employee came to work dressed as Jesus

A reader writes:

I work at an up-and-coming, techy, mid-range e-comm company that’s always felt very inclusive, fun, and positive. Most employees are male and between the ages of 25-35, and are prone to ribbing and bets — “grow out your mullet for a year for $1,500,” that type of thing.

One of our employees bears a striking resemblance to the Jesus often portrayed in kid’s Bibles: long wavy brown hair, soft eyes, big beard. Because of this, his unofficial nickname used throughout the company is “Jesus.”

I’m assuming he was involved in a bet of some sort, because today he walked in decked out in full vestments — long white robes, Hebrew embroidered on the chest, sandals, the whole costume. A few people laughed, and he got right to work at his desk.

I’m a fierce proponent of free speech and believe there’s value in cheeky pokes at things we often put on pedestals, like religion. That being said, it seems inappropriate to me to lampoon a religious figure in a work environment. What would you do? Am I being too sensitive?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 269 comments… read them below }

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      I don’t think so. While this is not something that would bother me, there definitely are some who would be upset.
      I don’t think any joke is funny enough to be okay with upsetting someone’s religious beliefs at work.

      1. Portia*

        Exactly right. People should be able to come to work without running into someone mocking, or appearing to mock, their religious beliefs.

      2. Michelle Smith*

        Can you explain what’s upsetting about it? I was raised Christian (sort of…more of a culty offshoot) and I don’t remember there being anything prohibited about portraying the Jesus character the way some religions have prohibitions.

        FWIW I fully agree with the advice and it feels like it’s bad taste to me instinctively. I just can’t put my finger on exactly why.

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          While it’s not An Official Taboo*, it’s taking a joking tone about religion, and has the potential to come across as mocking someone’s sincerely held religious beliefs. There is a HUGE difference between someone dressing up as Jesus in the church pageant, and someone who (quite possibly isn’t Christian) randomly dressing up at work.

          *And I’m willing to bet that some of the “Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain” crowd would find this straight-up offensive.

        2. RagingADHD*

          Because the intent is to be a joke. They are literally making a joke of the religion.

          Personally I would just roll my eyes. But Alison’s point is well taken that if someone felt they were being ostracized or disrespected for their beliefs, this could be taken as part of a pattern of hostility.

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            I would have taken it more as making a joke of the fact that he looks like (the popular depiction of) a historical character rather than making fun of the religion. To me, there’s a big difference between, “ha ha, isn’t it funny that he looks like Jesus,” and “ha ha, isn’t it funny that people think Jesus was literally the Son of God.” The latter I would find mildly offensive. The former…wouldn’t bother me. It wouldn’t even occur to me that they might be trying to imply that Christianity is ridiculous any more than I would think people were trying to imply monarchies are ridiculous if somebody who was supposed to look like Queen Victoria came in dressed as her.

            That said, religion is a very personal thing and a very significant thing to a lot of people and the fact that this wouldn’t bother me doesn’t mean it might not bother somebody in the workplace, so it probably is a joke better avoided.

            1. RagingADHD*

              I mean, the whole point of irreverence is that it is the opposite of reverence. If someone felt they or their beliefs were being disrespected / denigrated, then splitting hairs over the exact reason the joke was intended to be funny is just rules-lawyering. Is there a context in which making fun of race or gender at work would be okay as long as the person didn’t mean it “that way”?

              No, there really isn’t. It’s a no-go zone.

            2. Jen*

              I would have taken it the same way you did. As a Christian, it didn’t even occur to me that the worry was that Christians would be the ones who’d be offended! I assumed they were worried that others would be offended by a religious figure in the office.

            3. fhqwhgads*

              It’s interesting because when I read it my knee-jerk reaction wasn’t that he’s mocking Jesus or Christianity but mocking the people who think it’s funny to constantly call him Jesus because of his appearance. Like, my instinct was, he did this in order to get them to stop doing that. Obviously, I have no idea if that’s what was in the guy’s head, but if I saw this go down, that’s where my mind went.
              Essentially, if any of the people in the office who were offended by the costume were not also offended by the nickname, I think they’re hypocrites. The two actions are sides of the same coin I think.

          2. AnotherOne*

            I think it depends on so many things, especially whether or not this guy is himself a practicing Christian.

            If he’s not, yeah it’s probably not the best choice. But if he’s a practicing Christian and he’s okay with this- isn’t that he’s choice about his practice of Christianity?

              1. Don't Robe Me Into It*

                If it were about his practice of Christianity, it would be even more offensive– like bringing in Bible tracts, or singing hymns all day. It doesn’t belong in the workplace.

            1. bumblebee*

              The thing is, it’s not only Christians who might feel uncomfortable with having Christian imagery (sincere or sarcastic) in the office.

          3. Orv*

            It’s inappropriate for work. At the same time, though, I admit I’m deeply suspicious of any religion that bans joking about itself.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                That’s weird. I’ve seen a whole lot of jokes told — specifically, told by members of that religious community about their faith, rather than jokes from outside attacking its members (Many different denominations of Christians, Wiccans, Pagans, and Jews – I can’t offhand think of any about Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism, but I wouldn’t be either the target audience or appropriate joke teller, so I assume it’s a lack of access on my part not a universal severity on theirs). Don’t make the mistake where the worst of the shrieking extreme denominations are meant to represent all members of the faith, or that individual members getting huffy are representative of the sub denomination (any more than your one utterly humourless coworker means your workplace is the one without humour one from the infamous letter.)

              2. Good Enough For Government Work*

                One of my favourite sitcoms is centred on a vicar. A recurring joke is her prayers/chatting to the picture of Jesus on the wall. I can think of at least one other sitcom about a vicar (well, Reverend).

            1. RVA Cat*

              I hate to say, but the first thing I thought of was how it inappropriate it would be to portray a certain other major religious figure that could be a safety risk a la the attack at Charlie Hebdo.

            2. RagingADHD*

              Christianity doesn’t ban any such thing.

              The question wasn’t about theology. It’s about how to act at work.

          4. Lea*

            Is the employee really the one making fun?

            Honestly I would put it on the ones who constantly call this guy ‘Jesus’ maybe this is the employees way of fitting in and flipping the joke

            I agree there is probably a reason it’s all young male employees and that’s a bigger issue

        3. super anon, bcz pagan*

          Dude, some folks can’t even stand anyone mentioning the names of their supernatural objects of devotion, let alone dressing up like one of them. I’m all for letting christians take heat for the millennia of evil they’ve unleashed and supported, but in the interest of getting my bills paid, it’s better to leave religion out of the workplace entirely.

          1. anon_sighing*

            > I’m all for letting christians take heat for the millennia of evil they’ve unleashed and supported,

            I ask you gently to realize that there are non-Western Christians who’ve been able to co-exist with their neighbors. If you are talking about a specific group of people, I suggest you say that and leave the millions of non-Western Christians around the world alone – some of which have been Christian longer than the Western world even heard of Christianity.

            1. Emily Byrd Starr*

              +1

              Not to mention, Western Christians today are not responsible for the “millennia of evil” committed by their ancestors who lived long before they were even born. While it’s one thing for them to recognize the privilege they hold because of it, it crosses the line to blame them personally for it. It’s really no different than holding all Muslims accountable for ISIS and 9/11; or holding all Jews responsible for the war crimes committed by Netanyahu.
              (Disclaimer: I’m 100% in favor of the existence of the state of Israel and for the Israeli government to defend the country from terrorism. That doesn’t give them a free pass to kill innocent civilians.)

