The Common Good

The Search for Flight 370 Reveals Four Basic Truths About Humanity

The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has captivated the media and press for days. How could we simply lose a plane? But the story reveals much more about our humanity and spirituality than we realize. Here are four simple revelations that we’ve learned about ourselves during this process:

AHMAD FAIZAL YAHYA / Shutterstock.com
Banner at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, AHMAD FAIZAL YAHYA / Shutterstock.com

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1. We Crave Answers and Explanations:

As of this writing, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 has yet to be found (a new breakthrough has possibly led them to the crash site), but the series of unusual circumstances has created an endless amount of theories that have fed our insatiable curiosity. As other world events continue to unfold — including the possibility of a major war involving Russia and Ukraine — we’re addicted to the story of the missing plane. But why?

Deep down, we all want answers. The worst case scenario is that we’ll never know. Mystery and confusion is contrary to everything within our current society — a culture obsessed with logic, data, information, and knowledge. Surely there’s some reason the plane is missing — there had to be — but right now we just don’t know why, and it’s driving us crazy.

The search for answers and meaning motivates our politics, jobs, relationship, and spirituality — and nothing proves this more than our current infatuation with flight 370.

We often treat our faith as an ongoing investigation — desperately looking for answers.

But not knowing them doesn’t mean that absolute truth doesn’t exist. We know the plane exists and something happened — but oftentimes our explanations simply can’t accurately grasp reality. We may never know.

As believers, can we accept the fact that we’ll never know everything about God? We need to stop treating God like a puzzle and investigating our faith like a tragic aviation disaster. For the sake of the families and passengers and all of those involved, I hope answers are found for flight 370.

But as Christians, we need to come to terms with the fact that we’ll never know everything, and our beliefs will probably continually change with new information — and this is OK.

2. We All See the World Differently:

This should be an obvious fact of life: different people see the world in different ways. But the search for flight 370 reveals this truth in blatant fashion.

There are a few facts about the missing plane, but everyone has interpreted those facts in radically different ways. The data is the same, yet everyone uses that data to arrive at diverse conclusions, and they use it to mold their own theories.

This is a microcosm of how we see the world. We all see nature, humanity, and experience life, but we attach different meanings to each of them respectively. So while aviation experts offer a litany of explanations for the small tidbits of information that are revealed, then argue and debate about possible theories, we do the same with our belief systems.

For Christians, this happens all the time. Theologians and pastors debate small sections of scripture, theology, religious practices, and fight over doctrines — with each faction gaining and losing followers along the way. How can people have the exact same information and not come to the same conclusions? Flight 370 shows us how easily this happens.

In the meantime, we all search in different directions hoping to prove our point and have our ideas validated. We’ll continue to debate theology, dissect Bible verses, and choose which theologians to support because we all want to find the right answers — and we want our answers to be proven correct.

3. Our Motivations Drive our Beliefs:

Almost every theory about the missing plane is influenced by a range of emotions and motivations. Explanations, theories, and expectations are motivated by hope or fear, fatalism or optimism, trust or distrust, responsibility or liability, obstructions or assistance.

Various people have vested interests related to flight 370, and these interests affect how they feel about the event — molding and shaping their perceptions.

We treat our spirituality in a similar fashion. We attend church for social interaction, for financial help, for moral support, because it’s our job, to become involved in the community, for the free childcare, because our parents force us to, or because it provides a nice distraction — everybody has a different reason.

As we observe the search for flight 370,we can see how the airlines, politicians, families and relatives, experts, media members, and other observers each have differing motivations for believing what they believe.

As Christians, we all arrived at our beliefs for various reasons and we all have differing motivations for what Bible translation we choose to read, church we attend, denomination we’re a part of, theology we follow, and doctrines we uphold — we need to be careful not to judge others for disagreeing with us.

4. We’re Attracted to Fear:

We all know how news works: bad news always trumps the good. Fear attracts our attention and it’s good for ratings. The headlines are always those that are the most devastating, horrible, evil, attention-grabbing, and controversial.

As Christians, it’s easy for us to trump the dangers of hell, warn of the brutal demise of those who sinned against God, and promote the apocalyptic prophecies that include desolation and destruction.

It’s simple to use these fear-based tactics to instill fear, shame, guilt, and judgment to those around us — manipulating people into a “belief” in God. But the story of Jesus is a message of hope, grace, redemption, and endless love. This joyful message is just as radical and newsworthy — but are we spreading it?

Stephen Mattson has contributed for Relevant Magazine and the Burnside Writer's Collective,and studied Youth Ministry at the Moody Bible Institute. He is now on staff at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minn. Follow him on Twitter @mikta.

Image: Banner at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, AHMAD FAIZAL YAHYA / Shutterstock.com

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