Guess who scored the interview with the Christian airline pilot?
On his first flight after a short-term missions trip to Costa Rica, American Airlines captain Roger Findiesen flipped on the Public Address system in the cabin and explained that flight 34 was second in line for takeoff. Then he continued on a personal note.
"I just got back from a mission," he said. "You know, they say about half of Americans are Christians. I'd just like the Christians on board to raise their hands." After a pause, he went on.
"I want everyone else on board to look around at how crazy these people are," he said jokingly. "Make good use of [the flight], or you can read your paper and watch the movie."
This caused some passengers to think they were going to die.
"Just given the history of what's happened on planes in this country, anything can happen at this point," Karla Austin told CNN yesterday. "So we weren't sure if something was going to happen at takeoff, if he was going to wait until [John F. Kennedy Airport] to do something. But there was definitely implication there that we felt that something was going to happen."
Austin said that several passengers grabbed their mobile phones or the on-plane phones after the announcement. She also claimed that it wasn't the Christians that Findiesen called crazy, but the non-Christians. Once the plane landed, Austin said, she told the pilot that "he ought to be ashamed of himself."
Apparently she wasn't the only angry passenger. About 45 minutes into the flight, Findiesen came on the PA system again. "I want to apologize for my comments earlier," he said, according to passenger Jen Dorsey. "I think I really threw the flight crew off a little bit, and they are getting a lot of flack for the things I said. So I want to apologize to my flight crew."
The comments have set off a flood of media coverage across the nation and abroad.
"Granted, probably the very last thing you'd want to hear over the public address system from the cockpit of an airplane is someone shouting, 'Allahu akbar!' which translates as 'God is great,' but also is known as a terrorist battle cry," New York Times columnist Joe Sharkey writes in today's edition. "Still, a pilot who gets on the public address and says, essentially, 'Let us all now pray to Jesus' is also sure to make more than a few passengers nervous, for any of a number of religious, cultural or strategic reasons."
Airline spokesman Tim Wagner told The Baltimore Sun that Findiesen's comments fall "somewhere between questionable judgment and inappropriate behavior," and that the airline has launched an investigation. He told The New York Times that Findiesen hasn't been suspended, but isn't "scheduled to fly for a few days."
The airline, Wagner told the Sun, has "policies in place that try to ensure that all of our customers feel comfortable when they use American Airlines. Obviously, there's a situation here where passengers feel uncomfortable with the pilot's remarks. All of that will figure into the inquiry."
Amazingly, only one publication was able to score an interview with Findiesen himself. Even more amazing, that publication is The Advocate, a gay magazine—editor-in-chief Bruce C. Steele was on the flight. Even more amazing: The Advocate's article is fair, even positive, toward Findiesen's actions.
"I just wanted to give Christians a chance to talk about why they're Christians," Findiesen told Steele (who notes that "at no time did Findiesen mention homosexuality or say anything antigay") "I obviously couldn't go back there and address everyone directly, so I used the P.A. I felt that God was telling me to say something. … There's actually no regulation against doing what I did."
The Passion of the Christ:
- Religion, NASCAR sometimes go hand in hand | The hood of Bobby Labonte's car is both a shameless movie plug — "The Passion of the Christ," coming soon to a theater near you — and some new-style proselytizing for the Gospel (Associated Press)
- Christ's real passion was life | Can a pious Christian make too much of the passion of the Christ? Can the suffering of Jesus be remembered as too bloody? Or too unique, for that matter? Can the crucifixion be made too central to Christian faith? (James Carroll, The Boston Globe)
- 'The Passion's' precedent: The most-watched film ever? | "Jesus," a 1979 Warner Brothers release, is all but forgotten in Hollywood, but it is sometimes described as the most watched movie of all time (The New York Times)
- 'Passion' poised for heavenly B.O. | Media coverage, grassroots marketing draws auds' attention (Variety, subscription required)
- Story's brutality inflames debate | Some ministers and mental health professionals say parents should be the ones to decide whether a child or teenager is emotionally prepared to view a film as violent as The Passion of the Christ (Chronicle-Tribune, Grant County, Ind.)
- Jesus Christ movie star | In Hollywood they know that Jesus is good box office (The Australian)
- Gibson can shape reaction to Christ film | "The Passion" can serve not only as an affirmation of faith for Christians, but also as an opportunity for reconciliation between two faiths tied together by history and theology. (Jonathan Gurwitz, San Antonio Express-News)
- 'Huge opening' seen for Gibson's 'Passion' | Advance sales and tracking data show a growing interest in the controversial religious-themed film, which could garner as much as $30 million in its first five days (Los Angeles Times)
- New film on Christ evokes controversy, conversation | Ordinarily, seeing leads to believing. But the reverse is true among those evangelical Christians who are eagerly anticipating Mel Gibson's film, The Passion of the Christ, which opens to the public on Feb. 25 (The Virginian-Pilot)
Passion and anti-Semitism:
- 'The Passion' should not feed anti-Semitism | Those who understand story will know why (Editorial, Chronicle-Tribune, Grant County, Ind.)
