Aircraftian Musings

Air travel is always an entertaining experience for me.

It isn’t always the pleasant kind of entertaining (having an engine blow out on the runway is entertaining in a grim sort of way) but there will always be things, people, and places that cross my path and arrest my attention, no matter where I’m coming from or going to. Sometimes they make me laugh. Sometimes they make me cringe. Sometimes they make me pause and reflect about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything.

But mostly they make me laugh.

Take flight attendants. They come in all shapes and sizes and personalities. I’ve seen them happy, fat, stern, skinny, bored, angry, sagacious, and suspicious. I have even seen one who thought he was a stand-up comedian – and he was pretty darn funny. But one thing I will never understand is how these people do their job with a straight face.

Think about it. These are grown adults who’s primary business is making sure other grown adults are strapped in and not playing with blinky gadgets during takeoff. They make sure we don’t form lines outside the bathrooms. They even pass out toddler snacks to ward off the tantrums (at least, I assume that’s what the juice and peanuts are for).

And how about that pre-flight routine? You know, the one where the flight attendants make a series of intimidating hand gestures as they explain “the safety features” of the aircraft. This part always convinces me I’d be better off walking to my destination.

For starters, they point us to that marvel of modern technological wizardry – the seatbelt. If, for whatever reason, the plane decides to stop working midair, I can derive great comfort from the fruit rollup-sized strap around my waist. Hallelujah. I’m plummeting to my death, but at least I won’t fall out of my seat on the way down.

And the life-vests. Boy oh boy, the life vests. I get why we have them, but when we’re flying through New Mexico and into Nevada, with nary a drop of water in sight, I can’t help but think it’s all a tad overrated.

Flight Attendant: In the unlikely event of a water landing, please do the following…
Me: But… we’re flying over a desert.
Flight Attendant: That is irrelevant.
Me: What do we do in the event of a sand landing?
Flight Attendant: **** you. Security! Throw this terrorist off the plane!


“Assumption Two: God only cares about spiritual things. To be honest, I don’t even know what this means, but those elusive spiritual things have been helping Christians cop out of true holiness for centuries. We are all like accountants with wizard-like abilities, funneling our choices and goals and actions through shell corporations and off-shore banks of unrighteousness. God only cares about spiritual things? His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom? Are you kidding me? God only cares how we emote at Him? That’s part of it, sure, but I was pretty sure that He made physical animals and a physical man and gave him a physical job. I was pretty sure that He made a physical tree with physical fruit and told that physical man not to physically eat it or he would physically die. He physically ate it anyway and now we physically go into the physical ground, physically rot, and become physical plant and physical worm food. And because of this incredibly physical problem, He made things even more clear when His own Son took on physical flesh to lead a physical life that lead to a physical cross where He physically absorbed our curse, was physically tortured, and bought you and bought me and bought this whole physical world with His physical blood. If He’d wanted a spiritual kingdom, He could have saved Himself a huge amount of trouble (to say nothing of making the Greek philosophers and medieval gnostics a lot happier), by just skipping Christmas and the Crucifixion.

When men have an urge to physically do something they shouldn’t, God suddenly has primary jurisdiction over ‘spiritual’ things, which, when one really takes a thorough academic look at the question, means something foggy about our fellow man.

When the younger set would like to go along with a godless (but inevitably self-righteous) crowd, they encounter certain physical requirements. Welcome to dietary indignation, resentment of private property, the anathema of soda, and pious affirmations of a woman’s right to kill (so long as she isn’t killing polar bears with unholy diesel). Luckily – wipe brow here – God doesn’t care about any of those things. Close one, right? I know. Phew.

Ink your skin and pierce your nipples. Get yourself a steady IV drip of guiltless self-affirmation. Serve dark urges and call them lovely. Demand that others feed the poor. After all, one can be a member of a spiritual kingdom and a totally different physical kingdom without any conflict of interest.

But whenever your physical urges fail you, when death and pain arrive, discover the problem of evil and wield it widely. How could God allow you to feel physical hurt and physical pain?

Shrug. His is a spiritual kingdom, isn’t it?”

– N.D. Wilson, Death by Living (pp. 75-77)

On Chesterton & Calvinism (From a Lover of Both)

Several weeks ago, a friend of mine expressed interest in my opinion of Chesterton’s thoughts on Calvinism:

Surely you encountered his position while reading Orthodoxy, if not in other places. I would not presume to take every word of his as gospel of course, but if I were Calvinist I would be hesitant to recommend him without a disclaimer, especially considering the influence and effectiveness of his writing. Admittedly I’m somewhat confused by your advocacy of Chesterton (although I obviously encourage it in general).

It’s a good question, and I’ll do my best to answer it as briefly and thoroughly as possible. I suspect there are others who read this blog who may be wondering the same thing.

chesterton1I am indeed aware of Chesterton’s antagonistic attitude toward Calvinism. In Orthodoxy, for example, he asserts that it was Calvinism which drove William Cowper to madness. In Eugenics and Other Evils, he calls Calvinism “immoral” and “the most non-Christian of Christian systems.” How then, as a staunch lover of the historic Reformed faith, can I feel comfortable recommending such works without a booming disclaimer?

It’s very simple, really: as a critic of Calvinism, the Prince of Paradox is a bit of a clown.

Remember the scene in V for Vendetta, where Evey awakes to find the hero fencing with an empty suit of armor? It is all very winsome and dramatic, but of course, it is to battle what O’Doul’s is beer: a complete and utter joke.

A similar thing happens whenever Chesterton takes a swipe at Calvinism: he blusters a lot and tips his nose in the air and generally makes it clear that he doesn’t approve. And then he moves on. He never seriously engages with it mano-a-mano. Perhaps there is an essay somewhere in which he actually plants his foot and does bloody battle to the death over the matter, but in all my reading thus far, I haven’t encountered any such thing.

GKC was never one to dance around the point, so I won’t either: on the subject of Calvinism, the man was hilariously, absurdly wrong. No offense to my dear Reformed Baptist friends, but in the words of Tim Bayly, “Listening to Chesterton on Calvinism is like listening to John Piper (or worse, John MacArthur) on infant baptism.”

Yeah. Hard to take seriously, in other words.

Chesterton’s potshots are so risibly ill-aimed that I am more amused than challenged (let alone concerned) by them. I think it fair to say that Calvinists who know why they are Calvinists will not be knocked out of their position by a bit of rhetorical skylarking.