Sunday, May 28, 2006

What a man was 2000 years ago means nothing at all to me today

My road trip included 3 visits to In-N-Out Burger in a week. This is hands down my favorite fast food place, though their fries suck, their menu is limited and I don't even eat their burgers. What I get isn't on their menu: Grilled cheese with grilled onions and no "special" sauce, ketchup and mustard instead.

It's a bit nontraditional - the bread isn't grilled, it's just a hamburger with no meat patty. But they use really fresh ingredients - the bun is nice and squishy, it's real cheese, and the lettuce and tomato aren't those wilted, over-engineered imitation vegetables you'd find at McDoof's or one of those other lower-quality places.

In-N-Out is a family owned chain, which doesn't franchise, and they tell you that on their paper bags. The other thing they print on their bags (and cups and other paper products) is a Bible verse - a different one on each product. Not the entire verse, just the reference to the verse. Normally this sort of thing would bother me, since I'm really opposed to having religion shoved in my face when I'm not expecting it.

However, in this case it doesn't bother me. It's unobtrusive - you usually have to look at the bottom of the cup, or the bottom seam of the bag to find it, plus, the fact that it's just the reference to the verse makes it kind of cool, like a puzzle. Sort of like "hey, if you want to know more about it, go look it up yourself." Not being too familiar with the Bible (though it made for interesting reading during super-boring Religion class lectures in high school), I don't know what the verses are. When I was working at Deloitte, a group of us went to In-N-Out for lunch, and Nicole, one of my teammates, told us what they all were - she had this incredible photographic memory of Bible verses.

Not all companies are this subtle about expressing their religious views. Our very own Alaska Airlines here in Seattle has a really annoying practice of giving you a small card with a Bible verse on it with your meal. Not just a reference, mind you, but an actual verse, and one that refers specifically to Jesus, usually. I could almost forgive a general "Be good to others" or "God is great" verse, as that would cover most religious beliefs. Fortunately most Alaska flights are so short that you don't get a meal, so I haven't seen one of these in a long time. When I did get one, I made it a point to return it to the flight attendant.

This practice irritates me to no end - I've actually written to Alaska Airlines to complain, as have a few of my non-Christian friends, and we got a totally flippant response from Customer Service that said something to the effect of "A lot of people like it so too bad for you" and no apology. Apparently others have complained as well.

Do they not realize that it might come across as offensive to non-Christians, who aren't exactly a small percentage of people in this country? I'm all for private companies pushing their own beliefs and not hiring those who don't adhere to them, but when you're providing a service, is it really necessary to foist those beliefs on your paying customers? (Now if you're a Christian bookstore or some other religion-based business, that's a different story since your customers are actually interested in your religious values.) Unfortunately, Alaska's hub is in Seattle and their prices are often the lowest so I can't boycott them without majorly inconveniencing myself.

I'm not opposed to religion - I just don't want other people to try to convert me or shove their beliefs in my face. To me, religion is very private, and if you want to share it with other people, wait for them to ask, or share it with those who you know have common beliefs. I have friends who are deeply religious and yet don't ever mention that they think I'm going to hell, or that I really should think about going to church/accepting Jesus as my savior/watching the xyz religious movie with them. I really appreciate those friends - I know their faith makes them who they are, and it may be telling them to share it with others, but they seem to "get" that it's not something I want to address in our relationship.

So, did I stir up a hornet's nest with this topic? :)


  1. Generally I don't like having religion shoved into my face either, but sometimes I'm curious why the adolescent teenagers who dress up in suits and approach random strangers on behalf of the Church of Latter Day Saints NEVER approach me. Perhaps they are only allowed to talk to other boys.

  2. I agree with you.No one has a right to impose the views of their religion on others unless asked.

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