- Church leaders discuss 'Passion' | "This movie is not going to make anyone anti-Semitic and people who are anti-Semitic don't need this movie to confirm it," Rabbi David Elcott told KOMO 4 News. "Rather this movie polarizes the world—it divides it into them and us." (KOMO, Seattle)
- Leading clerics take on anti-Semitism | While Mel Gibson's controversial movie on the passion of Christ will cause hurt, it also can be used as "a teachable moment" between Christians and Jews, a noted rabbi told an interfaith group Monday night (Rocky Mountain News, Denver)
- Catholics cautioned about film reaction | Fearful that Mel Gibson's film "The Passion of the Christ" will revive age-old tension between Christians and Jews over the death of Jesus Christ, U.S. bishops are issuing strict instructions on how Catholics should view the crucifixion (Chicago Tribune)
- A $25 million act of faith stirs passion pro and con | Christians and Jews gird for Mel Gibson's film on Jesus (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Who killed Christ? | Mel Gibson's controversial film on the Crucifixion has been pilloried by Jewish leaders but is being hailed by US Catholics as the best recruiting tool for 2,000 years (The Observer, London)
- Passion or prejudice? | New movie about Jesus' death stirs anti-Semitism question (The Dallas Morning News)
- Gibson: I'm not anti-Semitic | "I'm not anti-Semitic. My Gospels are not anti-Semitic. I've shown it to many Jews and they're like, it's not anti-Semitic. It's interesting that the people who say it's anti-Semitic say that before they saw the film, and they said the same thing after they saw the film." (The Jerusalem Post)
- New film sets back progress, ADL says | Friendship between Christians and Jews has enjoyed healthy growth for more than four decades—a growth threatened by Mel Gibson's new movie about the death of Jesus, several religious leaders said on Thursday (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
- Actor's film of 'Passion' is others' fury | As movie of Jesus's final hours nears release, anger and excitement mount (The Boston Globe)
- Gibson inspired to make 'Passion' film | Mel Gibson said his need to reevaluate his life inspired him to make the biblical epic "The Passion of the Christ" (Associated Press)
- Mel Gibson's longstanding movie martyr complex | Eyes often misted over with anguish and sorrow, Mel Gibson has been martyred on screen more often and more photogenically than anyone since Joan Crawford (The New York Times)
- 'Passion' energizes churches | "We make art about the things that inspire us," said Mel Gibson about his controversial movie (The Capital Times, Madison, Wis.)
- A 'Passion' push | Faith-based marketing creates a buzz (Newsday, Long Island, N.Y.)
- How Mel Gibson defied Hollywood and mobilized churches for the selling of 'The Passion' | Mel Gibson is rewriting the book—while adapting The Book (Chicago Tribune)
- Gibson's 'Passion' taps churches to sell film | Some worry it may incite anti-Semitism (The Seattle Times)
- Local churches eagerly anticipate 'The Passion', others question violence, plot | Mel Gibson's controversial movie The Passion of the Christ won't be released until the end of the month, but already at least 1,800 tickets have been sold here (Chronicle-Tribune, Grant County, Ind.)
- Audience awaits film | 'Passion' sparks interest so keen, early showings are scheduled for several area congregations (Rapid City Journal, S.D.)
- Proselytizing, marketing linked for release of 'Passion' film | Mel Gibson talks via satellite about his movie as part of publicity blitz aimed at churches (Los Angeles Times)
- Some regard `Passion' film as useful tool | Ahead of Mel Gibson's controversial new film The Passion of The Christ, Christian activists across Central Florida are gearing up to reach out to fellow worshippers and non-Christians alike (The Orlando Sentinel)
- Churches tie 'Passion' to evangelism | Many see Gibson film as opportunity to bring unchurched to worship (The Birmingham News, Ala.)
- Punks steal from funeral | Teens rip off sympathy cards during church service and toss them into street (Calgary Sun)
- Charges filed in burglaries at churches | Four Loudoun County men and a juvenile have been charged in connection with a series of burglaries over the last year involving several churches, a business and a public school (The Washington Post)
- Convicted Fla. teen talks of prison life | The Florida teenager convicted of shooting his English teacher to death in a middle school hallway has earned his high school diploma and started a Gospel choir behind bars (Associated Press)
- Shaken faith | Area ministers say outrage at the 11-year-old's abduction and murder is justified, but they counsel peace and hope (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fla.)
- 10 priests in lawsuits still on job | L.A. Archdiocese says it lacks evidence of abuse. Cases test limits of the 'zero tolerance' policy (Los Angeles Times)
- Dominee 'compulsive gambler' | While police were searching and his congregation was praying, a "hijacked" dominee was gambling in a desperate bid to overcome his financial troubles (Rapport, South Africa)
- Fraud suspect put on 'leash' pending trial | An Inland Empire man accused of masterminding an investment scam that swindled evangelical Christians out of at least $160 million has been released by a Dallas judge on an "electronic leash" pending trial, authorities said Monday (Los Angeles Times)
Copyright © 2004 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Suggest links and stories by sending e-mail to email@example.com
Check out Books & Culture's weblog, Content & Context.
See our past Weblog updates:
and more, back to November 1999