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Pundit’s Mailbag —
When Confronted With A United/PMA Merger Question,
What Would Jesus Do?

Among the many letters in response to our articles on the United/PMA Merger, we received this one that brought in a reference to a well known Christian bible verse:

Just when I thought your opus was complete, you outdid yourself again. Thank you for inspiring me on this matter. I’ve been mentally beat down after this failed merger as I felt industry asked us/me to perform a duty while I served on United’s board & I did not deliver – yet.

Cheers (John16:33) & Shalom !!

—Fred Williamson
Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce
President and CEO
San Diego, California

The bible verse that Fred mentions is as such:

33 These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world, ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33
King James Version (KJV)

The gist of meaning is clear: That as difficult as our state might be in this world — whatever our trouble and tribulations — we ought to still take heart. We can know peace not because life is easy but because our difficulties are temporary. The hardness of life prepares us all for eternal glory which is guaranteed.

The Greek version of this verse contains the word thlipsis as the word for “tribulation.” That word is about trouble and affliction. It comes from a root meaning “to crush, to press, to break.”

Interestingly, though, the Hebrew text uses a different word with a slightly more complicated meaning; it uses the word tsarah. Tsarah refers to both a threatening enemy or rival, and a time of extreme affliction or stress.

Of course, Jesus may have spoken Hebrew at times, so sometimes looking at the Hebrew text can add meaning. The verse can be read as enjoining us to a battle that it is certain we will win. We don’t know the timing, but the result is inevitable. We ought to organize our lives within the context of this inevitable victory.

We have written so much about the issue of a merger between United and PMA and have always known there are valid arguments to be made for many possible outcomes.

The ending of the most recent talks has been unsatisfactory and will result in substantial degradation in the esteem in which both national associations are held. Industry leadership failed at the key obligation to either complete a merger or explain why it is undesirable to do so.

Although we have explained that the focus on the CEOs as a cause of collapse of the talks is overstated — that these men became proxies for disagreements over the nature of the association — still, the fact that it all collapsed around this leaves a scent of self-dealing that can’t help the associations grow in esteem.

Private companies haven’t come out so well either. Many called us filled with anger and vituperation in the days following the collapse of the talks, vowing to push the matter. But, in the end, it appears few care enough or are brave enough to press the matter in any real way.

The verse that Fred sends us is Jesus talking to his disciples and advising them that because of his actions, his willingness to go to the cross, the temporal concerns of the world will be transcended. In sending this verse, Fred holds out the hopeful thought that the tribulations of the trade are difficult but also temporary and the result inevitable. Of course, that raises a question of leadership.

The verse doesn’t preach that good outcomes are preordained; it explains that because of Jesus and his actions, the result has been determined. So the logical question in analogizing to the United/PMA merger talks is this: Who is to be our Jesus?

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