Friday, August 19, 2016

Are You Working Hard Enough To Maintain Your Elite Status?

That was the subject line of an email that I received as we were returning from the hospital the other day.  Background: The sender was the frequent-flyer miles program of the airline that I usually fly with.  Last year, which included a wonderful vacation in New Zealand with Liane as well as other personal and business trips, had promoted me to the lowest named tier ("silver") of their frequent-flyer program. This year, with all kinds of travel curtailed by loss and cancer, somehow it looked like I wouldn't make the grade.  What a failure! Shouldn't I be getting out there and flying more?  Look, here are some special offers!

It's a basic assumption of this kind of advertising that, if you slice your customer base into various levels ("silver", "gold", "platinum" and the rest), then people will grasp for the higher status levels - however meaningless they may acknowledge that the whole exercise is.  Something about the idea that "I am inside the elite group and you are outside" feels tremendously appealing.  Let's take a moment to acknowledge that it is also completely un-Christian.  As Paul writes,
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
We are called to imitate Jesus in repudiating the whole grasping business.  We could ask one another how well we are doing at getting rid of our elite status so as to serve others more effectively.  One hopeful example seems to be the author J.K. Rowling

This news is a few years old (see here) but I only came across it today and found it an encouraging antidote to "Airline X"'s trying to convince me to worry about my "status" in their dumb frequent-flyer program.