        4. Michelle*

          Things can be upsetting without being prohibited. I think someone wearing your god as a costume may be pretty upsetting. It’s literally turning your sacred into their profane.

          I was raised Pentecostal and I would CHEERFULLY disdain and profane anything resembling the religion that damaged me now. But only around people who agree with me. If my employee came in wearing that, I’d send him home to change. Hell, even if I weren’t his manager, if I knew it was making another co-worker uncomfortable, I’d ask him to change or ask management to direct him to.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            I was also raised in a very fundamentalist family – some of my father’s family were snake handlers. I’m now an atheist, which doesn’t mean I think you should be too. It also doesn’t mean I’m okay with people coming to work dressed as a figure of someone’s faith.

        5. PotsPansTeapots*

          I’m a practicing Christian. I don’t find the costume sacrilegious necessarily, but if I were in this workplace, I’d be a little worried. What if this employee finds out I’m Christian? Will I find it harder to work with him because I’ve lost his respect? Is this a workplace where I shouldn’t wear my (very subtle) cross bracelet or ask for Good Friday off?

          That’s why it’s such a problem. No one should have to ask those questions at work about something that’s a major part of one’s identity or belief system.

          1. J*

            I am practicing Christian as well and this is a pretty good explanation of how I would feel. Especially in an environment where there are other offhand comments about Christianity that also lean toward feeling unwelcoming or disapproving, it would just make me kind of uncomfortable. Christianity is weird because yes, it is a majority religion and has a huge cultural influence but in many settings being a practicing Christian would can make you an outsider. It is different than being in a minority religion but can still lead to feelings of exclusion. I am Catholic in a city with many “ex Catholics” who frequently assume by default that you’re in on their jokes and agree with them, “ha ha can you believe people still make their kids go to CCD, how weird” and it can be awkward.

            1. Pyjamas*

              Fellow practicing Catholic. Maybe I’m just still tired from the Triduum, but my first impulse was to suggest LW play Doubting Thomas and angrily demand to see holes in his hands and feet

        6. Ginger Cat Lady*

          See, here’s the thing. You don’t have to understand why it might offend someone in order to respect that it will offend people.
          Because I’m not someone who would be offended, I can’t really explain it to you, but I do know that there are some who would find it incredibly disprespectful, and that’s enough for me to say it’s a bad idea.

        7. Risky Biscuits*

          > I was raised Christian … and I don’t remember there being anything prohibited about portraying the Jesus character the way some religions have prohibitions.

          As a Muslim and therefore a follower of one of the religions that most famously has prohibitions against portraying religious figures, I will throw in the complicating factor that Jesus is considered a very important prophet (and the messiah) in Islam as well; this could be a sensitive issue for more than just certain kinds of Christians.

        8. J*

          Because it’s treating God as a joke. There are certainly many people who wouldn’t find it offensive, but it has a vibe of “this is just a funny character.” While making images of Jesus isn’t forbidden/offensive on principle in the way that images of Mohammad are to many Muslims, we are still talking about a divine and revered religious figure, and dressing up in a “funny custume” doesn’t really come across as a respectful image.

        9. Alieanne*

          Same reason people would probably be offended if I showed up to work cosplaying as Allah.

          1. anotherfan*

            or cosplaying as a Hassidic Jew with black hat, prayer shawl and locks of hair when they’re not Hassidic. fwiw

        10. LadyVet*

          Practicing Christians don’t see Jesus as a “character.” He’s a living, integral part of their lives.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        Same. I’m an atheist and I wouldn’t personally care, but I think it’s a bad place to go at work.

      4. Bitte Meddler*

        Even if we set aside the potential for someone to be offended by this, it’s still inappropriate for the office the same way flip-flops and a Speedo would be. Or coming in shirtless with your face and chest painted in the colors of your favorite sportsball team. Or wearing footie pajamas.

        There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of those, but they don’t belong in the work space.

        1. Aitch Arr*

          Not quite the same way. Yours are examples of poor judgment; what OP’s co-worker did could be creating a hostile work environment.*

          * – the actual, legal definition

          1. Emily Byrd Starr*

            I think Bitte Meddler clarified that when he said, “ Even if we set aside the potential for someone to be offended by this….”

      5. DameB*

        I’m not sure any joke is funny enough to be upsetting someone’s religious beliefs at work.

    2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      I’m atheist, and I think it was a bad idea.

      There is so much disrespect out there for other people’s religious views, that we don’t need fun-lovin’ folks dripping gasolene behind them while carrying a lighted match.

      1. Peon*

        Yeah, this has potential to blow up, and I don’t want that in my work place. If he had come in dressed up as Homer Simpson, I’d find that weird and distracting and gossip inducing, but not with the same potential for conflagration as dressing up as ANY religious icon.

      2. Donkey Hotey*

        I can’t here to say similar, but you added the nice touch of gasoline and matches.
        So, instead: Co-signed.

    3. Fluffy Fish*

      it seems that most of the time when someone is told they’re being too sensitive, its to excuse something that is offensive.

      Im a raging atheist and would agree that joking about someone’s religion at work, even if its their own, is firmly a bad idea.

    4. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

      If the LW had been really dramatic about it, that might be “too sensitive.” But the tone of the letter is more curious and seems fairly in proportion.

      I don’t think it’s an outrage and it doesn’t upset me. But it isn’t a great idea, either. If someone asked me whether they should dress as Jesus for work I’d definitely suggested that avoid it.

      1. Enai*

        It is definitely in bad taste and shows poor judgment to show up dressed as (the popular image of) an important religious figure. Doesn’t need to be blown up into some scandal, but was a bad idea all around, unlike growing a mullet for 1500$. The latter is just ugly, not rrligiously insensitive.

    5. Cat Tree*

      I’m an atheist and I actively dislike many religions (including a brand of Christianity that I grew up with). And I still disagree with you.

      It is my job as a manager and my legal obligation to prevent religious harassment in the workplace. If this person did it in a mocking or disrespectful way, it’s inappropriate at work. He can dress however he wants on his own time. At work he needs to be respectful of people who are different than him.

    6. Beth*

      I think it doesn’t really matter whether OP is too sensitive or not.

      Whether a joke is ‘going too far’ or not is mostly a matter of perspective. It could well be that everyone at OP’s company is pretty laid back and/or not Christian and/or likes some saucy humor. In an environment like that, sure, maybe getting upset about this would be out of line with the group culture. Whether it’s offensive is subjective, after all.

      But what isn’t so subjective is the law. Religion is a protected class. If someone in the company feels like this creates a hostile environment for them, that could open the company up to legal risk–even if the main culture is fine with it, even if it’s obviously a joke, even if that person is an uptight stick-in-the-mud who nobody likes. Most companies don’t want to take on that risk just to have the ‘benefit’ of being able to make risque jokes.

    7. Lucia Pacciola*

      I think it’s less a question of sensitivity, and more a question of baseline workplace etiquette. There are three topics I avoid at work, and religion is one of them.

    8. New Senior Mgr*

      Agree as long as he is mocking, mimicking, or disrespecting someone’s religion, I’m good with it. He sat right down to work and didn’t, for example, start preaching about loaves and fishes or ask people to gather around while he prophesied. And there is known context there (unofficial nickname of Jesus in the office).

    9. Tiger Snake*

      No, I don’t think she is. In fact I think OOP is downplaying how much of a bad and hurtful idea this was.

  1. CommanderBanana*

    I am also very curious about how a company is simultaneously “inclusive” and comprised of mostly male employees between the ages of 25-35. That seems like the opposite of inclusive.

    Do I think this is hilarious? Yes. Do I think it’s appropriate for work? No.

