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  • Will Reade

Korean Air Pilots and A Few Good Men

Strange title for a church blog post, right? Stick with me and I will get to how this relates to our discipleship.

In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell examines what makes successful people successful. To do this, he includes a story about why Korean Air had an accident rate 17 times higher than American carriers such as United Airlines over a 10-year period. When this was studied, it was determined that the Korean culture when applied to pilot hierarchy within an airplane cockpit, limited the manner of direct communication between a pilot and his first officer. In other words, the first officer communicated to the captain using formal deference. As you can imagine, if something was going wrong during a flight, you would expect the first officer to speak bluntly. That wasn’t the case in the Korean Air culture because that wasn’t the case in the Korean culture, and this culture led to deadly accidents.

In the movie A Few Good Men, two Marines are on trial for the death of one of their fellow Marines. When they are (spoiler alert - but the movie is almost 30 years old at this point) found not guilty on the first charge but guilty on the second charge, one of the two Marines is confused. He doesn’t understand why he was found guilty when he followed orders. Following orders is a key component of the Marines.

As I continue to reflect on the killing of George Floyd, I think of the powerful influence culture has over us, both good and bad, as demonstrated in both real life and fictional movies. In no way do I equate what happened to George Floyd with the story of Korean Air in Outliers and the fictional death of a Marine in A Few Good Men. I’m simply sharing that, as I read about how three police officers didn’t act as one of their fellow officers killed George Floyd, it is another example of how a culture can stop people within it from doing the right thing.

At this point, it would be easy for me to add onto and further push the “culture wars.” I’m not going to do that. I’m also not going to talk about creating a “Christian culture” because that’s not what we are called to. We, as a church, have a culture, though. The question for me is, what is our responsibility in all this? When we are called to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, how do we manifest that, especially since it means speaking up for those who need it regardless of the consequences we face?

If this seems overwhelming and scary, I’m with you. Thankfully, I received a recommendation, so that is where I’m going to start. That recommendation is the book Rediscipling the White Church: From Cheap Diversity to True Solidarity by David W. Swanson. If I learn anything worth sharing, I will do so in a future blog post. If you want to join me in reading this, send me a message through Facebook or email (

Thanks for reading!

Will Reade

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