Monday, May 10, 2004

Backseat Evangelist

You never quite know what'll happen when you bring a loaded Bible onto an airplane. (To see what happens when you bring a loaded cowboy onto an airplane, see my previous post.) As I was exiting a Delta flight Friday morning in Jacksonville, a passenger behind me said, "I noticed you were reading the Bible. Here's one for ya: the Jews don't recognize Jesus as the Messiah; Protestants don't recognize the Pope in Rome; and Baptists don't recognize each other in the liquor store." Rimshot.

Flying back to Nashville Saturday, I had a great view of my own little Bermuda Triangle from seat 10 C. Directly in front of me, an attractive, eloquent woman - maybe late thirties - was chatting up a spunky, outspoken girl, who introduced herself as Annie, an aspiring singer trying to make it in Nashville the hard way. Annie was impressed to discover Sharon is a globetrotting gospel evangelist, returning in this particular case from a speaking engagement in the Bahamas. (I said, "Now that's picking up your cross." No response. A prophetess is without honor at 28,000 feet.)

As Sharon started sharin', I handed her my Bible and told Annie to listen carefully to what she had to say. Sharon has spoken all over the world to thousands of people, but did that stop me from butting in with my little sermon nuggets? Yeah, right! Do Baptists recognize each other in the liquor store?

Imagine someone looking up at Michelangelo from the floor of the Sistine Chapel. "How 'bout painting Jonah getting puked up by the whale right next to that naked cherub?" Or co-teaching a mathematics course with Stephen Hawking. "Yes, class, what he said, and also, 2 plus 2 is 4. You'll be responsible for that on the final."

Despite my dabbling, Annie was drinking in this beautifully-presented proffer along with her two pops of Jack and Coke.

The enemy, losing ground on that front, drew a new battle line for my attention just one seat over. The guy next to Sharon, a fellow minister traveling with her, was watching "21 Grams" on his portable DVD player. Of course the screen was in my line of sight, and of course - because it's a Sean Penn movie - you're never more than a few frames away from at least partial nudity. Wait for it...wait for it...there it is! The booby prize! A tete-a-tete in seats 9 B and C and in 9 D...well, you get the idea.

Unbelievable. Is there no such thing as a "no fly zone" for temptation? Meanwhile, another weapon of mass distraction was sharing an armrest with me in 10 D. This Michigan man was more interested in the year of our Lord than the Lord's prayer.

"Let me tell you what really makes me mad. What year was it a hundred years ago?"

"Uh, 1904?"

"Okay, how 'bout 200 years ago?"

Expecting a punchline in here somewhere, I replied, "1804?"

"Exactly! So how come everybody says 'two thousand four' instead of 'twenty oh four?' We didn't say 'nineteen hundred four,' did we?"

"No, sir. This is important to you, isn't it?"


He went on and on A.D. nauseam. (I didn't dare ask him how I should say "21 Grams.") You can't make this stuff up.

The plane landed with Sharon promising to drive in from her rural home outside Nashville to see "The Passion" with Annie, who was touched by the offer and willing to give it a shot. I promised Millenium Man I'd try to remember to say "twenty oh four." And I resolved to avoid all "21 Grams" at Blockbuster...or at least wait 'til all the Baptists head for the liquor store.

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