4.16.2009

United Says You're Too Fat to Fly

From Marketplace: Heavy Passengers Must Buy Two Seats

Audio of Story

I prefer to fly first class, but can’t afford it. Although most people looking at me wouldn’t conclude I’m overweight, the fact is I’m very tall, of athletic build, and the airline seats are atrociously uncomfortable. So I would gladly pay an extra $100 more for a comfortable seat. However just paying extra doesn’t buy me more comfort (unless I go first class for $1000 more). The airline wants the fat passenger to pay them for lost revenue since they cannot fit another passenger on board. In return the fat passenger gets what? Nothing. The seats don’t suddenly become comfortable simply because no one is sitting next to them. On some planes the armrest is fixed so the wide-body passenger has the same discomfort, same issues as if they had paid less and sat next to another passenger.

I understand the airlines need to draw in more cash. But I don’t understand their methods. They should know by now people don’t like to be nickeled and dimed to death. This “fat surcharge” is just another nuisance charge. What’s next? An extra charge for people whose legs are too long that prevents the person in front of them from reclining or the person next to window from getting out to the restroom? How about charging wheelchair-bound people for the extra space, time, and weight they bring to the plane? Oh, and charge extra for crying babies too - they make flights memorable, to be nice. They could charge old people who walk too slow, or young people who refuse to turn off their radios when told to.

Sorry I can’t get behind this rule at all. Fortunately I don’t fly that often because the seats are so uncomfortable. I drive or take the train or a boat virtually everywhere I travel. You small people can enjoy your flights.

4.12.2009

Good Morning and Happy Easter

I will probably not go to church today, although I know I should. I've become quite disenchanted with the entire religious experience over the years. Not that I don't love God or Jesus any less, not that I don't believe in the lessons Jesus and his disciples teach, but rather that church has become disturbingly passive and/or hateful. I no longer find peace in church, even in happier churches - the ones that gleefully celebrate God (as opposed to the monotone drone of other churches).

First of all, western Christian churches in particular behave more like corporations vying for market share than holy entities saving our souls. During the American slave era, American churches weren't united on the evils of slavery. Quite the opposite. Southern churches preached to the enslaved, even attempting to interpret the Exodus as proof that slaves shouldn't run away from their masters. Northern churches didn't exactly put themselves on the forefront of abolition, some did, serving as stops along the Underground Railroad, but most sat on the sidelines. Now, virtually all churches in the North and in the South acknowledge slavery for what it is. Why couldn't they do that during the height of the slave trade? Did God suddenly change His ways? The Bible hasn't changed, so what gives?

Following the slave trade, churches again had the opportunity to lead and failed to do so. Racism became the next challenge with Jim Crow laws being passed at the beginning of the 20th century. Again Southern churches in particular embraced it - barring blacks from attending the same church as whites. One of many stories that came to me is about 4 little girls - all of whom were black - decided to go to the closest church which was a "white" church. They walked in and the congregation gasped. The pastor came up to the girls and told them they can't come in. "This church is for people going to 'white heaven'", he said in a decidedly Southern drawl. " Your church down the street is for people going to 'colored heaven'". Now, in 2009, that same church has black and white members. So what happened? Why is it that in 1950 it was exclusively white, but in 2009 it now accepts all people? I didn't realize God was subject to equal housing laws.

Women in America were long held down - not allowed to hold positions of power or do certain things that were considered "manly work". The church followed suit, not allowing women to become pastors, ministers, deacons, etcetera. But they could organize bake sales, work in the kitchen and teach Sunday School - jobs considered women's work. It wasn't until AFTER society began accepting women as 1st class citizens that the church began to allow women in more high profile roles. The one exception is the Catholic church, but even The Vatican is under intense pressure to allow female priests. Again, if women weren't good enough to be ministers or deacons then, why now? Is God subject to fair hiring laws too?

Even now in the 21st century, Christian churches face the same opportunity to lead and have already stumbled. Gays in the clergy is a hot-topic, just as slavery and racism were. Unlike racism which isn't explicitly stated in the Bible, homosexuality is stated and called an "abomination". So churches have used this point as a way to keep gays out of the clergy and other church roles. But society is changing and is becoming more accepting of gays and lesbians. And just like the issues before, the church will eventually cave-in, but only after gays and lesbians earn respect in secular society. The churches who have already accepted gays can and have pointed to the New Testament where Jesus accepted all people - including a known prostitute. Church again will follow, not lead.

Churches have used religion to justify virtually anything that is explicitly against the 10 commandments. War of any color should always be vigorously opposed by any church, synagogue, or mosque that is true to itself. The war in Iraq was supported by Christian churches, just like World Wars I, II, the War of 1812, and most other conflicts where America was attacked first. Yet the sixth Commandment says: "Thou shalt not kill". It does not say "Thou shalt not kill except in self-defense, or in case of war, or on behalf of Jesus, or by accident". OUR laws may say that, but that isn't church law. In Mathew 22:36-40, Jesus himself explains that second greatest commandment is to love thy neighbor as thyself. Yet, many of the pastors I listened to in 2003 made no distinction between peaceful Muslims and Islamic terrorists. They used the actions of a few to justify attacking a sovereign country and a peaceful religion. It's as if Christians don't have their own terrorist groups (i.e. Ku Klux Klan, Skinheads, Neo-Nazis), only Islam. It's bad enough that those of us who attend church can't follow the 10 Commandments. But if the church can't serve as an example - what hope does the individual have?

This issue goes way, way, back to the Middle Ages where Christian churches justified attacking Muslims in order to wrest the holy cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth away from them. There's many other examples of this same contradictory behavior on the part of churches in other parts of the world.

I know full well why Christian churches behave in this manner. They are trying to attract and retain their flocks. The pastor from the white church I mentioned would have lost his members if he spoke out forcefully against segregation. Much as the pastors I listened to in 2003 would have also lost members if they vehemently opposed attacking a Muslim nation. There's the rub. These churches are concerned about losing market share. They don't lead society, they follow. And in doing so they simply justify our behaviors (good and bad) all the while leading us to believe that "God is on our side", when in fact he is not. There's a saying, "God don't like ugly". And since war is ugly - God doesn't like war and therefore he's not on the side of either participant, but on the side of the peacemaker. The same logic can be used for slavery, racism, sexism, or other ugly -isms you can think of.

I am Christian. I believe and love Jesus Christ and always will. I also follow his teachings to the best of my ability. However, I need assistance at times, and unfortunately that assistance cannot be found in any Western Christian Church. I admire and immensely appreciate the sacrifices Jesus gave us, but just because he died for us, doesn't mean we're off the hook. We have our own sacrifices to make and it is His example we should follow. Why can't my church lead by example?

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