Monday, November 29, 2010

The TSA, Groping, and God's Word

A friend asked me last week what I thought about the furor created by the latest "security" screenings methodology at airports in the USA. I have given it some thought and the whole issue still somewhat muddled in my thinking. There are a few things that are clear, however.

Both forms of inspection are invasive. The full-body image machines show the body virtually naked, and the pictures aren't private. I have seen them on the web. I considered putting a photo here, but it was too graphic. 

The “pat down” searches touch “no-go” areas and I’ve also seen pictures of the TSA agents looking down past the waist band of travelers pants. They even made a woman take off her prosthetic breast! This also constitutes forced nakedness in my estimation.

The Bible is pretty clear that nakedness is not a good thing.

Adam and Eve felt no shame about their nakedness until their first sin. Then they realized they were naked and felt a need to cover up and were even “afraid” because they were naked. (Gen. 3:7, 10).

The word “naked is used somewhere between 32 and 49 times in scripture (depending upon the translation). Most of the references are negative.

From Genesis we go to Revelation (there are, obviously, many references in between). Revelation 16:15 says, “Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed.” It is shameful to be naked in public.

So, we can safely surmise that these inspection methods do not match God’s viewpoint regarding nakedness.

Now, the constitutional arguments are not quite as clear to me. The Fourth Amendment says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

It is clear that no warrant is involved in these TSA “searches.” However, flying is a privilege and not a right, therefore, if one wishes to fly and part of the cost is to have these searches inflicted upon them, they must voluntarily submit to them. We can opt out, by choosing not to fly.

We might ask whether there is a less invasive manner of accomplishing the security mission. Israel, arguably the most at-risk nation on earth, doesn’t do it this way. They profile. They have a good record of keeping the nation safe.

We do have, however, our current system. Since some must fly for work (like airline employees, business travelers, and missionaries) the question becomes are they being forced to pay this price in order to work.

Sandra and I find ourselves conflicted regarding this issue. We don’t really want to get searched in this manner. We do, however, have a calling that requires that we travel to other countries. We do not have the option of driving. Our thought at this moment is that we will submit ourselves to these searches in order that we may carry out our God-given assignments. After all, we are not choosing to get naked, that is being imposed upon us.

My final though on the matter at the moment is to ask the question, what is the moral situation of TSA agents who are Christians?

I know that many of my regular coffee drinkers are frequent flyers. What think ye? Have you been through these procedures? Are you annoyed, amused, or agnostic?

Speak up.

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