What airports reveal about religious pluralism

Jonathan Downie

Jonathan Downie
April 30, 2014

How should religious pluralism look in practice? Two airports offer two different answers.

April 30, 2014

To the Atheist, especially those who buy into the notion that those who believe in an unseen all knowing deity are dangerous lot, their only fair expression of religion can be through secularism repressing and hiding religious expressions and places.

That said, I don't know that using an airport is a fair way to illustrate your point, for the Christian especially. For the Christian, getting from gate to gate with a Godly heart is worship of God as the way we conduct ourselves is just as much worship as our quiet time. And the truth is, when people are in airports, it's important that we honor the schedules and timeframes that are established for us so that everybody can get where they're going with as little hesitation or hassle as possible.

But I do see your point. Good thing that practicing Christianity isn't isolated to a time or place, but instead relies on how we conduct our relationships, whether they're years long and deep or shallow and only a few seconds.

Jonathan Downie
May 2, 2014

I completely agree with you. I have never personally used any of the spaces I mention. I am usually far too concerned with finding my way around, getting a bite to eat and sitting down. That might say something about me.

I still do think that arrangement of space says a lot about priorities and ideology. Contrast older European towns, where churches are often at the heart of the action, with modern city centres, built around malls and public transport. It doesn't take much analysis to relate the layout of the town with the attitudes the planners had to religions generally, and Christianity specifically. There might also be something there about how happy we Christians have been to wear our loyalty on our sleeves in all situations, rather than just on Sundays.

May 6, 2014

I remember when airports were much more community oriented, but that was pre 9/11. It used to be you could go to the airport and hang out, watch planes take off and land, chat with flight crews at the gate whether you were flying that day or not, and eat in one of the airport restaurants (SFO used to have a great chowder bar in one of its terminals).

Those were also the days when you'd see Muslims spread out prayer rugs in a terminal and pray toward Mecca, then quietly gather up the rug and resume their seat, pull out their newspaper and drink their coffee like all the other passengers waiting to fly. I haven't seen that happen in 13 years now, and I think it's a shame.


Jonathan Downie
May 19, 2014

Sadly, I started flying regularly after 9/11. Your post made me miss a world I have never seen.

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