Lost in Lawlessness, Not Love

“There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”—Proverbs 14:12.

“Religion is Losing Influence in U.S,” according to the Easter Sunday headline on the Opinion page of The Dalles Chronicle. While that may be news to some, it is no revelation to Christians. Religion’s importance in America has been declining since the 1960s, accelerating its downward descent exponentially in the last dozen years. Churches once crowded with people of all ages have dwindled in size as the faithful have become fewer and grayer. Many in the younger generations now rarely darken our church doors, and the friendly, familiar echo of children laughing and little feet running up church steps and down corridors has grown muted before soon becoming a memory.

At the same time that religion is losing influence in the United States, not surprisingly, lawlessness, or sin, is increasing.

The value of human life is near rock bottom, as evidenced not only by human atrocities around the world executed by foreign governments on their own people and ISIS supporters, but in our own nation. Crime has become increasingly random and shocking. Law enforcement officers, Christians, Muslims, homosexuals, black men and white men have all been killed at random simply because they were members of a certain group that somebody hated. For many, rape and murder have even become a form of entertainment, as evidenced by the callous and arbitrary murder of an elderly man on Easter Sunday, recorded live, posted by his killer on Facebook, viewed with utter disregard for the value of this man’s life by over 22,000 people and shared by another 1,000 plus more on their own social media.

Drugs are ravaging our families and communities, with heroin related deaths surpassing gun homicides in 2015 for the first time ever according to the CDC. Long term substance abuse is linked to mental illness, with both conditions on the rise and wreaking havoc on our citizens. Our response to drug abuse has been to make it easier than ever to use and abuse drugs by handing out fresh needles, antidotes for overdoses before they are needed, and legalizing entry level drugs like recreational, aka “just for fun”, marijuana, making it as easy to purchase as a gallon of milk at the grocery store. And we wonder why our children become addicts.

Is it merely a coincidence that when faith in God is declining, lawlessness is on the rise? What is it within a man or woman that restrains him from evil and causes him to do good and to love others as himself? Is it mankind’s inherent goodness?

I think not. As for me, I am not a good person. I am selfish and want what I want, when I want it, and I want to do what I want to do, not what you want. What restrains me from living out my selfishness is my faith. If I dare to call myself a Christian – a disciple, or follower, of Jesus Christ – then I must study who he is and become like him. Jesus is good. If there is anything good in me, it is solely because of him and his righteousness living in me.

Reverence for and love of God restrains sin, not the goodness of man. “Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’” —Exodus 20:20.

Without a belief in and reverence for God, “good” men and women will eventually become lawless as their love grows cold. That is what our nation is seeing right now. “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” Isaiah 5:20-21. “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.” — Matthew 24:12.

Brother and sister, don’t go with the flow. Keep pushing back the dark with the love of Jesus. Stand firm and be counted with Christ. Go back to church. Open your Bibles, read and study the Word of God. Scripture is playing out in real time, folks. We would be wise to know the Word so we can recognize it at work in our world, to follow the example of Christ and be saved, and bring others to a saving knowledge of him through our love, not our lawlessness.


The Consent of the Governed – What the United Airlines Incident Says About Us (Part 2 of 2)

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” — James Madison, Federalist Paper No. 51 (1788).

In Part 1 of this article, I discussed the recent news story about United Airlines dragging a passenger off one of its planes. I acknowledged United’s poor handling of the situation and suggested alternative ways in which they might have managed it better, including bumping before boarding. But the real story here is not United’s mistakes. The true takeaway stems from the defiant passenger’s unreasonable behavior following the airline’s repeated requests that he comply with their policies and exit the airplane, and the public’s response to that conduct.

Public transportation by plane or other common carrier, like society itself, works because people agree to abide by a common code of conduct or social contract. We consent to being governed by certain rules and laws to maintain social order and protect our rights. Generally, we obey the law even when a police officer is not around to enforce it, because we understand that most laws are good for us and others. Because we want the benefits of an orderly society, we willingly forfeit our right to unlimited freedom and agree to obey those in authority subject to the rule of law. Some of those rules are written, while others are implicitly understood.

In the case of commercial air travel aboard a Boeing 747 jumbo jet, hundreds of people are crowded into a confined passenger cabin space. There is limited ability to move far or freely amidst the tightly arranged seats and narrow aisles. When passengers fly, they entrust their lives to the solid engineering and structural integrity of the plane, the quality of training, experience and good judgment of the pilot and flight crew, and the reasonable conduct of other passengers. A failure in any one of these components can be hazardous or fatal.

No man is an island to himself on a commercial airplane, nor is it a democracy. Structure, discipline, and compliance with authority are imperative at 35,000 feet. Because passengers want the privilege of traveling long distances quickly and safely, when they board an aircraft they understand and agree that they are expected to behave a certain way. Passengers must stay seated for most of the flight, comply with directions from the flight crew, and abide by certain behavioral guidelines. These rules are designed to keep the hundreds of mildly anxious people crammed into the plane as safe and comfortable as possible while hurling through the air at 500 miles per hour, six miles above the earth. If a passenger is rude, loud, or annoying it may be a long and unpleasant flight. But if a passenger refuses to obey instructions given by the pilot or flight attendants, and decides to do things his way, not their way, he poses a risk to himself and others.

A cramped 747 will become a significantly more dangerous place if passengers refuse to comply with the flying code of conduct, including obeying lawful requests by airline personnel, and instead become disruptive without considering reason or the welfare of other passengers.

