The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


August 11, 2006

Of planes and passengers

The sky outside by office window is on the flight path of O’Hare Airport. A plane is lifting up through the puffy clouds as I type these words. And here’s another one.

The morning e-mail brought three items that make me think about these planes and the people riding in them. First, a bulletin from the ELCA travel director recapping security rules from United Airlines put into place after the threat disclosed yesterday. (Another.)You know them, too: Nothing liquid or gel on board, from coffee to toothpaste. And arrive at least three hours before the flight.

Second, an ELCA news story about Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson’s pleas for other U.S. religious leaders to join him in calling for “the cessation of all violence, for an international peacekeeping force and a negotiated agreement for a just peace.” (Another.) You can read his “Open Letter to Jewish, Muslim and Christian Leaders” (Another.)  He ends action proposals simply (Another.) with a request to “pray for a just and lasting peace.”

And third, the weekly delivery of survey results from The Gallup Poll. Results from a poll taken July 28-30 about U.S. attitudes toward Muslims living in the U.S. show that 31 percent would feel nervous if they noticed a Muslim man on their flight, 18 percent would feel nervous if the passenger were a Muslim woman. What would be those (Another.) results if the questions were asked today?

There was a photo in the morning paper of an airport receptacle, filled high with juice bottles, sunscreen, lip gloss, shampoo, even pricey perfume—things that until yesterday were essential carry-on items. We’re already learning to shed what we must to keep aloft. (Another.)

But what about our prejudices born of our fears: Is there a prayer that we will let go of these, finally, so we can life together? Transform these into more humble, more passionate striving to work together for peace?  Or will more of us in the U.S. just pray (Another.) we’re not seated next to someone we think is a Muslim man?

“The world daily sees how religion is used to divide and destroy,” writes Bishop Hanson. “It is time for us together to publicly, clearly and courageously give witness that the One in whom we believe unites us in our diversity rather than divides us in our hostilities.”


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Embracing diversity