Who doesn’t have a story of bad customer service? For most of us those stories center around enormous companies with overseas “hotlines” – telecoms, internet service providers, mobile network providers…. The problems almost always center around the lack of relationship and personal service. Most of us relish the small, closely held local operation where we are not forced to prove our bona fides, or spend hours recounting what we have already done because the people in the store or vendor know us, they know our concerns, values and capabilities.
My wife and I have been taking our seemingly countless pets for the last several decades to the same neighborhood veterinary clinic. The place is owned by a neighbor and someone we have considered a friendly acquaintance. Recently we have noted a general decrease in customer service there. Each visit we would be confronted with new personnel and have to spend inordinate amounts of time explaining the history of a pet that had been in the clinic half-a-dozen times before. We would have to have long talks with a new vet about what we were willing and unwilling to do with an animal. (In this day and age vets offer services for your pets that rival the very best health care given to people – is a stray cat that wandered into your home really worth tens of thousands in medical care?)
This decline in service at our vet clinic of long-standing came to a very ugly head in recent days when one of our pets had to spend multiple days in the clinic and each day’s care team had a different idea about how to treat the cat. The owner of the clinic is working very hard to make the situation right so I will not go into any more detail, but in the course of trying to work this all out it became apparent what was going on. No employee of the clinic was full time, hence the daily changes in care teams and the high turnover in employees as they moved on to places where they could get more hours. Why do you think no one there is a full time employee? Why so the owner does not have to provide mandated healthcare – of course.
The cost in the situation is much higher than mere dollars, or even the health of a beloved pet. The real cost is in relationship. We find ourselves in an adversarial relationship with someone we never dreamed we would be anything but friendly with – nor had we been anything but friendly with for more than 20 years. Isn’t that really the problem with any sort of “big” solution to a problem? By robbing us of relationship such large scale solutions rob us of our humanity.
Obamacare is as heinous as it is in large part because it drives the dehumanizing forces downward. It robs us of relationship in the most intimate parts of our lives. What used to be a relationship with a doctor is now reduced to a number of minutes for examination and a procedure to be coded and payment claimed. Nowhere in the situation is their room for discussions of values, desires, loves and hates. No longer is the patient a person, they are simply a patient – a thing to be processed.
As such, and the charitable impulse that drove proponents of Obamacare notwithstanding, Obamacare in inherently unchristian. The ministry of Jesus was all about restoring the humanity to a religious process that had become so overburdened with law and regulation that people ceased to be people and were instead reduced to objects trying to comply. The anger that is so transparent in this election cycle is rooted in the dehumanization we all feel after eight years of an administration whose signature accomplishment serves only that dehumanization. The ministry of Jesus is the answer to such dehumanization – it is the only answer.
Never has the field been more fertile. We face a golden opportunity for the church to grow and thrive. But when we view the megachurch as our leading institution, I wonder if we have any answers for the world today. Where is the humanizing relationship in a congregation of thousands? To give the answer to the world, we have to have it for ourselves.
Go out today and make a friend. The world needs more relationships.