    1. DrMouse*

      My exact first reaction- there are bigger problems here than an employee dressing up as Jesus. If your company is mostly male and mostly fall within such narrow age range, you’re not inclusive.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I rather suspect that the willingness to dress up as Jesus as a joke/lost bet is symptomatic of a low-diversity echo chamber, which is the real problem.

        1. Observer*

          Exactly.

          And if they allow this kind of shenanigan to continue, they are going to stay stuck with just a bunch of frat boys. Because good staff have options. And good staff that are not frat boys are going to find this a less than pleasant environment.

      2. what even*

        There really isn’t enough evidence in this letter to surmise that they aren’t being inclusive.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Very much this. I am a woman in a male dominated field (engineering). There’s a reason some organizations are 20-30% women (commensurate with % of engineering degrees awarded)… and some are a bunch of late 20s, early 30s dudes.

            From the description in this letter alone (ribbing, bets, poking fun at someone’s expense), this culture would be a huge turnoff to me and if I got a whiff of it in an interview, I’d pull my application immediately.

            1. 1-800-BrownCow*

              Woman in engineering here. 18 engineers at my company, 17 male (all white) and me (also white). Director/Top Management level, 6 people, 5 men (all white) and the only woman is retiring this month, I don’t know if her replacement is a male or female. Oh, and my company considers themselves inclusive….

        1. Observer*

          Any time you see a company that’s “mid-range” or larger that is “mostly” one specific demographic, you have to wonder about exclusivity.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, my workplace has about 35 people and we are way more diverse than this. Granted, we’re in a big, diverse city so we have ready access to the full range of candidates, but still.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      Had the same exact thought. The company might give good lip service to inclusion, but they mostly hire young men. And that speaks very loudly.

    3. A Girl Named Fred*

      Agreed, I was very glad that Alison mentioned that at the end of the letter. Not necessarily accusing anyone of anything, but just raising the flag of, “Hey, this might mean something; you should probably look into that more to be sure,” is important.

    4. Antilles*

      I suspect the answer is that their interview process ends up hiring interviewees/candidates who, by shocking coincidence, just so happen to perfectly match the employees they already employ. If not, then you’re clearly “not a cultural fit” and don’t get past the interview phase.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Yup. A few years ago I went to the headquarters of a tech company in Salt Lake. Overwhelmingly male, overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly young. There was literally no one there over 40. All the women were in support roles, not in tech roles. And this was a pretty big company.

        Whenever I asked about diversity I just got shocked Pikachu faces and guppy-fish motions. The excuse was that the only applicants in that area were young, white, and male, so that’s all they could hire.

        Sure, Jan.

    5. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I questioned this as well as it feels all too familiar to me, as a female in a male dominant career that is also approaching the age where I’m closer to a century than to birth. For decades, I’ve often been the only, or one of the very few women in what white men refer to as a “very inclusive workplace”. Yeah, to them it is, but for those of us that are women, or those that are a minority race, we tend to disagree (and rightfully so). And as I get older, I’ve taken notice of the age range of the workforce, especially when most new hires tend to be in their 20s or early 30s. I hear a lot of positive “I like it here because I fit in as most of my team has similar interests and is in the same stages of life as I am”. Again, this seems like a great culture and a great fit for those employees, but sadly it does not reflect a culture of inclusivity or diversity.

      As for the main point of the post, I agree that it’s not appropriate for work. While it’s funny in general, not something to cross the line with at work. At Halloween, I think it’s hilarious when a pregnant woman dresses as a nun. But I would not be on board if someone dresses that way at a workplace that does dress-up for Halloween. While dressing up as Jesus isn’t quite as controversial, it’s best left out of the workplace.

      1. Dorothy Zpornak*

        This this this 100%. People who believe their workplace to be inclusive because *they* fit it smh

        I really don’t even see what’s funny about *looks like jesus so is dressing like jesus.* Hunor is supposed to say something. For something like this to count as humor there needs to be some kind of specific, intentional irony. Where exactly is the joke?

    6. Also-ADHD*

      I actually wouldn’t immediately think anything of someone dressed as Jesus inherently, though I get why it is offensive on reflection—it just seemed weird to me at first. But the description of the company immediately made me think it was NOT inclusive. Bro bets, pranks, and all young dudes? Sounds like some of the least inclusive places I’ve worked.

  2. La Triviata*

    A while ago I saw a video of someone dressed as “Jesus” and riding a hoverboard (with water/waves around it) down the street. Halloween, I think.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I enjoyed the episodes on Reservation Dogs in which the runaway teens were stranded with no money or car on the streets of LA, and were helped by White Jesus. Part of the comic effect is being unsure if they are seeing an actual spirit (a thing that has happened on this show), or if this is a homeless dude who looks like white Jesus and sees nothing unusual about a bunch of teens referring to him that way (the latter turns out to be true).

      Tons of stuff that works great on a half hour comedy will not fly at an actual workplace, where everyone’s emotional reactions are not scripted for maximum humor and minimal real-world fallout.

      1. Lab Boss*

        Or even in non-work-real-life, without the needs of scripted comedy. If I’m offended by a stranger walking down the street dressed up as Jesus, he’s going to be gone in a minute and out of my life. If I’m offended by a friend doing it, I can talk to that friend on equal footing, or even refuse to associate with him while he’d dressing that way (or at all, if it bugs me enough). If it’s a coworker doing it and management approves, then it’s much less possible for me to ask him to stop, and cutting him off becomes a matter of a lost livelihood instead of a disrupted social circle.

    2. Emily Byrd Starr*

      Now that is funny (and I’m a Christian.) However, it still wouldn’t be funny at work.

  3. Elle*

    Ever since I originally read this letter, I’ve been convinced that it is about not just my workplace but my organization within it. I could absolutely be wrong, but the Jesus I’m thinking of has definitely been with the company since the original post date, and this is definitely something he has done in his tenure here…

    I’d love to confirm for sure, but Jesus and I aren’t on great terms.

    1. many bells down*

      I mean, from the guys in tech I know… almost every office has at least one Jesus-looking-guy. I probably know 3 or 4, including my spouse. Although he’s definitely never gone to work dressed like that!

      1. The Terrible Tom*

        The only real question at every tech office is: is the Jesus-looking guy the same guy who wears shorts and sandals all year long, or are they two different people?

        1. fhqwhgads*

          If it’s a Southern California tech office, every guy is shorts and sandals all year long guy. But in January, they also wear puffer jackets.

      2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        ‘Jesus’ as a look just means long brown hair on a man. Bonus points if the hair is lightly wavy and the man has a short beard.

        Since most American men are brunettes, you just need a few dudes with long hair and you have pretty good odds to have a ‘Jesus’.

    2. lost academic*

      It sounds like you need to get right with Jesus!

      (I’m here all week, folks, tip your waitstaff)

    3. Jess, not Jessica*

      What do you think of the OP’s description of the company as “inclusive, fun, and positive”? I’m curious because there seems to be some pushback from commenters and Alison on the inclusivity of a company that’s mostly men under 35, but tbh that just sounds like a tech company to me

      1. Elle*

        If I’m not crazy paranoid and it is the same guy who did this in my org several years ago, he once told me and another woman to our faces that he’d never seen any sexism at our company, so it didn’t exist. Hahahahah. I must laugh or I will cry.

        1. Cats Ate My Croissant*

          Also, he can’t possibly be racist because he has friends who are black. Well, he’s pretty sure his uni friend group wasn’t all white, so that totally counts.

      2. Random Dice*

        I don’t understand all the people who don’t understand that a company by definition is not inclusive if it is exclusive.

