Snakes on a Plane!

September 1, 2006

I love the title of Samuel Jackson’s new movie, “Snakes on a Plane.” It is a title that says, “This is a movie about people stuck on a plane with lots of unfriendly snakes!” And although I won’t be going to see the movie due to its “R” content, it is fun to use its image as a way to illustrate some truths about life.

Imagine that you are on the plane with Samuel Jackson, and he comes running from the back screaming, “There are killer snakes on this plane!” It would be ridiculous for someone to respond, “That may be true for you, Mr. Jackson, but it is not true for me!” Either there are snakes on this plane or there are not, but it can’t be both ways. Likewise, it would be absurd for someone to stand up and exclaim, “Everyone calm down! We’ll take a vote! Everyone who thinks that there are snakes on the plane, raise your hand!” People can vote and have whatever opinions that they want, but their votes and opinions aren’t going to change whether there are snakes with them on the plane. You would rightly look around the plane and ask, “Are you people CRAZY!?!”

In other words, to talk about whether there are snakes on the plane is to talk about objective truth—truth that does not depend on anyone’s feelings or opinions or experiences. People can make statements based on their experience or feelings, such as “I haven’t seen any snakes!” or “I hate snakes!”, but such statements are subjective and therefore have nothing to do with the question of whether or not there are actually killer snakes on the plane. And, contrary to the popular saying, what we don’t know can hurt us… we can get bit by snakes even if we don’t know they’re there.

Seems obvious enough, but the problem in our culture is that whenever questions of morality or religion come up, we are expected to act like the crazy people on the plane. We are taught that there is no objective truth concerning human life, sexuality, religion, and the like—their truth is up for us to invent, either personally or through our laws. But statements such as “life begins at conception” or “Jesus Christ is divine” are not subjective like “I hate snakes!” Either life begins at conception, or it does not. Either Jesus is divine, or he is not. Either snakes are on the plane, or they are not.

For example, it is always wrong for a man to hit his wife. Objectively, it is a sin—an act that violates our human dignity and damages our relationship with God. It doesn’t matter what country, culture, or century we are speaking of. It doesn’t matter what the reasons or motives are. It is wrong in all cases and in all circumstances. It would still be wrong, even if Congress voted to legalize it. And even if the man had been raised to think that such actions were perfectly acceptable, his ignorance wouldn’t change the fact that he is hurting those around him and himself as well.

And so, if someone on the plane REALLY has to go to the bathroom and they start walking toward the back of the plane where you know there are snakes, what is the loving thing to do? To say nothing, because you don’t want to “force your morality” on them? As Christians, we are called to lovingly share the truth with those around us, helping them to avoid the many snakes in this world, as well as helping them to see the many beautiful gifts that the Lord wants to give them. In what ways can you speak the truth, with love and gentleness, to those whom God has placed on the “plane” with you?


Related: Click here for notes on this topic for a class I taught.

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