Perhaps this is more a theological discussion than a travel one, but it is in the context of Judah 1, the new carrier many are calling the first “Christian” airline.
Judah 1: A “Christian” Airline?
In 2018, Everett Aaron, President and CEO of Judah 1, claimed to receive a vision from God to start a new airline:
“The Lord spoke to me about using my passion for aviation – specifically large aircraft, I saw rows and rows of aircraft, full of food and supplies, lines of them.”
The business plan includes distinguishing Judah 1 via complimentary cargo shipping:
“We will have to charge regular ticket prices just like you do for the airlines. This is not available for just the general public, you have to be part of a mission team. It will be very competitive with the airlines. The advantage is there’s no luggage fees. Absolutely none. All your cargo travels with you as well. So that’s the biggest thing.
“About 50 percent of missionaries lose their cargo when it travels via container and that’s one of the problems we have. I know some of the trips we have been on ourselves with other missionary groups traveling, they ship their stuff via container and medical supplies and stuff either get tied up in customs, food spoils, some things it just gets lost.”
This is actually a big deal. Having worked with missionaries from around the world, one of the biggest complaints is that supplies coming from the United States do not reach what we would consider developing nations. Supplies, typically sent via shipping container to avoid cost overruns, are often lost, stolen, or seized. For example, my church regularly sent a huge care package to a missionary family in Cameroon. The package rarely reached them (months later) and when it did, the box had been opened and closed several times with most of the contents missing.
So that is indeed a problem…but I’m not sure a “Christian” airline can fix it unless it can find a way to bypass international borders. The problem seems to be border officials or customs officials who simply want a cut…and we see this all over the developing world.
Plus, cargo is expensive. I see no viable business plan for subsidizing pallets full of cargo by selling tickets in the passenger cabin.
Now Judah 1 just obtained a Boeing 767 and is focusing on larger aircraft:
“By the end of next year, we would like to have three to four large planes. As of yesterday, we now have being added to our fleet a Boeing 767-200ER. It seats 238 people and can go anywhere in the world with one-stop. It carries 30 tons of cargo.
“We will be non-scheduled and we do not have to have approved routes. So, that means we can go where we want when we want, unlike most airlines that have to have certain schedules that they fly, have to have certain routes. We don’t have to do that.”
That’s a lot of passengers in a 767-200…
Airlines Can’t Be Christian
It isn’t just my favorite agnostic and Jewish bloggers who are calling Judah 1 a Christian airline. Even the Christian Post, an influential newspaper in Christian evangelical circles, called the airline Christian in its title and lead paragraph.
This is an ongoing theological debate. Can nations be Christian? Can companies be Christian? Christian comes from the Greek word Χριστιανός (Christianos), meaning “follower of Christ,” which itself comes from Χριστός (Christos), meaning “anointed one.” In Christianity, Christ is the office and Jesus is the officeholder (too many Christians think Jesus’ last name was Christ).
I look at it in this way:
The Old Testament people of God performed a dispensationally unique, unrepeatable and inimitable role as a divinely created political community. It is one thing to confess that God continues to rule providentially over all nations but quite another to claim that He calls particular nations into a covenantal relationship with Him akin to that He entered into with biblical Israel.
This negative conclusion is reinforced by an equally important positive one…The New Testament people of God has been founded from the very beginning as a trans-national community. In Jesus Christ, the Gentiles are brought into a covenant relationship with God. We see this enacted visibly in the trans-ethnic, trans-national, multi-lingual character of the early church in Acts, which confessed, dramatically and subversively, that “There is neither Jew nor Greek . . . for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
There are just and unjust nations, just not Christian ones. The same applies to airlines: there are just and unjust airlines (as we know very well…), but not Christian ones.
In the secular realm, perhaps the 2010 Citizens United decision, which affirmed that corporations should be considered as people in terms of certain actions like political contributions, undermines that argument. But I’m asserting here that nations and airlines cannot be Christian; only living, breathing people can.
I try to keep the theology of this blog, so thank you for indulging me in this discussion today. But every time I see a headline about Judah 1 being a Christian airline, I cringe. Importantly, it does not appear Judah 1 refers to itself as a Christian airline. However, Judah 1 will certainly need divine favor if it hopes to sustain operations from its questionable business model.
image: Everett Aaron