        What exactly is inclusive about this company?

        1. fhqwhgads*

          The dude “feels like it is”. That’s pretty much it. In other words…25-35 year old male at a company of mostly that never felt excluded from anything. Gasp. Shock.

  4. 2eyessquared*

    I am a raging atheist. I am not a fan of religion and it doesn’t belong in the workplace. Dressing up as a religious figure as a joke, still counts and doesn’t belong in the workplace. I do personally think it’s hilarious but a no-go at work.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      I am an active Christian, and agree with you that it is WRONG for a work place.

      At work, not funny. Out in the public, having fun that is different. I would enjoy that

      1. Portia*

        Yes — I’m a Catholic, and there are contexts in which I’d probably find something like this funny. But not at my place of work.

        1. Dek*

          Yeah, we had the “Tinder Jesus” guy around here…but not in a work context. It was kinda funny (I’m also Catholic and this is a VERY Catholic area), but at work it just sort of sends…a couple of messages.

          Also, I don’t know why, but having the “Hebrew embroidered on the chest” sort of makes it an extra level of uncomfortable for me?

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      This. I personally would find this hilarious, but I know others might not so I would nix it for work. A costume party held a friend’s house? Go for it! The office? Nah.

    3. Peon*

      Yeah, not at work. Now, if I saw Jesus bowling, say, I’d be retelling that story for ages.

      1. Cicely*

        On a local access channel many years ago, I saw a show that featured nuns bowling. As you can see, I am still re-telling that!

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          At one time, there were calendars with nuns (in old style habits) having fun, like playing soccer or kickball, etc. Delightful.

          1. Lab Boss*

            I grew up near a town with a small community of nuns, and we’d absolutely see them at local sporting events, grocery shopping, or even enjoying a drink at the bar. It’s always a brief jolt as your brain tries to shift gears, then makes me smile.

      2. Engineer Gal*

        A guy was wearing a Jesus costume snowboarding today -long robe and everything-freaking hilarious!

        At work-no.

    4. Ink*

      A guy dressed as Jesus has introduced way more religion into the environment than I’d be expecting, and it’d make me uncomfortable even though I probably wouldn’t be offended. It’s also more in your face than just the nickname. A real elephant in the room

    5. Dust Bunny*

      Another atheist chiming it to say this is not a good idea, even if I’m not personally offended.

  5. Random Dice*

    I appreciate the comment about why startups are lax with a host of HR topics, in a way more mature companies learn not to be.

    1. el l*

      Sadly, yes.

      Because imagine yourself handling a client who’s seen a picture of “Jesus”. Especially if there’s no context, as there often isn’t on social media, and clearly in-office so you can’t say it’s off-clock.

      Because maybe they’ll find it funny, or maybe they’ll regard it as a major betrayal. Is it worth the risk?

  6. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

    I would laugh—and I also don’t think it was a smart move at work. But as has been said above…most of the employees are males 25-35?! Does “inclusive” mean two of them are Black?

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        It’s tech, so they probably have 1/3 Asian dudes. And therefore count themselves diverse.

        1. The Terrible Tom*

          Weirdly, the Asians are all ICs instead of managers. Why? “It just happened that way.”

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      It actually means that not only do they have graduates from both MIT and Stanford, there’s even one guy who graduated from Berkeley! /sarcasm

    2. Nina*

      It means they’re all white anglophones but some of them are from England or Canada, in my experience.

  7. learnedthehardway*

    I think that all religions should be respected in the workplace (or at least, not made fun of). Would this be appropriate – for example – if someone dressed up as a Hindu god/goddess? Or as the Prophet Mohammed? Or any other deity?

    No, it wouldn’t. While you can argue that Christianity as the dominant religion in a particular country might need to be a little extra sensitive to people of other non-dominant religions and of agnostics & atheists, there’s a certain baseline of respect one should expect to see for any and all religions.

    I would personally find this hilarious, despite being a Christian (the example above of Jesus on a hoverboard is funny in a couple of dimensions). But many Christians would not find it funny, and would be offended.

    Now, the employee is obviously leaning into being ribbed about looking like the stereotypical Jesus image, rather than being annoyed with colleagues for teasing him for his appearance – and that’s another aspect to the situation I think should be addressed. He could have been very offended, himself. He chose not to be, and he is taking it in stride. People’s personal appearance should not be fodder for teasing by colleagues – that’s something that should be dealt with, at the same time as pointing out that dressing as religious figures is not appropriate at work.

    1. Cmdrshprd*

      “rather than being annoyed with colleagues for teasing him for his appearance.”

      IDK maybe we have a different definition of teasing? But I don’t think saying someone looks like a famous person and calling them by that name is really teasing. Like if someone looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jenifer Lopez etc… and people called them Arnold/terminator, sly/rocky/rambo, jlo/jenny, I don’t that is teasing. To me it just seems like a shorthand way of saying you look/resemble X person.

      I do agree the employee should not have dressed up in the outfit. If the employee has requested to stop being called the nickname people should comply, but I don’t think nicknames are always teasing, they can be not not necessarily.

      1. metadata minion*

        I think this is the kind of teasing/joking that can be anything from a mildly amusing shorthand that nobody really thinks about, to a kind of annoying “yes, Bob, that was funny the first three times but could you cut it out?” to part of a concerted bullying effort. All things being equal, I would assume “Jesus” here is fine with it given the costume.

    2. Olive*

      Yes, while I think this was a bad idea, I think the first and worst bad idea was the company letting everyone call him Jesus, even if the coworker himself leaned into it.

      I do think it would be an overreaction to punish anyone for this. Management should let everyone know that this won’t fly again and then drop it and move on.

    3. Gyne*

      Interesting analogy, because I think I’d have a completely different reaction to “Hindu colleague dressing up as Hindu deity” in that I’m in the out-group on both there so would feel like it’s not my place at all to have any kind of comment. A white (culturally, or practicing) Christian colleague dressing up as Jesus I would think along the same lines as most people here – “hmmm that might offend somebody…” and a Hindu colleague dressing up as Jesus would feel like “punching up” and I’d probably cringe a little and wonder what he was going for, but also probably wouldn’t say anything.

      I agree probably best to keep religion out of work entirely, but that’s also very easy for me to say as an atheist who doesn’t observe any cultural/religious traditions!

  8. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

    I think it’s a bad idea. Even if a religion is dominant doesn’t mean you should be making fun of it by dressing up as the major figurehead of it for a laugh at work, especially not on/around that religion’s main holidays. It’s a not a good look for anyone and it’s not inclusive: it feels mean/insensitive if the person doing it is not part of that religion, whereas if it’s someone who *is* part of that religion, it’s going to feel like proselytizing–and neither of those are work-appropriate.

    There is absolutely a place for lampooning religion, but work isn’t it (unless your workplace is SNL or something similar).

    1. Ophelia*

      Yeah, this is where I come down. It’s fine to lampoon religion (and I personally quite enjoy that!), but work isn’t where we do that.

  9. Polly Hedron*

    I have worked in offices where most people wear costumes on Halloween. Would this costume have been OK on Halloween?

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I’d still say no, not okay. Halloween is a lot of fun, but it’s not carte blanche.

    2. Ashley*

      Not really. When I was trying to explain to someone who wanted to dress up as sexy nuns for Halloween why it wasn’t great, I found an article from a nun for a reference. What she said was if it was in honor of a specific nun or clergy person and not in jest it may be ok, but as a general rule don’t do it. I also think the nickname itself is problematic in addition to the outfit.

        1. EmF*

          (To be clear – I don’t think this was a great idea. But specificity isn’t the reason.)

