Going barefoot on airplanes: The fallacy of private sin

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Going barefoot on airplanes: The fallacy of private sin

January 28, 2020 -

“Is it ever OK to go barefoot on a plane?”

So asks the Wall Street Journal, pointing to recent viral videos showing airline passengers imposing their bare feet on others.

One clip shows us a sockless flier using her toe to scroll through movie options on her monitor. I’m thinking, I could be the next person to use that screen. It’s not a pleasant thought.

A passenger dries a shoe using the overhead air vent. Another rests her bare foot on the armrest. Passengers are putting their bare feet on tray tables, inside the seat pocket, and even on other seats.

Major carriers, including Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue, and Alaska Airlines, explicitly state that bare feet are grounds for removal from a flight.

But in a day when airline passengers are wearing more casual clothing than ever (I’ve seen passengers in pajamas and sweats they would probably not otherwise wear in public), it seems that bare feet are here to stay.

This trend points up a fact our culture is ill-equipped to understand: private sin never stays private.

Private sins vs. public consequences

We live in a postmodern society that rejects the very concept of objective morality or absolute truth. “Sin” for many is an outdated Puritan concept.

As a result, examining the relation between private sins and public consequences is not a discussion most are willing or able to have. But the ramifications of our moral obtuseness are no less real.

The pathway of sin is clear: “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14–15).

Private desire leads to public death. And not just for the sinner.

Pharaoh’s refusal to liberate the Jews led to plagues that nearly destroyed the Egyptian nation. David’s sin with Bathsheba led to the death of their child (2 Samuel 12:18). King Herod’s maniacal egotism led to the slaughter of “all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old and under” (Matthew 2:16).

Drunk driving is the leading cause of death on American roadways. Secondhand smoke has been shown to cause coronary heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome.

The adage is tragically true: sin will always take you further than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost you more than you wanted to pay. And it will affect those who did not choose to sin but suffer its consequences.

John Donne was right: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

Is the fallacy of private sin tempting you today?

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