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Monday, August 20, 2012

First Class Flight: Contradictions in Faith

Please welcome back guest blogger Brittany Browne. She is a mission intern with the UMC General Board of Global Ministries and reflects on some of what she's been learning:

I recently took a first-class flight while returning home from a three-week training that encompassed multiple seminars and workshops related to power, privilege, systems of oppression and more. While I understand and appreciate the board’s intentions to make me feel comfortable, and get me to my next destination the most cost-effective and timely manner, the intentions contradicted the messages I received throughout training.

The training was hosted by the General Board of Global Ministries for the United Methodist Church, an agency dedicated to connecting the church in mission from a global perspective. During training, my colleagues and I were invited to break the chains of bondage relating to power and privilege.

The first-class flight was contradicting because the oath that I pledged a few days before stated that I would vow to become a co-creator of God’s work of liberation, justice and faith. But then I had immediately become, for a moment, an active participant in the very same systems of oppression that I spoke about breaking.

It’s easy to say that such a thing was beyond my control because the flight was already scheduled, or for some other reason that takes the blame off of me but the reality is, we all in some ways participate in the same systems that we talk about that are unequal, unjust and so forth. Perhaps the bigger question is ‘why?’

What are airlines really valuing when they offer these first-class options? Higher profits? More loyal customers? Is a subliminal message being portrayed that these things are most important at the expense of perpetuating class wars

What are we saying as a church body when we participate in such a structure as well? Is it too hard for us to say that because this is the only flight option, I will ride with another airline? Of course, things at face value are sometimes more complicated then they seem on the surface, but what does it mean to go deeper in order that justice in some slightly small way may be served better?

United Methodist Pastor, Lorenza Andrade Smith posed the question, “How do we live simply, so that others can simply live?

This is a question that we constantly wrestle with in many aspects, but specifically in matters of social class. While on the flight, I also noticed the differences of treatment in first-class compared to economy: the “welcome address” was offered by the CEO of the airline through the LCD monitors while the welcome address for the attendees in economy were given by the flight attendant. 

What is being said by the CEO to a particular group of people that can not be said to others in a different section of the airline? Likewise, the technology was more advanced in first-class compared to any other section on the plane. The publications and movie selections were even different and were offered in different languages for first-class flight attendees, compared to simply two standard language options for economy: English or Spanish.

So, what are we really purchasing when it comes to buying a first class ticket, literally and spiritually? In many ways, and like the purchase of other products, we feel we are paying for convenience, comfortability, and overall better quality, but what does that fulfill in lieu of our understanding of loving our neighbor as Christians? We are living and participating in a society that says honor and luxury are terms associated with first class.

How do we stay alert to our active participation in roles of power, privilege and social class? Furthermore, when we recognize our participation, how do we begin to break the chains of bondage that we are so comfortable participating within? It’s easy to dismiss certain situations by stating ‘that doesn’t apply to me' or 'I’m not affected by that’ but these statements are the same statements that put us into social class categories and keep us bound to stereotypes involving class issues

It is imperative for us as a collective body of Christ to remember that “iron sharpens iron” and we can only embrace this teaching by putting feet on our conversations and stepping out of the contradictions of systems that we proclaim to be counter to the gospel. We must model it well, first.


  1. Wonderful post, Brittany! Glad you are willing to come out and say something like this.

  2. Way to go, Brittany! Can we also talk about the Hilton Crystal City and its CHOCOLATE FOUNTAIN?

  3. I really really like studying and following your publish as I discover them incredibly useful and exciting. This publish is similarly useful as well as exciting . Thank you for details you been placing on creating your website such an exciting. I provided something for my details. First Class Airfare


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