    3. Polly Hedron*

      OK, I that’s what I had assumed.
      But I usually dress as an angel. I hope that wouldn’t offend anyone?

        1. Lab Boss*

          I hadn’t even thought of you meaning “usually” NOT just as a Halloween costume, but now I’m giggling at my desk.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        I feel like angels (while technically religious figures) are far enough detached from any one specific religion that it should be okay.

        1. Polly Hedron*

          That’s a good explanation. I guess that’s why I’ve always gotten away with it.

        2. Ophelia*

          If you could manage a *biblically accurate* angel costume that would maybe not be office-appropriate, though. All those eyes /shudder

          1. Cat*

            Some hula hoops, some kind of wire contraption to hold them in place, a packet of googly eyes…

            (Note to the pedantic: I am aware that this depiction is technically not ‘angel’ in the strict sense, but for the purpose of a tongue in cheek comment…)

        3. AngelsAreChristian*

          No, angels are a specifically Christian thing and very religious. I would find an angel okay, but I would also be okay with someone in a Jesus costume and I consider them of equivalent Christian religious iconography level.

          1. I heart Paul Buchman*

            I would be ok with an Angel costume. They are not specifically Christian though, Islam and Judaism both have Angels.

            Google tells me that there are also Buddhist and Hindu Angels but I do not have enough knowledge of these religions to know the nuance.

          2. Ali + Nino*

            Jew here confirming we have angels. We literally have a song we sing about them on a weekly basis. Don’t forget where your “Old Testament” came from.

    4. 1-800-BrownCow*

      I’m with others, still not appropriate for Halloween costume at work. I commented above that I always find it hilarious when pregnant women dress as a nun for Halloween, but I would also say it’s inappropriate for a work Halloween costume. I actually considered dressing as a pregnant nun for trick-or-treating the year I was pregnant with my youngest child (she was a November baby), but since my in-laws are Catholic and we had just moved to a conservative, religious area (not Catholic-dominant, but very, very strict about non-marital relations), I erred on the side of caution and went low-key on my costume. Basically a shirt with a jack-o-lantern face right on my pregnant belly. Harmless and people who knew I was pregnant got a big laugh.

    5. Irish Teacher.*

      Honestly, I think I’d be a little more cautious about doing it at Hallowe’en than any other time, given the theme of scariness associated with Hallowe’en. While I know people don’t always stick to that and just dress up as anything, I could see it being taken as a version of “dressing up as the school inspector because there’s nothing scarier than that”. It’s probably unlikely that anybody would think about it so deeply, but I could see it being interpreted as “Halloween was when pagans dressed up as evil spirits to trick those spirits into leaving them alone and there was nothing more scary to paganism than the arrival of Christianity.” Actually, I could see that coming across either as an insult to Christianity or to pagan faiths.

      Plus, there are some Christian denominations that object to Hallowe’en in general and who might have a problem with a figure from Christianity being included in something they see as unChristian.

      This is probably abundance of caution, as most people probably don’t put that much thought into others’ Hallowe’en costumes but I could see people who wouldn’t be bothered about it at other times having a problem with it at Hallowe’en, for any one of the above reasons.

      1. 1-800-BrownCow*

        Christians that object Halloween are offended by every single costume. I know because l live where I’m surrounded by them. I’m not going into that much trouble in determining how offended my neighbors would be based on my costume choice, because whether they are a little offended or a lot offended, it’s not changing their stance on trick-or-treating or dressing up for Halloween.

        1. Emily Byrd Starr*

          “ Christians that object Halloween are offended by every single costume.”

          Not necessarily. The Christians who I know who object to Halloween (mind you, I don’t know many because I live in an area that is predominantly Catholic) don’t mind if others celebrate Halloween or wear costumes. They just choose not to participate.

    6. Beth*

      For myself, I have a few key rules for office halloween costumes:
      – The outfit is fundamentally professional. It doesn’t expose more skin than I usually would at work, it isn’t thematically controversial, there’s nothing about it that would reflect poorly on my professional reputation.
      – The outfit can be easily removed if needed (e.g. for a last-minute client meeting). Witch hat? Great. Silicone witch nose that I’ve glued to my face with spirit gum? Nope.
      – The outfit is comfortable. I won’t be sweating or freezing all day, it lets me sit in a standard office chair comfortably, etc.

      For me, the Jesus costume would probably pass my second and third requirements, but not the first. It would be fine for a party (assuming your friends and family are cool with it, but that’s your judgment call to make!), but I’d skip it at work.

    7. NotARealManager*

      No, it wouldn’t have been okay. We had someone dress up as an “Amish person” a few Halloweens ago and I balked at that. I’m not Amish and don’t have any family members that are/were, and to my knowledge none of our employees have ties to the Amish community either, but it seemed tasteless and borderline offensive, especially since the employee was doing it for Halloween laughs. I floated my discomfort by HR and they deemed it fine and asked if I’d also be uncomfortable if someone were dressed as a nun. I said, “Yes, but I’m not Catholic either.” They just kind of shrugged it off.

  10. Lola*

    I’m pretty neutral on the guy doing this, but would definitely advise against doing it in the work place for all the reasons.

    I live in Chicago and for years there was a guy who would walk around dressed as Jesus, including with the crown of thorns AND carrying a cross. It didn’t matter the season. Never said anything. Who knows why, just one of those city life things, I guess.

    1. SansaStark*

      OMG I saw this guy years ago on the El and STILL wonder if I was hallucinating! Thank you for finally putting this to rest in my head!

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      Was this the same guy who stood outside of the Old Navy on State Street with a small karaoke machine to talk about how we’re all going to hell?

      1. Lola*

        The Old Navy Preacher! No, he’s a different guy. Sadly, he was assaulted in front of Old Navy several years ago and moved to a different location. I don’t go downtown as much as I used to, so I don’t know how much he’s still there. If I recall, he was in his 80s last time I read about him!

  11. PurlsOfWisdom*

    To the actual question, funny but absolutely not work appropriate.

    To the broader culture at this company… This sounds like a workplace I (as a mid 30s female) would self select out of. Based on the description given, “inclusive, fun, and positive” seems to translate to a bit of a bro culture that I’d find off putting. I hope LW takes Alison’s advice to examine what has led to the culture that has emerged and really think about how to open to an actually inclusive workplace.

    My suspicion is that LW is in tech (as I am as well) which already tends to self select towards younger male employees of certain demographics, but it absolutely something that can be combatted to open the hiring process to a more diverse pool. But you have to make sure the culture is something that is such that those candidates would be welcome and comfortable.

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      The number of young, white men who’ve tried claiming to me that their workplaces are “inclusive, fun and positive” and that sexism, racism, and exclusivity no longer exists makes my eyes roll so hard, I’m half expecting them to roll right out of my skull and onto the floor. I literally had a former manager ( white, male, and younger than me) tell me I’m lucky to be a woman this day and age in my male-dominant field as I no longer deal with sexism and exclusivity like women before me did. Yes, it’s gotten better, but only marginally. What I found funny with that statement is that during his time as my manager, our team wall all male, except myself. He hired 3 people during his 4 years managing, also all males (and also all white). And I was (still am) the only female in the company with my degree. And yes, I still experience sexism in the workplace, it’s just not blatantly obvious, especially to men. When I’ve tried to point out a couple of the worse offenses to management (all white men), the response is always “I’ve never noticed it”. Yet a few women have shared their own stories of feeling like they weren’t treated as equally, basically because they’re women, and are often dismissed as well.

      LW is definitely out of touch with what he considers “inclusive, fun and positive:.

