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Last time we met for Lord Snow Presides, we looked at something going on in Catholicism that showed that the religion really is a business. This week, though, I want to show you something wonderful that happened to me the other day that shows just what a terrible business Christianity is. Today, Lord Snow Presides over the stark contrast between Christianity-as-a-business and the way that an actually good business runs.

Summer 2017.

(I’ll be revealing the name of the business at the end of the post. The story ends well, but the fake name amused me very much. No companies pay me to endorse them.)

I Couldn’t Click the Button.

This whole story began in the middle of last week. I order my cats’ food from a website that sells pet supplies (we’ll call it “Crunchy”). A few weeks ago, I’d noticed that the site still thought I had three cats. I used to. Lord Snow, the sweet, elderly white cat who gave us the name of our off-topic series, passed away a couple of months ago.

Crunchy’s site boasts a customer profile page that allows people to input biographical data for their pets–names, ages, health problems, etc. Crunchy implies that they use this data to make recommendations to me about products they think I’ll want for my pets, so if I want my recommendations to be on point, it’s a good idea to keep that profile up to date. I now no longer need recommendations based around the needs of a sweet, elderly kitty who needs calorie-dense, grain-free canned food–and who sometimes gets seizures.

Last week, I couldn’t remember why I hadn’t updated my profile a few weeks ago–for a moment, at least. When I got into the profile page, I remembered.

I hadn’t updated my profile three weeks ago because literally the only way to take Lord Snow off the page was to delete his entry entirely.

And look, I might not be the world’s most sentimental person, but I couldn’t click the “delete” button. Like, my finger hovered over the button, but I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t.

Wherein Yr. Loyal &Etc. Gets a Wild Bee Up Her Butt.

On Wednesday, staring at the same screen that had so bedeviled me a few weeks earlier, I remembered suddenly the searing pain I’d felt a few weeks ago at the idea of just deleting Snow.

My first impulse was to keep ignoring the whole problem. Obviously, product recommendations aren’t the end of the world as we know it.

But sometimes I just can’t ignore something.

I opened a chat window to Crunchy’s support. The representative I got, Eve, seemed like a nice sort–engaged, polite, professional, responsive. I used to work for call centers, so I notice this stuff. Right away, I told Eve that I wouldn’t take much time; I only wanted her to please pass on a message to her superiors. Very briefly, I described the problem.

I finished by asking if she could pass on a request to the website managers to allow a way to mark a pet as deceased. (Sure, it’s a really #FirstWorldProblem, but knowing that doesn’t make it sting less.)

Eve assured me she would pass on the request and message. She expressed her condolences in what sounded like very sincere ways, and said she’d note the account that we’d talked and that Snow had passed on.

I’d Found a Pain Point.

From a good business’ perspective, I’d done Crunchy a huge favor. I’d found a potential pain point in their website and then called their attention to it.

A pain point is simply any problem customers face that a business could address. For example, customers might be facing pain points in the cost of their cell phone service plans. Or they might think that the business’ ordering system is way too complicated.

Or they might not like having to “delete” a recently-deceased pet from their customer profile.

To figure out if customers have a pain point somewhere, good businesses must usually ask a lot of questions. They want to locate those points–and then find ways to effectively address them. So I’d saved Crunchy a lot of work by coming to them.

In addition, if I’d found a pain point with the way their website worked, chances are good that other customers feel the same way.

Of course, I knew immediately that maybe it won’t be practical to make that kind of change to the site. But I’m a customer of theirs, and I know that good businesses exist to solve customers’ problems. Good businesses will want to solve those problems in a way that will be profitable to themselves and an added value to customers. A balance must be achieved for the relationship to be mutually satisfying to both parties.

But I also knew that Crunchy had demonstrated competence as well as a solid dedication to customer service. I’m guessing that competition among these sorts of sales sites gets intense–and a company must differentiate itself in ways that extend far beyond product lines.

I Thought That Was the End of It.

After closing our short chat window, I felt relieved. Someone had heard me and had promised to relay the message to the relevant parties. Though neither of us knew exactly what would happen then, at least I’d given voice to my concern. The representative involved had treated me with respect and kindness.

I really thought that’d be the end of the matter.

It wasn’t.

A few days later, my husband and I received the following, delivered to our home:

I’m fairly sure that every element in this bouquet is cat-friendly, too, a fact which will become relevant shortly. (See: Tag list.)

It was–well, is–a glorious bouquet, full of sweetly-fragrant purple and pink roses as well as carnations and other such lovely flowers. Nestled on top, we found a sweet note from Eve and her manager expressing their condolences about Lord Snow’s passing.

Mr. Captain and I felt blown away, to say the least.

Exceeding Expectations.

After contacting Crunchy to thank them for their kindness, I tell you what, gang: I leaned back in my desk chair and thought about how differently Christianity works from a good business.

Just think for a moment about how the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) handles its growing riptide of sex abuse and hypocrisy revelations. Consider how the Catholic Church has responded to the same for centuries. Reflect upon how the Jesus Party in office right now in America reacts to criticisms from its own tribemates.

Every one of those pain points is something that any reputable company would be horrified to receive–and would work to address. CEOs at reputable companies lose their jobs over far less than what we’ve heard in just the last month out of all three of the named groups above.

The Monopoly.

In the past, Christian leaders could afford to ignore their customers’ pain points. The religion constituted, in effect, a monopoly. Customers couldn’t simply leave if they weren’t happy. In fact, if they even tried to dissent, Christian leaders (and communities) rained the most vicious retaliations imaginable upon their heads.

