Reading Time: 4 minutes

Southwest Airlines flight attendant assaulted by passenger: Why I chose to write on this story

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

facebook twitter instagram

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 passenger plane
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 passenger plane takes off from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

This is a story I didn’t want to write about: a Southwest Airlines flight attendant had two of her teeth knocked out by an unruly passenger over the weekend. The news broke immediately in Dallas, where Southwest is headquartered. I have seen it on multiple outlets since. When it emerged in my news feed again today, I sensed that I need to address it now.

I didn’t want to write about this because I couldn’t see a way to say anything new. My responses were and are:

  • It is tragic that we live in a culture where such assaults are more frequent.
  • We need to treat each other with civility for the sake of a civil society.
  • Christians need to lead the way by responding to incivility with grace.

Any Christian can and should say the same.

Store owners return discarded $1 million lottery ticket

Then this story made news: “Half of Texas high school graduating class suspended after prank with plastic forks.” The students stuck plastic forks into the school field. One parent told a reporter, “It was a harmless senior prank that all of us parents knew 100 percent what was going on.”

And this story in the Washington Post: “Store owners found a discarded $1 million lottery ticket. They reunited it with the customer who bought it.” Lea Rose Fiega is a longtime customer at a family convenience store operated by Abhi Shah and his family in Southwick, Massachusetts. Fiega purchased the ticket, partially scratched it off, thought it was a loser, and gave it back to be thrown away.

Shah found the ticket and could have cashed it in, but he and his parents chose instead to give it back to Fiega. He and his family presented it to her; at the news, she began to cry.

“It was a really great moment,” Shah said. “Seeing her happy, I got so happy. I knew I did the right thing. I shouldn’t keep anybody’s money. Money is not everything in life.” In gratitude, Fiega gave the Shahs some of the funds she’d planned to save for retirement, and the Shah family received $10,000 for selling the winning ticket, according to the Massachusetts Lottery.

A radio interviewer’s two questions

The authorities’ response to the high school prank in Texas said to me that our culture has become so conflicted that even simple slights are seen as dangerous. And the Washington Post article reminds us that acts of selfless generosity are enormously powerful, perhaps because they are uncommon.

When I saw these stories, I realized that I needed to write on the Southwest Airlines flight attendant not because I had something new to say but because I needed to remind us of what any Christian would say. Once again:

  • It is tragic that we live in a culture where such assaults are more frequent.
  • We need to treat each other with civility for the sake of a civil society.
  • Christians need to lead the way by responding to incivility with grace.

A radio interviewer today asked me to address the growing violence in our day and especially the opposition Christians are facing. I reminded him and myself that this challenge is a great opportunity: when we respond to hatred with love and to injustice with grace, we show that Jesus makes a genuine difference in our lives. We act as the salt and light Jesus creates and commissions us to be (Matthew 5:13–16). And others are drawn to the Source of our transformation.

The interviewer then asked me how we can be people of such grace in ungracious times. I responded by admitting that this is impossible for us apart from the power of the Spirit who lives in believers (1 Corinthians 3:16). If we will begin each day by submitting that day to the leading of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), then pray when the moment of challenge comes (Matthew 7:7–8), God will answer us by manifesting the character of his Son (Romans 8:29) in the fruit of his Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).

Henri Nouwen expressed my thought better than I can:

“Prayer and action can never be seen as contradictory or mutually exclusive. Prayer without action grows into powerless pietism, and action without prayer degenerates into questionable manipulation.

“If prayer leads us into deeper unity with the compassionate Christ, it will always give rise to concrete acts of service. And if concrete acts of service do indeed lead us to a deeper solidarity with the poor, the hungry, the sick, the dying, and the oppressed, they will always give rise to prayer.

“In prayer we meet Christ, and in him all human suffering. In service we meet people, and in them the suffering Christ.”

Have you met Christ yet today?