  12. I Laugh at Inappropriate times*

    Maybe don’t call him Jesus then if you’re going to get bent out of shape when he shows up looking like Jesus.

    1. Christina*

      haha I thought the exact same thing. Why is it okay to make fun of him by calling him Jesus, but not okay for him to joke back the same way?

    2. tabloidtained*

      This is about where I land. I think the best course of action is to tell the everyone to stop using the nickname. Not addressing that immediately is what led to this situation.

    3. morethantired*

      Yeah, the costume is just a symptom, not the disease. I would err on just talking to everyone about how joking or discussing religion at work isn’t okay. I can see how this guy thought it would be okay given the nickname so it’s not all on him. It’s just a sign things have gotten out of hand.

  13. seespotbitejane*

    A lot of Christian iconography makes me incredibly uncomfortable due to childhood religious trauma. I wouldn’t think this was funny and I would have a hard time getting work done with Jesus in the office.

  14. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    You say the company is very “inclusive.” But then you say most employees are men, all within a particular age range. What exactly do you mean by “inclusive” in this context?

    Are women applying for jobs there? If not, how and where do you advertise roles? If so, how often are they selected for interview? What goes wrong at the interview stage? Who makes these decisions? How much transparency and accountability is there around it? Or are they being hired but not staying long? If the latter, it’s possibly not unrelated to the banter culture.

    1. Festively Dressed Earl*

      I love that it’s posted on April Fool’s Day. The fact that it’s an actual letter made me do a double take.

  15. nnn*

    I’m super curious what the Hebrew embroidered across his chest said. I’m also wondering if that’s a standard part of commercially available Jesus costumes, or if it’s something he went to the trouble of doing on his own initiative

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I wondered about that too. Hebrew across the chest is not part of the standard imagery.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This is inordinately bugging me. Art meant to depict the time didn’t have everyone in the ancient version of concert T-shirts, spelling out their feelings in large letters across the chest.

    2. Ink*

      Party city-level ones I’ve seen haven’t, but more expensive ones might. Maybe if it was intended for/borrowed from someone doing an Easter pageant or similar? Even odds “what does it say” lands you in the same territory as trying to translate ill-advised tattoos that the bearer *swears* mean something like “strength” in Japanese…

      1. Observer*

        Even odds “what does it say” lands you in the same territory as trying to translate ill-advised tattoos that the bearer *swears* mean something like “strength” in Japanese…

        Hah! Yes, I was thinking about that.

        PSA – Be *very* careful about text in a language you don’t know. It might say something you really, really didn’t intend.

    3. bamcheeks*

      Yeah, that part made me blink too. The gospels are silent on whether Jesus wore slogan T-shirts.

    4. Silver Robin*

      Saaaame – I do not think of Hebrew embroidery when I recall depictions of Jesus, so that stuck out to me as well. Just really curious what it says

    5. PotsPansTeapots*

      Yeah….depending on what the Hebrew says, this costume could be even more offensive!

    6. Astor*

      Yeah, I know it isn’t the point but my immediate thought after “Hebrew embroidered on the chest” was “but wouldn’t his language have been Aramaic?”

      I’m not familiar enough with the history of the alphabets to know how similar they would have looked at the time to each other and to modern Hebrew. But as a Jew, the choice to include Hebrew on his clothing would make me even more uncomfortable.

      1. Astor*

        Just clarifying: the choice to include Hebrew on his clothing would make me uncomfortable mostly because of the ways that Jews are treated in relation to Jesus.

        It’s unlikely that he would have had any words embroidered on his clothing, but even if that was true I’d be uncomfortable because of centuries of imagery of Jews in relation to Jesus. And even if it turns out that the Aramaic alphabet in his time and place did look exactly like the modern Hebrew alphabet does (or his costume used the right alphabet, but most of the colleagues can’t tell the difference), I’d be uncomfortable for the same reasons.

    7. A trans person*

      I saw that bit of the letter and immediately wondered if the Hebrew might possibly be or include the Name. I’m not and never have been Christian, but I could absolutely see this being a Big Problem for me.

      Even with that aside, this would make me uncomfortable at work, because in my experience, atheists who are dismissive of Christianity are often also dismissive of other religions in an “all religions are basically Christianity with different wallpaper” way.

    8. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      Almost certainly a copy of the scroll at the top of the cross, which reads King of the Jews, and makes this costume an even worse idea.

      1. Coverage Associate*

        Interesting idea. I used to own a book that had that on the cover, just the Hebrew and not the Latin or Greek, as we often see just the Latin. Except, we actually see the Latin abbreviation: INRI. This was the same with the Hebrew letters, except the image was reversed, so the writing was backwards too.

    9. Coverage Associate*

      The only place I have seen writing on clothes as part of a biblical costume is from Hebrew Israelites, I think they’re called. They are usually very dark skinned and have observances parallel to mainstream Jews’. Apologies if I am offending anyone or getting things wrong. I promise I am trying to choose my words carefully.

      And the Hebrew such people use is often a different script than modern printed or handwritten Hebrew. It looks more like ancient Greek to me, no rounded letters so it would be easy to chisel in stone.

      In my experience, lots of Americans don’t recognize modern Hebrew writing. I have been asked the language several times when holding books in Hebrew. Even fewer would recognize the script mentioned above, so there’s a good chance the person in the costume was asked about the writing, whatever the script.

    10. Colin Watson*

      Also curious! My first thought was a tallit, either his own or probably not too hard to get hold of one if there’s a Judaica shop around (though it’d be kind of icky if he’s not Jewish). I wouldn’t normally describe that as having “Hebrew embroidered on the chest”, but I can see how somebody might.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        No way, I think a talit is way too expensive for this type of a dumb one-day joke. Also, you think they were going for “authenticity” or “accuracy”??

  16. Dark Macadamia*

    Bringing back a Jesus post so close to Easter is absolutely hilarious, thank you for this lol

  17. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    If it’s an entirely closed office, and EVERYONE without exception calls him Jesus, and there’s a clear message that this is part of some sort of bet, then I almost give this a pass, but it’s not cute. And side-eyeing the “inclusiveness” like everyone else.

    However, the day our Problematic Colleague(tm) came into our public facing state office with his clerical garb, including collar, SPECIFICALLY to see if he could get a reaction from people — he claimed it had to do with a divinity school assignment — yeah, that was a deal breaker.

    (He was endlessly trying to provoke people to discriminate against him so that he could file a lawsuit and win big bucks. Ugh. 8 years of eggshells.)

    1. Student*

      “…and there’s a clear message that this is part of some sort of bet, then I almost give this a pass,”

      I’m very curious about this part of your response. I’ve seen this kind of “betting on asinine behavior” used in two main ways. I differentiate this specific type of betting from the more common “betting on the outcome of events or sports that have some element of significant skill or randomness”.

      #1 is to “spread” the blame wider in case the bad behavior it is promoting gets called out – usually with an aim to reduce or eliminate the ability of somebody in charge to hold someone fully accountable. It’s fig leaf to cover bad actions and a token misdirect to let an authority figure look the other way over bad actions.

      #2 is to use money to purposely degrade someone with less money. As in, someone well-off flaunting the power of their wealth by demonstrating their ability to use their money to pressure a poor person into doing something very degrading, humiliating, or against their own beliefs/preferences/values, purely to flaunt the power of money and desperation.

      Do you know of some third use of “betting on asinine behavior” that makes this seem like an okay thing to do? Or have you been taken in by technique #1 where people perceive this as a way to spread blame around enough that you somehow just can’t hold anyone accountable?

