Erin Manning — who is, in case you don’t know, an observant and orthodox Catholic — writes in a profiling-thread comment about how she and her husband used to profile businesses:
When we lived in the South, my husband Thad would avoid certain businesses like the plague. He would point to a symbol prominently displayed on the windows of those businesses and say that in his experience, businesses which displayed that symbol were far more likely to cheat you, overcharge you, give you poor service and just generally treat you like dirt, however nice or friendly they seemed up front.
Was the symbol the Confederate flag? Was it some gang symbol? No: it was the Christian “fish” symbol. At first, I thought Thad was kidding about that, but after living in the South for a while I realized he was right. Did this mean that Christian business owners were to be avoided entirely, or that there might not be *some* decent people with that fish symbol on their doors or windows? No, but after experiencing the same sort of thing my husband had talked about I got pretty cynical about the fish symbol too. Were we profiling? Heck yes–but as a growing family on a limited budget we couldn’t afford to be cheated at stores and businesses, and however sorry we might be to miss out on some good local businesses with honest people, the risk of ignoring the fish symbol and what it had come to stand for to us was too great.
The Mannings “annihilated the individuality” of those Christian business owners by choosing to avoid shops that displayed the Jesus fish. They didn’t do this because they hated Christians; they are Christians themselves. They did it because they had had bad experiences with shops that displayed the symbol, and the cost of not profiling in this way was too great for them, given their budget.
As an aside, I find that I am slightly less likely to patronize a business that advertises its owners’ religious or political convictions. I’m a Christian, as you know, and I can’t say that I’ve had the kind of experiences the Mannings had with shops like that. Still, it makes me slightly uncomfortable that a shop owner would make a point to advertise his business as Christian — unless, of course, there was a religious component to his trade. Similarly, it irritates me when shop owners put a rainbow flag sticker in their windows to indicate that they are gay-friendly — unless, obviously, gay culture is a key part of their business. It’s not that it bothers me that the owners are gay-friendly, or that they are Christian, or that they are anything else; it’s that I generally don’t care for the idea that the owner is using something like that — religion, sexuality, etc. — to attract business. I’m not quite sure why that sort of thing rubs me the wrong way, but it does. This is not the point Erin is making, but her point did bring this to mind. My thought is, “I don’t care if you’re Christian/gay-friendly/whatever; all I care about is the quality of your product and your service.”