honest I read it more as an endorsement than an exhortation) but now I actually appreciate the straight-forwardness of this approach. Also, if you have no other evidence telling you "you don't belong" through actions and statements, is it negative or is that your interpretation? After all, everytime I go to a halal restaurant I am in a place that serves no pork or alcohol for specifically religious reasons. I am a non-muslim entering an "islamic zone" so to speak, but as long as the food is good and the service is friendly I'll happily eat cured beef and lamb sausage instead of bacon with my eggs and drink tea instead of wine with my dinner.

The places I *am* wary of are those that don't tell me their moral stance, and quietly support organisations I am opposed to. Which is part of the reason why I don't buy coffee from Gloria Jeans (not much of a problem considering it makes Starbucks taste artisinal) or go to a particular local cafe anymore.

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