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On Airplanes

May 3, 2012

I love airplanes. I think they’re a relaxing way to travel. They certainly beat driving. Even if you spent the same amount of time driving as flying, when you fly, someone else is doing the work. That lets me diddle with my iPad or read a book or do something constructive. Couple this with the ability to get anywhere in the country in five hours or anywhere in the world in about 18, flying is awesome. I’m with Louis CK, who did a memorable bit on Conan O’Brien about how flying is amazing but everybody seems to just complain about either their lack of legroom or their delay or the fact they had to sit by a baby or the fact that the in-flight WiFi went out–but then they fly through the air and arrive at their destination within hours! The pioneers took lifetimes to do the same; we watch a movie and BANG–we’re there!

Airplanes also offer an interesting social dynamic perhaps unreplicated throughout society. I am currently sitting next to a lady that I have said about two sentences to. She seems nice, but what do I know about it? I’ve been next to her for an hour. I’ll be next to her for two more, but it’s not like we are likely to become friends. This fact remains despite the fact that we are sitting so close as to be in a dating relationship. In what other instance are you pressed against another human but don’t move away to respect their space? Only on an airplane, and that’s kind of weird.

Since we are so close, we are almost like a captive audience for each other. You’d think that people would want to converse to pass the time, but I find that almost to never be the case. As I look around, everyone is sleeping or flying with their headphones in (myself included). These are universal, cross-cultural non-verbal signals for “don’t talk to me.” But why don’t we want to talk to anyone? Are we so disconnected as a society that we would rather listen to recorded music and watch a Dolly Parton movie than speak to each other? I guess so.

But what is my role as a Christian? Do I need to share the gospel with this seatmate? Am I compelled to turn the conversation towards spiritual things? Even if they have headphones in? I don’t know; you tell me.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 3, 2012 12:37 pm

    Turn the conversation towards spiritual things if you feel the need (though this may be a bit heavy for a first meeting!), but no, you don’t need to share the gospel with her. Also, Anywhere in the world in 18 hours?? Your planet must be smaller than mine, coz i need at least 24 hours (with stopovers its normally closer to 30 hours) to get from my country of citizenship to Europe…

    • May 3, 2012 2:13 pm

      It depends on your plane moreso than I’m on a different planet. You’re right, though, most intercontinental travel takes longer than 18, but if you went nonstop on a concorde or military jet you could do it.

  2. lyttleton permalink
    May 7, 2012 3:49 pm

    I have a scene in my novel that’s about someone sharing their faith with a guy on a plane. Short answer, don’t do it. It will not be well received.

    • May 7, 2012 4:16 pm

      Do you remember our seminar with Kevin and Brian McLaren’s book at H.k10? I guess I differ with that book a lot.

      Usually I am reading stuff for class and my seatmates see a Hebrew Bible and make it fairly clear they don’t want to talk to me.

      • lyttleton permalink
        May 7, 2012 4:43 pm

        I don’t actually remember that particular seminar (or really, much of any of the seminars).

        My thinking is, if you’ve got a Bible out, you’ve said as much as you need to say. If someone is interested, they’ll broach the subject. If not, you broaching it will only be counterproductive to your goal.

  3. Jim permalink
    May 18, 2012 12:09 pm

    I share your wonder at modern air travel. We may not have teleporters yet, but airplanes are second best. I too, sit next to numerous people on airplanes through the course of a year. Talking to strangers is one of the hardest things for me to do. Oddly enough, it is greatly rewarding when I do. Should you share your faith? A couple thoughts.

    1) If they won’t talk to you, you can’t. End game.
    2) If you can engage in a conversation, yes. How will people know the good news of Jesus unless someone tells them?
    3) What is the risk? If they do not believe and you tell them the gospel with a subsequent rejection, what is lost? They didn’t belive going in and don’t believe going out, nothing lost. I can’t make them further removed from God than they already are. What they do have, however, is a memory of a real live normal human being who cared enough to share with them the single most important truth.

    I have had varying degrees of success on 20 flights in the last 2 years. While I do not have the gift of an evangelist, but often the gift of cowardice, I want to love people enough to tell them the good new.

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