It took those leaders way too long to recognize their new normal. They can no longer expect to hold a monopoly. People have more of a choice now about accepting or rejecting the product on offer. Tens of thousands of flavors of Christianity jostle on the shelves of the religious marketplace against all those competing flavors–and against other religions besides. Many of them still don’t seem to get it. Accepting it? That’s a few miles away still.

The very worst sorts of Christians, in particular, don’t want to accept their dwindling dominance. They got into their preferred flavors of the religion because they like being the big strong bully who gets to throw their weight around. At its least malevolent, being dominant means not being powerless–and not being pushed around and potentially abused. At its most, well, being dominant means getting to enjoy a life of rampant hypocrisy and predation upon helpless, powerless victims.

Christian Pain Points.

Christians have lots of pain points. Unfortunately for them, Christianity has an even greater number of ways of hand-waving away adherents’ pain points.

  • In 2013, a grieving Christian asked Billy Graham why their god didn’t heal their mother of cancer. The letter writer (LW) had prayed hard, and the mother had been a fervent Christian. She died anyway. Graham used the opportunity to help to, instead, warble thought stoppers at that person. At the end of his sermon, he stopped to demand that the grieving child thank their god for letting her die, because now she was in Heaven for 100% sure.
  • When Fireproof and its accompanying book The Love Dare came out, a number of people criticized it for being ineffective–where it wasn’t actively opening the door to emotional abuse. The TRUE CHRISTIANS™ who liked it didn’t like those criticisms. I saw many accusations flying from those TRUE CHRISTIANS™ about why its program hadn’t worked for those critics. None of those accusations addressed the concerns.
  • Onetime pastor Andy Savage, who resigned from his megachurch in March this year over a sexual assault he’d committed some years ago, got mad a couple of months later at #ChurchToo as a movement. He thought they were “very attacking” and not seeking “a balanced voice in terms of all sides of the issue.” By “all sides,” he clearly means nobody is considering the feelings of a confessed child rapist. He was upset that the flocks weren’t allowing him to trample away the criticism.
  • In 2013, Catholics brought up a major pain point for them at the time. Any Catholic who rejected the church’s teachings about anti-gay bigotry risked the revocation of their ability to receive Communion. In fact, Catholic leaders upheld the policy. However, Bernard Law, a cardinal who actively covered up child rape in his parishes and helped shuffle rapist priests around, never risked losing his Communion privileges. Oh no! Far from it! He did resign from his archdiocese, yes, but the Pope gave him a cushy job in Rome and protection from the people crying out for justiceSo all those Catholics got told to suck it up, Buttercup.

Astonishing, isn’t it?

It’s like none of these Christian leaders even realize what’s going on here.

How That Chat Might Have Gone.

I almost–almost–laugh to think about what would have happened had I brought my pain point about Snow to a Christian leader. I don’t have to wonder too much, of course. Most of us already know exactly what that would look like.

(cue wishful-thinking music chimes)

Click to embiggen. Also: see last endnote.

I’d tell Eve that I felt sad about the idea of deleting Lord Snow from my profile.

In response, she’d lecture me about how pathetic that concern was. Surely nothing should make me sad if I’m a TRUE CRUNCHY CUSTOMER™! Why, they’d actually intended me to be more sad upon seeing that. It was meant to remind me of how much I loved my other two cats, and why was I not thanking them for that? In fact, she was adding an extra 10% surcharge to my account for the next two months to cover the company’s cost in offering me these five minutes of chat support.


And that’s if she bothered to open the chat window at all.

And that’s if I bothered to say anything at all. Most Christians don’t.

It’s not like I had any other choice in using Crunchy, after all. It’s not like there aren’t billions of other pet-supply sites online that I could go to for my weirdly-expensive, fresh-caught-mice-run-through-a-blender cat food. I’m stuck with them.

oh wait

oh snap

the wishful-thinking chimes are ending forever for Christians

aren’t they

Voting With Our Feet.

But Crunchy isn’t that kind of stupid. They know that their customers have a choice. Every one of us does, to at least some extent–with our pet food, our group affiliations, who we have as friends, even how we spend our free time and money. Religion is fast becoming optional, and even for Christians who are still very fervent, they’re more willing than ever to move between groups if one doesn’t treat them well.

And man, that knowledge would just suck for Christians to assimilate, if they could understand it and accept it.

Maybe that’s why Christianity is now in year 12 or so of their endless decline, while Crunchy literally overtook AMAZON.GODDAMNED.COM recently for sales of pet supplies. Amazon. This company now beats Amazon at its niche.

Every time I run across a company that does customer service right, it just reminds me anew that Christianity does everything so incredibly wrong.

Today, Lord Snow Presides over the ways that the real world reminds us of the flaws of the fantasy world we left behind.

NEXT UP: To all the reasons I loved before, to all the beliefs that ensnared my life, to all the thoughts that filled my nights with fear and euphoria, they don’t live within my heart. Not anymore. See you soon!

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Lord Snow Presides is our off-topic weekly chat series. I’ve started us off on a topic, but feel free to chime in with anything on your mind. Pet pictures especially welcome! The series was named for Lord Snow, my recently departed white cat. He knew a lot more than he ever let on.

One last note: I’m glad that I got that picture of the bouquet when I did. About an hour later, Bumble decided it was his mortal enemy and knocked it off the kitchen counter to murder the roses. Just the smell of roses on my hands got him agitated.

ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...

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