You Win Psalm, You Lose Psalm

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I wonder which of these is more represented in their mailbag:

Dear Alaska Airlines,

Thank you so much for including an excerpt from Psalm 107:1 with my in-flight meal. In these troubled times I'm more nervous about flying than ever before, and reading this reminder of the Lord's endurance and goodness comforted me as I partook of His bounty. It gives me tremendous peace of mind to know that Alaska Airlines places so much trust in God.

Sincerely,
Maya Soltukeep

or...

Dear Alaska Airlines,

I was horrified to find a psalm included as part of my in-flight meals during a recent round-trip on your airline. I'm sure the intent behind this handout is noble, but it is utterly inappropriate for a corporation to foist a particular belief system on its paying customers. It is not Alaska Airlines' place to instruct me to "Give thanks to the Lord." My relationship with God-- or lack thereof-- is my own personal business. A sermon might be the price of a meal at a soup kitchen, but it has no place on an airline. This underhanded proselytism is offensive, and it has cost Alaska this customer. I will not be flying with you again.

Sincerely,
Nan Christian

8 Comments

Wow, those people sure do have interesting last names... Soul To Keep and Christian...

As for the average reaction to this, I would bet that most people would do what I would have done - look at it, shrug, throw it away, and forget about it.

So which did you send, Peter? Although this weblog might reach a wide audience, does it reach the right one? From most commentary here, you're preaching to the converted (forgive the metaphor). If you can take the time to type up and post Nan's letter here, you can also send it on to Alaska where it might do some good.

"...it is utterly inappropriate for a corporation to foist a particular belief system on its paying customers."

Fascinating. Why is it inappropriate? Would it be equally inappropriate to include, for example, the rules to various games that could be played on the plane? While I'm sure the game players might appreciate them, wouldn't they impinge on the non-gamers?

I'm rather fond of the fact that an Alaska Airlines or Chick-fil-a _can_ do this. Of course, I could be biased by appreciating the content - but I do think it's a good thing that a corporation can explicitly support causes the principals believe in. Of course, they don't influence my purchasing decisions, save for maybe a nudge on a choice between equals.

Joe: It's inappropriate because religion is a personal matter. Nobody-- whether they be government, commercial, or neighbor-- has the right to interfere. The airline's job is to get me there in one piece and make me feel comfortable in the process. Promoting a particular faith over others alienates passengers who don't share that belief, making them uncomfortable.

If that tray had included a slip of paper endorsing Howard Dean (or any other candidate) for President, I'd have found it equally inappropriate. But if it were a Coke ad, I'd have had no problem.

If someone wants to start Christian Air, with a Bible in every seat pocket and a benediction before each takeoff and landing, I have no problem with that. Passengers would know in advance what they were signing up for.

As an atheist, I think I'd have said:

"Kudos to you for trying to inject a tiny dose of spirituality into an increasingly depraved society.

"I hope that next time, you'll include words of wisdom from other world religions as well."

So religion and politics are no-nos. But consumer products are okay?

Trust Jesus. Drink Coke. I don't see the difference.

The reality of the world is we're constantly subjected to advertising. Probably all of it is offensive to some part of the population. [The problem is that offensive is funny. Consider the car ad during the Superbowl. I was offended that those little children were swearing. (because the car was so cool). But that's what made it funny. So I got over it.]

Next time you make your reservation. Ask to be put in the atheist section of the plane, then you won't be exposed to a quote from the best selling piece of historical fiction known to man. I always ask to be placed next to people who don't drink coffee, since the smell of it makes me puke. Sometimes they believe me, and sometimes it gets messy. But with computers eventually all businesses will have their marketing so well targeted you won't be subjected to proselytism. Or then again. Maybe you will--afterall, I guess that is the point.

Peter: I guess, like Greg, I don't see a lot of difference. I wouldn't have a problem with an ad for a political candidate - whether one I care for or not - either, or if they handed out a copy of the Koran to every passenger. What I pay the airline to do is to get me from point A to point B. If they do it in a way that makes me uncomfortable, I'm not going to keep flying with that particular airline - but they've fulfilled their end of the deal.

I certainly understand that in this case they've made you feel uncomfortable, and believe you're acting reasonably in choosing not to fly with them again in the future. But I don't think that corporations should be under any requirement to be bland and faceless just in an attempt to avoid offending anyone.

It's not a question of being bland and faceless. It's a question of serving the customer without preaching to him. I shouldn't have to pay to have people throw their superstition in my face.

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