By Johann Christoph Arnold
We all know that on Christmas Day a terrorist tried to blow up a
Detroit-bound airliner. This tragedy was thwarted thanks to the
bravery of his fellow passengers. Most of all, we need to thank God
that 256 lives were saved.
But now, once again, there is fear and anxiety about air travel. The government is trying to calm the public. The president is doing his best to reassure people that flying will still be safe. Yet instead of seeing one another as human beings, we have made this debate increasingly political.
New rules for passengers have come into effect, which will make flying a lot more inconvenient. Our government is too quickly relying on technology that may calm the public, but that terrorists can just as quickly outsmart. Billions of dollars, and just as many hours, have been wasted. So the most recent escalation of security, particularly for flights headed to the US, is making people angry and fearful.
I have flown millions of miles and have visited nearly every continent. Flying used to be a joy and a privilege. People working in the travel industry did their part to make a trip as enjoyable as possible. Now it is different. People have become fearful and isolated. Everyone is suspicious of everyone else. And so the person sitting next to me is no longer a potential friend—an interesting human being with a story to tell—but a potential killer.
I am as worried as everyone else. In the New Year some of my children and grandchildren will be traveling abroad. Naturally, I am concerned for their safety.
There must be a better and a cheaper way. We can turn this around. But God has to become part of the equation to make flying safe and enjoyable again. We need to learn to entrust our lives into God’s hands each time we board a plane—in the same way our forefathers did when they boarded sailing ships for the New World, centuries ago. We cannot only rely on our intelligence and technology to save us.
This is where prayer comes in. I am sure many people already pray by themselves before they fly. But think of the power and the sense of community that a common prayer would bring each time a plane departs and heads for its destination.
Instead of hiring air marshals, the federal government should hire air chaplains. When the safety instructions are given before departure, the chaplain should lead the plane in prayer, asking for God’s protection during the flight. In the same way, a prayer of thanksgiving could be said by this chaplain upon arrival.
Just imagine all the dollars that could be saved if we could relax and do away with all the extra security. Flying could again be a joy—an opportunity to relate to and associate with other people.
Johann Christoph Arnold is a pastor and author of ten books, including Be Not Afraid: Overcoming the Fear of Death, which are available as free e-books at www.plough.com.