God in The Office

In particular, there is one character that I believe speaks volumes to me about people in reality. Angela Martin is the harsh, judgmental accountant at the Scranton Branch of the Dunder-Mifflin paper company with an extreme negative streak. She is strict, stark and, unfortunately, she is the only representative of the Christian faith at the office. Angela’s M.O. is to respond coldly to everyone she meets and cast icy, disapproving glares at anyone who does not adhere to her rigid moral standards. When asked to pick three books that she would take on a desert island, she chose the Bible, A Purpose Driven Life and refused to pick another one. Even as I laugh at her frequent self-righteous tirades, I can’t help but think, “Is that how people see all Christians? When people find out I’m a Christian, do they automatically see me as an uptight stickler who wields his values like a no-holds-barred license to judge? A frigid killjoy with a paltry sense of humor?”

This got me to thinking about how I come across when it comes to my opinions about others’ moral standards. I’m just being paranoid right? I can’t be that bad! Or can I? Come to think of it, I often find myself adopting an aloof attitude and thinking, “How could any self-respecting person do that?” I won’t usually verbally accost the “offender” in public, but taking pride in my moral “superiority” isn’t any less wrong. Especially after a particularly rousing sermon, my morality sensors are on full alert, and I am quick to set judgment phasers to kill when I see someone sinning in ways I wouldn’t be caught dead—at least in the last few weeks anyway.

God wants us, as Christians, to be holy. To be holy is to be set apart, but it seems like some Christians tend to interpret “set apart” to mean “set above.” This can seriously hinder our ability as Christians to be everything that we can be in Christ. God also calls us to reach out to and connect with people who don’t know him yet. Seriously, who would want to connect with someone who frowns at any glimmer of humor and throws out labels like “whorish” or “hussy” (some of Angela’s favorite insults) with startling frequency? I don’t know about anyone else, but that’s a definite turn-off for me.

Sure, God doesn’t want us to go out and blend right in with the rest of the crowd who don’t care about His holiness, but that’s where being “set apart” comes in. There is a difference between loving/accepting a person’s actions and loving/accepting a person. When it comes to dealing with a person’s sin, can we just let things slip? Can we go without reprimanding the sinner when he or she sins? The answer is yes. Never once are we given the authority to act as judge, jury and executioner to a sinner like some sort of Dirty Harry-style vigilante (Do you feel holy? Well, do you punk?).

According to the Bible, we can’t even begin to diagnose another person’s faults (compared to a speck in their eye) without removing our faults (compared to a giant board in our eye—check out Matthew 7:4). Judging is God’s job, and He’s the only one with the experience and references to qualify. So next time you cast a haughty glance in your unbelieving co-worker’s direction, remember you’ve probably still got a plank obscuring your view of that glance’s intended recipient.

Here’s a little something to think about: Angela may be a humorous character created from exaggerated negative Christian stereotypes, but be careful, one day she just might be you.

38 Comments

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Anonymous commented…

great article! now i would love to see one on a Christian application regarding Creed. "IM A PRETTY NORMAL GUY, I ONLY LIKE TO DO ONE WEIRD THING"

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KateST commented…

There is the one episode, Season 4- Episode 1 (Micael hits Meredith with his car), that Michael concludes that the office is cursed and wants to know everyone's religions- Pam and Darryl state that they are Presbeterians (sp), Phyllis is Lutheran, and Stanley's Catholic. I also think someone said they were Methodist? The point is that Angela's the "religious" one out of all the claimed churchgoers. I appreciated this article! I think maybe you could explore the statements these characters made and how they definately relate to real world churchgoers. Just a suggestion. Thanks!!!

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Jon917 commented…

Very late on the discussion, but I had a real-life college roommate exactly like Angela (except a male). He told me he was worried constantly because he knew his parents were going to hell. Why? "Because they're Methodist". Seriously. He also condemned all fraternities and sororities because "everyone there just has sex with anyone and is an alcoholic" and told his girlfriend (now wife) that she'd become a whore if she considered rushing (who does that???). When my drunk friend stayed with me one night because he wasn't in good enough shape to drive home, he never even acknowledged my friend and told me I shouldn't associate with such people after he had left. He even told me one that that "the black RAs on campus are all so loud and mean, I can't stand them." There was a sickening moral superiority that he had, and by the end of the year I wasn't even talking to him because it was so bad. I told him he needed to tone it down when he had finally perfected his argument to prove that his Christian friend was wrong about Calvinism, as my roommate was a heavy proponent of it. He told me "I finally have the argument to destroy what he believes, he can't even fight back." When I told him that he was about to really rock someone's faith and foundation over a trivial matter that has nothing to do with faith, I could see an understanding in his eyes for a couple seconds before he shrugged it off and carried on anyway.

Point is, you must remain humble and connected to service of others. Being in Bible Studies and prayer groups is great, but you need to be on guard against a mob mentality forming. His friends were all die-hards like he was, but were some of the rudest, most condescending people I had ever met, all in the name of Christ. It turned me off to church entirely for the following year, and it took me a while to get back into it simply because I wanted nothing to do with such people. As a Christian, it pained me to see what "I could become" and what others become. I don't see Angela as offensive in the slightest... I see her as a warning of what Christians can easily become if they're not careful, and how the world will see you... justifiably so.

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Anonymous commented…

Long before there was Angela there was Ned Flanders and the Simpsons, the smartest, funniest, most honest portrayal of religion on television. And it's funny as all get out, even when Ned does something that reminds me of me. The Office is funny, but it has nothing on the Simpsons, especially as it relates to religious satire--writing isn't even 1/10th as witty.

Alex Aili

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Alex Aili commented…

Loved your comment about not setting ourselves ABOVE but setting ourselves apart. I never thought of it that way before :)

Also, I'm not sure about how accurate "not judging" people is. Paul tells his readers that God judges those OUTSIDE the church, while the church judges those INSIDE (1 Cor. 5:12-13). There seems to be a sphere where the church is permitted to exercise judgment.

I agree that as Christians we tend to exalt ourselves to a place of authority over others in moral matters. And you're right, it's God who is THE Judge. But...we have a bigger part in matters pertaining to "Judgment" than we often assume.

Later in 1 Corinthians, Paul tells us that the Church will someday judge the world and angels (1 Cor. 6:2-3). Could it be that the church, being an extension of Christ himself (Eph. 1:22-23), is a legitimate manifestation of the righteous judgment of God? Although we are not to judge the world and angels yet, we possess the essence of Christ which gives us a legitimate judgmental perception for life. What I mean is that we have a certain amount of authority and responsibility in the realm of judgments.

So yes and no, we are to judge people. We must "judge" our fellow brothers and sisters with an attitude of love (Eph. 4:15-16) and grow TOGETHER as the body of Christ. There is no hierarchy in the judgment between brothers and sisters, so we need not worry about "calling someone out" and thinking that we are "coming down on them" when we are all on the same level anyways.

But what we must avoid is the "attacking" and judging of unbelievers. They are trapped in darkness, how on earth could they even understand our moral judgments? God's Spirit must awaken them to the Gospel before they can consider our morals. That is why Christ dined with sinners and pardoned the guilty. They needed mercy, not judgment. Let God do the outside work of judgment!

If Christ is our model, we should follow his example and show more mercy to those outside the Church. For those inside, judgment is a legitimate course of action at times, but I still believe that mercy is greater than justice for both insiders and outsiders (Jam. 2:13).

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