September 5, 2006
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank

Dear Marketplace Friend,
      Admission: I fly a lot. The FAA limits flying-time for commercial pilots... but they have no limits on my time in the air. If I'm working, I'm flying. No options there, for me.
      Most people sit in an office all year and then fly on vacation. Again, I'm counter-cultural: when I'm off, I'm grounded. In fact, since that Muslim men's club in London was busted by Scotland Yard, I hadn't been through airport security... until yesterday.
      My toothpaste forced a checked bag. I was tempted to roll-aboard my roll-aboard and just check my Crest. Where would they hang the bag-tag on a tube of toothpaste? That made no sense, obviously... but, then, the limitations - hairspray? cologne? shampoo? - made no better sense. Who made these rules?
      While in-line for the pat-down, I came up with an HR proposal: maybe Michael Chertoff (Homeland Security Secretary, under whom America's best-loved bureaucracies - FEMA and TSA - exist to encourage) could retire to Florida and Jimmy Wales could slide into his saddle. Who's that?
      Wales is the primary creative force behind Wikipedia. Say again? Wikipedia. Wikipedia?
      My generation's parents invested in the Encyclopedia Britannica through a door-to-door salesman who wouldn't leave without an order. Suburban ranch-style abodes across America had a shelf-full of Britannica’s to be the in-house authority on everything. When family squabbles over details reached an impasse at the table, mom or dad would just declare, "Look it up!" and the encyclopedia was the tie-breaker.
      Nowadays, no one is home to answer the door, so the shelf sits empty. No problem: Wikipedia's there. The post-modern answer to authority is web-based, because of Jimmy Wales. How does Wiki work?
      In gross oversimplification, the review committee for Wikipedia entries is global and inherently democratic. Some would see its approach as consensus; others would label it anarchy. Entries in Wikipedia are by submission; entries are retained by agreement. The authority of the Wikipedia is determined by community; no "authority" exists to black-ball anything. If a contributor wants to describe Adolph Hitler as Dr. Phil's equivalent, though misunderstood... he/she can be posted, as long as he/she can achieve agreement. It's right... because everybody wants it to be right.
      Trust me: had I organized the mob in the TSA line yesterday, all of those abandoned Starbucks cups and Poland Springs waters would have been on the plane instead of headed for the landfill. Democracy would operate the Transportation Services Agency with a different set of ground rules. But, as things are organized today, Michael Chertoff is god-like. When he says "no contact lens solution," he means it.
      Debate the wisdom of his pronouncements at your own risk, buckaroo. The attendant at the metal detector is unimpressed with your logical opposition. Care for "special screening?" It's yours, in response to your protest. Think you can board with your Listerine in-hand? Your ticket means nothing... if you don't play by their rules. You have no authority to challenge the authority; that's been concluded.
      We live with that, when it involves boarding an airplane. How interesting that so many people think that God runs a looser operation than Chertoff. Are the ground rules for boarding the flight to heaven open to your challenge at the gate? Is God's realm operated more like Wikipedia, or the TSA?
      Your opinion in the matter is much less informed than Jesus'. Listen to his description: "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son... So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless. Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are invited, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22)
      If you're coming to His place, you're coming His way - through faith in Jesus - or, you don't get in. The only attire on the approved list is "the righteousness of Christ;" no exceptions.

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