While security officers should not have dragged this passenger off the United Airlines plane, in this day of terrorism and other threats tied to commercial airline travel, United’s enforcement action is understandable, if ill-advised. Still, this man should not have acted in the selfish, child-like manner that he did, causing hundreds of people unnecessary inconvenience, delay and trauma. If he had simply complied with United’s request that he leave the aircraft, which he was legally obligated to do, he could have prevented this unfortunate showdown and his own injuries.

While it is troubling that this passenger did not feel compelled to obey a reasonable request to obey those in authority over the aircraft, even more disturbing is that the public has not criticized his conduct in refusing to do so.

It is impossible for a nation to maintain the rule of law if its citizens do not respect the law. There are times when the law, a law enforcement officer or person in authority is corrupt and, in the interest of justice, appropriate resistance or civil disobedience is necessary and desirable to raise awareness, pierce the public conscience, and bring change. However, those instances are by far the rare exception and not the rule.  Getting bumped from a flight is disappointing, frustrating and inconvenient, but it hardly rises to the level of injustice or corruption justifying civil disobedience.

Society functions because people consent to be governed by reasonable rules that bring order from chaos and protect us from the unrestrained selfishness of ourselves and others. If every request by a law enforcement officer is met with an argument, ignored, or defied, outright rebellion and lawlessness will follow. When civil disobedience is no longer about achieving justice, but only about asserting one individual’s right to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, without regard for the rights of others, a civilized society subject to the rule of law must stand up and call it what it is: wrong.

If an airline official cannot get passengers on a plane to willingly comply with their reasonable requests, travel will grow increasingly dangerous, regulated and limited.

If we, as a nation, continue down this path of refusing to respect and submit to those in authority for any and no reason, simply because we can get away with it or because we don’t want to do what we’ve been asked to do, then lawlessness and chaos will come. Parents, teachers, airline officials, law enforcement officers and eventually even our military will have no control over their constituents. The terrible law of the land will be every man for himself.

“In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” ―Judges 21:25

The Consent of the Governed – What the United Airlines Incident Says About Us (Part 1 of 2)

Dominating the national news this past week was the story about a United Airlines passenger who was dragged off a plane on Palm Sunday night in Chicago, Illinois. The flight had been overbooked and four United Airlines flight crew members needed to bump four paying passengers from the flight so that the crew could travel to Louisville, Kentucky, in time for a flight they were scheduled to work the following day from that city.

Then unknown to most airline passengers, including those on this flight, was that when they purchased a plane ticket each one entered into a contract with the airline. That contract provides passengers with the right to travel on the plane to their intended destination, provided that the airline does not need the passenger to vacate their seat for any one of a variety of reasons, including transporting flight crew members to another location.

When passengers must be bumped, the airline first asks for volunteers willing to give up their seat in exchange for a later flight and additional compensation in the form of cash or a voucher.  Preferably, this is done prior to boarding. If, after requesting volunteers, additional seats are still needed, the airline may begin to involuntarily bump passengers. Whoever is bumped is then booked on a later flight and given additional compensation for their inconvenience.

Unfortunately, in the recent United Airlines debacle, the airline did not disclose its need to bump passengers until after they had already boarded the plane. Adding to the dilemma, the airline did not have a reasonable plan for what to do in the event an involuntarily bumped passenger refused to exit the aircraft. United Airlines had a sticky situation on its hands.

To say that United did not handle the problem well would be a ridiculous understatement, as the media aptly showcased via smart phone video taken by other passengers on the same flight. When the only way you can accomplish your objective is by forcing someone else to physically do something, you’re in trouble. So, with the benefit of hindsight, what else could United have done?

Many have suggested the airline staff should have just kept upping the ante until someone accepted their offer and voluntarily left the plane. I understand there was no policy or procedure in place allowing staff to offer any amount in excess of the current maximum compensation. Even if there had been such authority, do we really want to give passengers the right to hold flights hostage in these circumstances until the airline pays them a high enough price to redeem their seat? In the future, United can and should increase the amount of its bumping compensation and the number or type of vouchers that are offered so that these are effective incentives for passengers to voluntarily be bumped. Passengers unwilling to miss their flight for $800.00 or one voucher good only for a future flight in the continental United States, may reconsider when they are offered $1,500, two vouchers, or an unrestricted voucher for a flight good anywhere United flies.

Other people proposed that the flight crew just rent a car and drive from Chicago to Louisville. Maybe – but that would have meant a five to six-hour drive at night the evening before their next flight. Instead of being rested and alert to work that flight, the crew may have been tired, potentially placing their next passengers at risk.

Better options for United to have considered under the circumstances were:

  1. Refuse to depart until all the necessary seats had been surrendered. Briefly explain to the passengers the airline’s right to bump passengers under these conditions. Advise passengers that one of the people selected to be bumped had repeatedly refused to leave the aircraft. Explain to the passengers that the plane would not be taking off until either that passenger had exited the plane or another volunteer stepped forward and relinquished their seat.
  1. Notify passengers that if either the bumped passenger or another volunteer did not leave the plane within the next few minutes, everyone on board would be required to disembark the airplane until the situation had been resolved. If any passengers refused to leave the aircraft, advise them that security will be called and they will be escorted off the plane, under restraints if necessary. Once all passengers are off the plane, refuse to allow the bumped passengers to re-board. Airline security should be near the boarding gate prepared to restrain anyone who became disruptive, hostile or violent.

The most important headline from this incident, however, is not United’s outrageous conduct in dragging a passenger from their plane after he repeatedly refused to comply with the terms of his contract with the airline and leave the plane as directed.

The real story in this series of events comes from the reluctant passenger’s defiant and unreasonable response to being notified that he had been bumped, and the public’s unwillingness to find fault with that response. Part 2 of this article will address that dangerous state of affairs.