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        I’m imagining a bet like “when your sports team loses you need to wear our shirt the next day” kind of bantering bet. (I’m not sure how the Jesus outfit would come out of any scenario, but let’s just go with dumb bro behavior.)

        I still don’t like it. But I’m not sure where your #1 and #2 are coming from. As I read the letter it’s not bullying or degrading, just over the top and crass.

  18. Pinto*

    Context of the day matters here. Halloween, OK. Good Friday, means you are mocking a religion. I’m not a proponent of the over accommodation of the perpetually offended. But this seems to cross the line of generally acceptable workplace behavior. I’m more curious how the writer, who sounds to be the boss since he says “one of my employees” didn’t actually ask WTH was going on.

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      Still not appropriate for Halloween in the workplace. If you want to for a party with friends or going out to the bars, fine. But not appropriate at work for any reason.

    2. Observer*

      I’m more curious how the writer, who sounds to be the boss since he says “one of my employees” didn’t actually ask WTH was going on.

      That’s a good point. Although, considering that they consider a workplace that’s mostly guys in a 10 year are range to be “inclusive” and they are worrying that they are being “too sensitive”, it’s not all that surprising.

  19. CityMouse*

    This is very much a place to know your audience. Party with friends? Fine. Work, absolutely not.

  20. Saturday*

    Isn’t it weird that his nickname is Jesus?

    I’m not religious, but I think that alone is weird for work, even before you get into the costume thing.

    1. Silver Robin*

      Yeah, the baseline is weird and folks should knock it off. Less weird than the costume, but it does contextualize the costume and if you are going to feel weird about the costume, definitely stop with the nick name too.

    2. Hiring Mgr*

      Yeah, good point..If everyone in the company calls him Jesus and that’s his companywide nickname, I can see how he would think it’s ok.

    3. Artifical morning person*

      Given the demographic, I assume it’s to distinguish him from the seven other Zachs in the office.

    4. Observer*

      Isn’t it weird that his nickname is Jesus?

      Yes, it is.

      It’s also another indicator of how NOT diverse this workplace is, as this would only work in a place with no real Hispanic presence. Because while Western Europeans by and large don’t use that name, it is used among Hispanic populations of South and Central American background.

      1. allathian*

        Spain is very much a part of Western Europe (I’ll buy it if you say European Protestant instead, even if the equivalents aren’t particularly common in other dominantly Catholic countries in Europe) and Jesús is a fairly common name there. When I was an intern in Spain, one of my roommates was called Jesús María José (Jesus Mary Joseph), and María is a not uncommon male middle name in Spain. He wasn’t particularly religious even if his parents probably were. Nobody made any fun of him because of his name.

        That said, names derived from Christ like versions of Christian, Christina, Chris, Christopher, Christel, Christelle, etc. are fairly common wherever Christianity is the dominant religion.

        1. Observer*

          Spain is very much a part of Western Europe (I’ll buy it if you say European Protestant instead, even if the equivalents aren’t particularly common in other dominantly Catholic countries in Europe) and Jesús is a fairly common name there

          I hadn’t realized, but it doesn’t really change the point. And in fact, it makes it stronger. Because that means we’re probably talking about an even smaller demographic.

          This would be something like someone saying “Oh, you look like Bill Clinton, so we’re going to nickname you Bill.” It would fall quite flat.

          1. Elsajeni*

            I mean, maybe my nicknaming experience is the outlier here, but that doesn’t seem that weird to me. The guy would have to look strikingly like Bill Clinton, like, enough so that people meeting him for the first time go “wow, you look like–” and he has to wearily say “Bill Clinton, I know,” but I can see it happening. I also don’t see what the question of where and whether Jesus/Jesús is used as an actual first name has to do with it; either the nickname is weird or it isn’t (I lean toward “not weird in a friend group, weird at work”), but the possibility that someone down the hall is named Jesús doesn’t really make it any weirder.

  21. Tradd*

    Imagine if someone did this with the Prophet Mohammed. That has the possibility to really go sideways quickly.

    1. allathian*

      Possibly, but because of the Muslim ban on religious iconography we have no idea what he looked like and can at best guess at the kind of clothes he wore. He’s not an instantly recognizable figure like Jesus is to people who’ve grown up in a culturally Christian environment.

  22. She of Many Hats*

    No religious icon impersonations at work. No Moses, no Mohammad, no (Blessed Virgin) Mary, no Jesus. IMHO, what took it from a passable joke to taboo territory was the full religious robes with Hebrew lettering. If he’d taken the route of Ewan McGregor’s Young Obi-Wan/Maybe Jesus attire, it may’ve skirted the potential religiously offensive and been a better joke.

    1. 1-800-BrownCow*

      This reminds me of when my mother shared the meme going around social media of Ewan as Young Obi-Wan that said something like “Share if you’re not ashamed you love Jesus” and then got upset that many people reacted with the laugh emoji. She gets offended very, very easily, so when I explained the reason for the laughing reactions, she was quite upset. *sigh* Honestly, I got quite a chuckle out of it, mainly because I don’t live with near her and didn’t have to listen to her go on about it for weeks. More poor dad was probably ready to move out of the house after a couple days.

        1. 1-800-BrownCow*

          Ture, but that would not have helped my mom be less offended. She was also not too happy when I’ve pointed out the real Jesus was not fair skinned, blue-eyed, with light brown hair because that went against how she was raised with the images of Jesus hung all over the church.

    2. She of Many Hats*

      My thoughts on the hostile workplace: The employee feeling threatened may not even be the Christian, Jew, or Muslim. It may the be Hindu, Buddhist, Wiccan, or even the Atheist. If one’s co-workers are okay making an over-the-top bit about one religious icon, how soon before they move to another (the chill, laid-back fat guy as Buddha?) or make it about someone without a known faith-tradition?

      1. Beth*

        That’s a good point. These are exactly the dudes that would start rubbing some poor dudes guy “for luck” and call him a killjoy if he didn’t play along

  23. Student*

    Just coming here to say “…involved in a bet of some sort…” is not viewed, by most of society, as a get-out-of-free card for bad behavior.

    There are some tiny niches of the world that seem to think this excuses all sorts of nonsense, and it appears you may be operating in one of those – so I thought it might help you to know that using it as an excuse for wild behavior will not go over well in most other places.

    Courts of law with jurisdiction over employment discrimination come to mind as a particularly relevant place that won’t usually accept the “…but it was part of a bet!” defense.

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      I think they were just saying it’s part of the overall office atmosphere, not that betting specifically is some carved out exception to work norms.

  24. NotARealManager*

    I’m somewhat religious and think an important part of religion is being able to see the humor in it sometimes. However, poking fun at someone’s religion is not the way to go in a workplace. You don’t know how many people are laughing along because they feel like they have to and I can almost guarantee your workplace is not as inclusive as you think it is.

    Even in social situations, you need to learn to read the room with regard to religious jokes. Yesterday, the family group chat said things like “Happy Easter!” or “Happy Resurrection Sunday!” My nephew’s response (he’s in his young 20s) was “Yeah, Happy Zombie Jesus Day!” He thinks he’s being edgy and cool, and that joke probably plays well with his friends. With extended family, he just looked like a jerk.

  25. EA*

    The issue started WAY earlier with the joking “unofficial nickname” of Jesus, not with him showing up in a costume. If one is seen as inappropriate, the other should be too.

  26. DCLimey*

    How certain is the OP that the guy isn’t _actually_ Jesus?

    I’d be careful, personally. Dude is trying to get the 2nd coming rolling and people keep reporting him to HR.

