Wednesday 19 February 2020

On the gospel of flight

Board and preach
I was amused to find an event on my Twitter timeline a few days ago, a 25-second clip of a man in old-time religion garb waving a bible and preaching the gospel on an aeroplane. From indications on the screens at the back of the seats, it would appear the aircraft was just being boarded at that time.

However, ignoring that piece of evidence, in a fit of pique, I suggested with a twist in the scriptural phrase the following: “Can he be deplaned at 35,000ft? Angels shall bear him up in their hands lest he dash his head against a cloud.” Some did see the humorous side of it, but others took it literally and assumed my comment was both intolerant and violent.
I now remember that I did use a similar suggestion in a blog I wrote almost 13 years ago.
Preach the bus
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a culprit too. In the 1980s, I felt compelled to preach the gospel to all and sundry. With my clearly non-Nigerian accent, I would raise my voice in commercial transport to deliver my perspective of the gospel without scaring the listeners.
On the Lagos State Transport Corporation (LSTC) buses, I could stand near the front and face everyone to preach until a bylaw was promulgated to stop preaching on those buses at the risk of arrest. Whilst the audience might have been irritated, no one remonstrated probably out of fear of being thought anti-religious in a rather hyper-religious society.
However, with hindsight, regardless of how compelled I felt to preach the gospel and the presumed onslaught of officialdom to curtail a ‘divine’ commandment, I was an irritation and an encumbrance on the personal space and peace of other hapless passengers who probably after a hectic day didn’t need a bible thumper to assault them. Yet, preachers didn’t rise to sell salvation, purveyors of snake oil remedies had goods to sell with humour and encouragement better than preachers succeeded in their aims.
Outreach to each
Back to the preacher on the plane, everything suggests this was the wrongest place in too many respects to wave a bible around in too many respects. For when the plane is boarding, the crew are probably a bit stressed trying to get everyone to their seats, just as passengers are trying to get their carry-on luggage into the overheads bin whilst trying to make way for others to pass on to their seats.
I travelled about 100,000 kilometres last year, some door-to-door journeys including stopovers lasted about 28 hours. The last thing I need on the 2nd or 3rd leg of my journey, one of which could last 11 hours, is someone flailing the gospel with foreboding to my hearing.
Breach the peace
Besides, I would not be surprised if certain passengers became uncomfortable to the point of distress and insisted the preacher be taken off the plane out of fear that the preacher is a religious extremist up to no good. They would be right to demand it and the captain might have no other choice. We don’t take suspicious behaviour for granted when flying anymore.
If this happened after the flight had taken off, I would think the preacher would be advised to sit down and fasten his seat belt out of consideration for safety for himself and the other passengers. If that instruction were ignored, the plane could return to the airport to have him taken off as a public disturbance and he will be charged accordingly.
Yet, societies differ in responses to this kind of behaviour. I was not sure if I was amused or intrigued when I saw a preacher on the London Underground, I rationalised, if buskers did get away with it, the preacher though he had licence too.
Impeach the speech
My use of “Angels shall bear him up in their hands lest he dash his head against a cloud.” Could be termed a modern variation of “In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Psalm 91:12 (KJV)
According to the narrative of the temptation of Jesus Christ, the Devil asked him to throw himself down from a height and quoted Scripture to suggest God will command angels to save him from harm. In my usage, the intention was as the preacher would be a man of faith, if he were taken off the plane at any height, the angels bear him up safer than a parachute to land safely on terra firma.
I had no doubt about this even if there were some expected the worst to happen. All said and done, if you are arrested by the urge to rise to preach the gospel on a plane, I most candid advice would be – Don’t do it! Thank you.

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