It is a dark day indeed when I find myself condemning something along with the representative from Minnesota Ilhan Omar. And yet here we are. I am resolved to spill some ink on the topic of the video taken of a group of Christians on a flight that began singing praise songs at 30,000 feet. It would have remained entire innocuous had Omar not brought it to national attention to try and dunk on Christians and portray herself as on oppressed minority. Naturally the conservative right rushed to the defense of the jet singers and we have a good old fashioned internet oppression off to see who is the most wrong and therefore wronged.
The response to this has put me very much in the mind of Screwtape referring to making sure everyone is running about doing the wrong thing:
“The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers when there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under.” – Screwtape Letters
So keeping in line with this blogs dictum to sit on a story for some time for consideration, all the better to avoid a hot take. I shall now give an opinion on this side show of a side show in the hope of raising the eyes to the much larger panorama that is playing out.
I have been unable to determine if the flight was a standard flight in which multiple seats were booked by the group who started singing, or if it was chartered. I have only found one source that says chartered and it was pulling heavily from the TMZ story which makes an absurd claim that the, “Christians “hijacked the flight” with their singing, and should have chartered the flight. I am going to say more about this below. I am operating off of the assumption that the flight was not chartered, and therefore solely filled with people who are of one mind, that it was a mixed group on a regular flight, riding in coach.
First, It really is time for Christians, and the larger conservative right, to stop playing the oppression points game. It is un-winnable. It is a constant game of Lucy with Charlie Brown’s football, it is Calvinball. The game is rigged against us and we just need to stop playing. Ilahan Omar got exactly what she wanted. Matt Walsh sharking around her Twitter feed did not convince any of her followers to see reason, they just continued to support her, she proved to her people why they should keep funding and voting for her thanks to him. As Doug Wilson and consistently reminded us, “Don’t take the bait.” If this is a form of persecution it is a very mild one, liberals said mean things, what else is new. You are never going to convince them that they are attacking you unjustly, they are entirely justified in their own heads and that is reinforced by their own bubble. Twitter is not a place where people go to be convinced of new thoughts, it is where they go to reinforce their held already thoughts. Don’t contribute by being an example of what they already have concluded is bad. Or to put it another way, zookeepers have a reason for telling you, “don’t feed the animals.”
Second, and more importantly, we should make a distinction between being oppressed and being obnoxious. Children making a racket, feel oppressed when they are made to stop. That does does not put them in the right, just because up until that point no one had stopped them before. This is not an example of the ground shifting beneath them, or the Overton window being shoved left, obnoxious is obnoxious, rudeness is rudeness. No one likes to have another person’s music imposed on them when they were otherwise engaged in an unrelated and quieter activity. Consider when you are driving, come to a stop light and the car pulling up next to you is blasting some profane thing, with a bass that sets off all Richter scales in a ten mile radius. That other driver is selfish, obnoxious, and rude. The content of his song is icing on the cake, but the noise, the intrusion is the root of your irritation. At 30,000 feet the last thing most humans want is some doofus with a guitar trying to start a sing along. Panes are the worst, they are cold, cramped, smelly, and noisy. Airlines seem to go out of their way to make you feel miserable, and then enter into that the horror of some guy randomly leading people in song. As evidence I point to the one guy in the video directly under the camera who looks ready to die. Even if this was a chartered flight with everyone on the same mission. There are always people who agree with the classic Babylon Bee headline, Perfectly Good Bonfire Ruined By Worship Leader Who Just Happened To Have His Guitar. Since it looks like the plane was filled with strangers, who were mixed into the merry minstrels, this was not a good witness, it was obnoxious in the extreme. In all honesty it looked like a stunt for rank self promotion.* It is at best it is indecorous to sing at a bunch of trapped people. It is at worst, appalling to do that and call it ministry or worship. These kinds of things are more likely to drive people away than draw them in. The behavior is weird, and obnoxious. To have it called out is not oppression.
Third, Ilhan Omar, is not a hero. As I said before she leveraged the video to promote her own self perceived persecution. The corrections that rolled in were correct. Flights from Arab owned airlines do pray to their false god before flight. It is important to remember that norms in America are not norms around the world. And with Omars, what I give to be, 0.03 guinea pig brain power she failed to consider that there is anything outside of her, very limited bubble. But I think the video worked for her because it hit a chord. No pun intended. Christians acting awkwardly is not a good witness. How we share the very good news of the Gospel matters. As Paul says, to the common man lost in sin, the Gospel is offensive enough on its own. Irritating people is just piling on. The stated reason Omar gave for being uncomfortable with the video is misleading. But there is a real visceral reason to be uncomfortable, it was weird. Omar made something of a leap to Islam with the video, saying people would be uncomfortable if it had been a group of Muslims singing. And she is not wrong it would be uncomfortable, and it would be because of history. Americans are reasonably gun shy when it comes to that kind of thing. Omar is willfully ignorant of history, and covers it with shrill claims of racism. A better example of why this was unacceptable is, people would have been just as turned off if a bunch of Primitive Baptists with a washboard started singing their shape note harmonized hymns. It would be weird, and wildly uncomfortable no matter what.
Fourth, it is time for us to take a good look at what our witness is. We shouldn’t leap to the defense of a group we know nothing about just because the other side says they are one of us. As it turns out this was a group out of Bethel. You know the weirdos who plague airports trying to faith heal people. The ones with the glitter falling form the ceiling that is supposed to be the holy spirit. Basically, the cult… If you consider yourself staunchly reformed you should pretty much agree that these people are not of us. We should regard them in the way we see Papists. There may be some genuine converts in there but they are saved in spite of that work, not because of it. Consider what the outcome of the situation would have been if Matt Walsh had retweeted, “I agree these people are freaks, I would hate to be trapped on a flight with them too.” Someone can use the same words as us but define them very differently, Pentecostal prosperity people mean very different things theologically when they use our language. We should be as happy to see them thrown under the bus as we would to see the college of cardinals.
The musical flight was a moment. It was a chance to remove some dead weight. And we whiffed it, just because these people might vote in a way we like. I am willing to bet their votes won’t change if the Reformed drew a line in the ground theologically and declared this to unacceptable. Oddly enough the people who are most likely to change their minds in this situation, are the singers themselves. These are not theologically rigorous people, nor are they entrenched culturally. They are wrong and at the rate Bethel and Hillsong are hemorrhaging people over their own absurdity is astounding. Stop trying to own the libs, or convince them, and instead work on the lost that are closer to the kingdom than you might think. Yeah, they are weirdos, but at the least they will be actually saved, and beyond that they might stop being useful idiots for the congresswoman from Minnesota.
*Perhaps, there is a chance the Spirit was just moving and these people were so overcome with joy that this was spontaneous. But if so then why was there video posted by the group, with a caption, “We are taking this flight over for Jesus” I have known too many worship leaders that hide behind the Spirit to cover their own ego trips.