    1. Nina*

      Given the original Jesus was pretty mad specific about what his mode of transportation would be for the second coming and ‘holy shit the sky opened and there were these really loud trumpets and my employee descended from heaven’ wasn’t the main focus of the letter, I’m going with ‘no’.

  27. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    I say his name a billion times a day I’d probably be shocked if I turned around and he showed up.

    Anything religious – please, just keep it out of the office. It is a jumble of feelings, thoughts, and interpretations that stir people up and when the toner has exploded we don’t need any more than that.

    I have my own set of beliefs, I don’t think I’d be all that offended, but I would start checking my pulse regularly if this happened.

  28. Nilsson Schmilsson*

    Dressing up as anyone other than yourself should be off limits. Someone will be offended. Even though it could be ridiculous, SOMEONE will be offended.

    Personally, I thought this was hilarious.

  29. Emily (Not a Bot)*

    +1 for funny and not work-appropriate. Given the context, I don’t think this was something where the guy should get punished — it’s not a huge escalation — but he could have been told “nope!” and to either find some pants or WFH.

  30. ijustworkhere*

    There are so many ways to have fun without bringing religion or politics into the workplace. Leave it at the door. I don’t see any need to make a big deal out of it, but just remind folks that some things are inappropriate for work.

    For example, would you be as blase about it if he had dressed up “as a joke” to look like an obese person, or a homeless person, or a trans person or a spoof of your favored presidential candidate?

    1. Cat*

      In a workplace that, while self describing as fun and inclusive, just so happens to be filled up with a particular demographic? Dressing up as their idea of a trans person would probably be the height of comedy for some of these people…

    2. Emily Byrd Starr*

      Homeless person- no.
      Obese person-Only if it’s the holiday party and if the obese person who he’s dressed up as is Santa Claus.
      Trans person- Only if it’s Halloween and the trans person who he’s dressed up as is Caitlyn Jenner. Because it’s ALWAYS funny to make fun of the Kardashians and Jenners.
      A politician-Maybe if it’s Halloween, but even then I’d err on the side of caution.

  31. ElsieD*

    Yes, work is not like turning on SNL…
    If you don’t think it was hilarious, you can switch the program. Whereas working beside fake Jesus with an outraged soul might be difficult.

  32. Coverage Associate*

    I am especially worried about the writing, because the only time I have seen something like that it was part of a very small religion that shares practices with Judaism, or tries too. I imagine this employee ended up finding a way to offend every monotheistic religion, even ones he’s never heard of.

    Or maybe it was the tallis from his own bar mitzvah.

    Also, I know no offense was meant, but “vestments” in contemporary usage I don’t think means the white toga like robes in contemporary biblical scenes. It means more like what clergy wear for services, usually not even what they wear outside of services, like a priest’s collar. They’re usually more elaborate and colorful.

  33. Auntie-Sis*

    This reminds me of some lore from an office I worked at years ago in a major US city. One of the accounting dept. leads was raised in another country/culture. They still worked there when I did (they were hilarious and a good coworker, we became friends) but the incident happened years before my arrival. I guess they had some, uh, cultural knowledge gaps, and they thought it would be great fun to come to work on Halloween as… Hitler. As anyone can guess, it was not great fun! I was told a VP spirited them out of view the moment they arrived and gave their opening salute, gave them a brief and serious lesson, and no sign was ever seen of this costume again. I still make a “yikes” face when I think about it.

    IMO – Don’t show up to work as someone else’s nightmare or savior. Stay away from anything that brings up feelings about any religion or religious group at work unless you work at a religious site or institution.

  34. Really?*

    Not only is the outfit a problem, but calling the guy Jesus could also be taken badly by some folks. While I can see the humor of both, bad idea at work. May not be a problem for OP now, but if they ever transition to a more diverse workforce, they are opening themselves up for issues.

  35. Coverage Associate*

    Fun fact: “Jesus” pronounced hey-Seuss, is of course a very common name, and it almost always refers to the son of Mary, even though it can also be the Latin or Spanish version of “Joshua.” In the most precise Catholic theology, “Jesus” refers to the son of Mary’s human nature, while “Christ” refers to his divine nature. So people naming their kids “Jesus” aren’t being blasphemous, because they’re just naming the kids after a man, not god incarnate.

    Which may be why the nickname thing doesn’t bother me as much as other aspects of the story. We can discuss whether nicknames are appropriate at work, but theologically, in my religion, this isn’t that different than calling someone with dentures “George” after George Washington, or some example with a historic connection but not medical.

    Sorry. Better example would be calling this guy Lincoln because of the beard.

    1. Ali + Nino*

      Thank you for mentioning this, I am really surprised so many people are worried about outrage re: the nickname (though I’m not Christian). I had never heard the distinction you mentioned. But this letter reminded me of the one where someone named King said a coworker refused to call him by his name because it would be disrespectful of her religious beliefs. I think readers pretty universally agreed that was not OK…

    1. anon_sighing*

      THIS is the crux of it – context is crucial here. Everyone is okay with it. There is no problem. He was just acting on what they’ve all been saying.

      Anywhere else, I’d say people would have the sense to say ‘no, this seems like more trouble than the joke is worth’ or it wouldn’t have ever passed through someone’s mind to do it or a supervisor would have said something because someone would have complained.

      1. Observer*

        Everyone is okay with it.

        As Alison pointed out, you don’t really know that. There are a lot of people who would not speak up about something like this.

        Worse, though, it’s the kind of culture that’s going to turn out to be exclusive. A lot of people are going to be very uncomfortable with this (and this kind of thing in general). Anyone who would be uncomfortable who gets a sense of the culture who has options is very likely to nope out.

  36. Mademoiselle Sugar Lump*

    I worked at a company where someone came as Moses for Halloween. He was Jewish and had longish curly black hair. He wore a bathrobe and carried two “stone” tablets made of styrofoam.

  37. Have you had enough water today?*

    I don’t think religion has any place at all in the workplace (unless your workplace happens to be in a religious space of course). I would not be offended by someone dressing as Jesus, but I also don’t think it is appropriate to bring religion into the workplace. If I want to be subjected to other peoples beliefs I will attend a place of worship.

    1. Emily Byrd Starr*

      Hmm, now you got me wondering if it would be appropriate for a Catholic priest who teaches at a Catholic university to come to work dressed as Jesus. Probably not.

  38. Daria Grace*

    As a Christian I don’t think I’d be that offended by this in isolation. It’s a common mediocre joke on its own. However, I think it would make me a bit nervous because I’d wonder where things were heading. I tend to prefer not to talk religion at work and if we’ve gone from jokingly calling someone Jesus to someone dressing as Jesus I’d wonder if things are heading towards religious jokes/hostility I do need to speak up about.

  39. BikeWalkBarb*

    Given the date you’re posting this on I’m tempted to assume it’s an April Fool’s joke.

  40. JC Is My Cousin*

    My cousin also has a “Jesus” look. So much so that the family will jokingly refer to him that way. Heck, my grandfather even called him Jesus. He rolled with it and it was not a big deal. That said, if he walked into his workplace fully dressed as Jesus, I’d tell him it was not even remotely appropriate. Not even for Halloween. It is one thing to wear a small crucifix or something else that conveys religion as part of your normal attire. It is completely different to fully dress as a religious figure. That’s going to put a lot of people on edge, even if they hold similar religious beliefs.

  41. Old Fart*

    It amazes me that a company that has a culture that is probably toxic for a good deal of people *cough cough* “prone to ribbing and bets” and has unofficially already nicknamed an employee “Jesus” is suddenly shocked when the “ribbing and bets” has gone too far. A serious self-evaluation of the company is probably necessary.

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