United Airlines: Who deserves to be on that plane?

See #UnitedAirlines trending on social media? If you haven’t heard about it, United Airlines is currently embroiled in a controversy over a shocking video of a passenger being forcefully removed from a flight after he refused to be off-loaded.

According to news reports, the flap started when passengers on Kentucky-bound Flight 3411 were offered US$800 to give up their seats to make way for four crew members. No one volunteered so the airlines randomly selected four passengers. While three of them left begrudgingly, Dr David Dao, a Vietnamese-American, resisted, saying that he was a doctor and that he needed to see patients the following day. Chicago Department of Aviation security officers then yanked the 69-year-old from his seat and dragged him off the plane.

Numerous videos captured by fellow passengers went viral and caused a storm. To make matters worse, a company e-mail was leaked revealing the airline’s CEO Oscar Munoz describing Dr Dao as “disruptive and belligerent”. He also said that he stood behind his employees.

Many are now accusing United Airlines of discrimination, saying that they treated Dr Dao so badly because he is Asian. This was not helped by a news report supposedly highlighting the doctor’s troubled past and brushes with the law.

When such things happen, it is easy—almost natural, in fact—to condemn the airline. After all, it would seem that Dr Dao should not have been subjected to the treatment he received, no matter what his past and ethnicity. Some have also condemned the news site for digging up his criminal past.

Reading these arguments has left me with a number of questions. For example: Should our ethnicity determine our worth? Should we be judged on our past? In short: Who deserves to be on Flight 3411?

As Christians, we can take comfort in the fact that in God’s eyes, the answer to the first two questions are: No. God does not see us based on our skin color nor our past. In fact, we are all equal: all of us are sinners, and all of us are in desperate need of His grace. We can do nothing to make ourselves more acceptable to Him, or to increase our worth. That’s why God does not look at our past criminal records and secret sins, nor our achievements and accolades.

In fact, if God were to judge us based on our sins, we would all suffer the same fate as Dr Dao—mercilessly dragged off the plane. We would not even have the chance to be on that plane.

Our merciful Father loves us as His children and forgives our sins. Instead of hauling us off the plane, He invites us to join Him on board.

Now, if God were willing to forgive and put aside His judgment against us, shouldn’t we, as His followers, be willing to do the same? Do we judge people or treat some as less deserving? Having received God’s love and treatment, do we view them the same way God viewed us?

Today, I would like to challenge you to remember that we are all “equal”—we are all sinners who need grace just as we do.

It’s easy to point the finger at United Airlines and others. But is it time to do the same to ourselves?

What A Viral Video can Teach Us about Discrimination

Warning: Story contains profanity, racial slurs, and anti-gay slurs. Viewer discretion is advised.

That was the disclaimer in many articles to the recent viral video of a visibly distraught Caucasian father from Minnesota (Bradley Knudson) on YouTube, expressing his anger and anguish over an incident involving racial slurs hurled against his adopted African-American daughter. The perpetrators were a pair of twin boys whom he captured on video uttering derogatory comments and racist insults at his daughter via Snapchat. Bradley’s anger was fuelled by the fact that the twins’ father was non-apologetic. In his response to Bradley, he claimed that he did the same things “when he was a kid.”

In a bid to bring to light the bullying and racism his daughter experienced, Bradley took his grievances to social media. The 5:44 minute video took the internet by storm and garnered a total of seven million views to date. It was later reported that the alleged father had lost his job as a result of the video posted by Bradley.

The video raises an important and ongoing issue that society as a whole faces: discrimination. It is the act of treating a person differently—negatively or positively—because of that person’s race, gender, class, or any other group to which that person belongs.

In a multi-racial, multi-cultural country like mine, the need to exercise tolerance and forbearance towards people of a different race was always emphasized. We have Racial Harmony Day that reminds us that our country is built on a rich diversity of culture and heritage. We are taught that differences in our beliefs, culture, and upbringing were to be expected. Yet, no matter how much racial harmony was publicized or emphasized in the curriculum or at home, unfortunately people of diverse backgrounds and cultures will have and will keep having preconceived ideas or judgments about each other.

Thinking back to Jesus’ time, discrimination exist between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews and Gentile saw each other as outsiders to be put in their place, to be treated with suspicion and kept at arm’s length. “In The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah”, biblical scholar Alfred Edersheim gave us an idea of what life was like in those days: “the Jews kept close together, and were ever most liberal to one another; but they were filled with bitter hatred of all others. They would neither eat nor sleep with strangers; and the first thing which they taught their proselytes was to despise the gods, to renounce their own country, and to rend the bonds which had bound them to parents, children or kindred.”

Let’s return to the teachings of the Bible and allow it to influence our behavior. The Bible reminds us through the creation story in Genesis that God created us (mankind) in His own image (Genesis 1:27). As such, all of us have a special place in God’s creation. What then would cause one human being to consider himself or herself more superior or important than another person? I believe that it is our inability to recognize that before God our Creator, we are all equals—a broken and sinful race. The apostle Paul is his letter to the Galatians reminds us of this truth as well. Before the eyes of God, “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

Perhaps it was with this in mind that the Sunday school song we may be familiar with, was written. As the line goes, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” May we be encouraged to look at people through the eyes of Christ today.