The Viral LinkedIn Photo That Sparked a Debate about Faith at Work

Eric Little wasn’t trying to make a bold statement to the business world when he posted a picture of a Bible study to LinkedIn last December. He just liked the impromptu snapshot of the weekly study he hosts and wanted to share it.

“We were praying before starting our Bible study, and I just looked up and took the picture,” said Little, the president of Crimson Building Company in Dallas/Fort Worth and a deacon at his church. “Later on that day, I looked at the picture and thought it was pretty powerful. Then without giving it much thought, I posted it on our Facebook page and on LinkedIn.”

The photo generated only 26 likes, three comments and three shares on Facebook, but people are still talking about it on LinkedIn three months later. More than 63,000 people have liked the post, which also has spurred nearly 11,000 comments.

“One of the most satisfying things about our week. Really good group of guys,” Little said in the post. “Every HR manual on the planet recommends against doing this, but I don’t care. God is at the center of what we do and we’ll never back away from that.”

The response has been mixed. Some people have lectured Little for injecting religion into a business networking site. Others have criticized him for creating a potentially hostile workplace for people who don’t share his faith. But many of the comments laud him for setting a good example and daring to let his light shine online.

Little has received hundreds of supportive cards, messages, phone calls and emails as a result of the LinkedIn post. Several people also have visited Crimson’s office, including one who joined the Bible study.

Through it all, Little has remained steadfast in his faith, firm in his conviction to live it at work and defensive of his decision to talk about it on LinkedIn. A former Marine, he hasn’t shied from rhetorical battle with his critics.

The Bible study is not mandatory and is conducted before work each Wednesday. But one human resources professional who is Jewish warned Little that an employee facing discipline could cite lack of participation in the study as the motivation for action, and that would be a tough claim to defend.

“Supporting one particular religion in the workplace is a disaster,” she added.

Little’s reasoned response: “Why would you guys assume attendance or non-attendance would have any impact whatsoever on any of my team? Do you think it’s impossible for Christians to be tolerant, unbiased or fair? Why would you assume that we are not respectful to all beliefs, including atheists and agnostics?”

Another reader suggested that Little limit his religious activities to attending church, helping the needy and working with youth groups in his spare time. “So am I supposed to check my faith at the door before walking in the building?” Little asked.

The back-and-forth with LinkedIn users has opened his eyes to the issue of faith in the workplace in two ways. “Now I understand that so many people cannot do what we are doing here without risking their careers,” he said. On the other hand, he learned that it is important for him to be sensitive to other people’s beliefs so “they know without a doubt that they’re every bit a part of the team as anyone else.”

Little suspects that the supportive responses to his company’s workplace Bible study were a reaction to an anti-Christian attitude that has invaded HR departments. Christians “seem to be pretty sick of being told to leave their faith at home or that their faith isn’t welcome in the public sphere.”

But with the nation at a spiritual crossroads, he also thinks Christians can learn something from his experience – namely that Christians may share some of the blame for the current hostility. “In the past, we’ve forced our beliefs off onto people to the point where it’s hard for some non-Christians to believe that we could be Christians, live out our faith in a real way, and yet be diverse and non-judgmental.”

Little is glad his post started a discussion and triggered some soul-searching. He noted that it led to at least three new workplace Bible studies and prompted other business leaders to think about the role of faith at work.

“I honestly have no regrets at all,” he said.