When you live in Savannah (GA), you know that all things go through Atlanta. There is even a joke that when the rapture occurs, we will get to Christ by first going through Atlanta.
Three days ago I had to go through the Atlanta Airport to get to New York State (I'm here on vacation with my family). My itinerary had me going Savannah-Atlanta-Rochester. As usual, Atlanta was a madhouse.
As I walked around the Atlanta airport, which is now the busiest in the world, several things came to mind. The first was how outrageously expensive the coffee was; I bought some anyway.
At a more profound level, several descriptors of life in this country were very clear in Atlanta. Here are 6 that stood out to me:
1. Diversity - What an amazingly pluralistic society we live in! It was exciting for me to see all the different races of people in the airport. As I was traveling down a very long escalator, I saw what seemed to be just about every major ethnic group in the world. This reminded me of what a creative and awesome God made all these different groups of people.
2. Secularism - All through the airport, there was absolutely no sign of God. It was completely secular. I suppose the one exception was the lame collection of "Inspirational" books in one store. If an alien suddenly appeared in the Atlanta Airport, he would have to conclude that no one in our society believes in any higher power.
3. Materialism/Wealth - Everything in the airport is insanely expensive. I bought some fruit for breakfast for $5.00! It was worth about $1.50. Most of the travelers were wearing the latest fashions and carrying in-style bags or backpacks. Of course, much of this is probably purchased on credit. Regardless, the wealth was palpable.
4. Technology - I'm still amazed by flight. I don't get it, but I'm glad it works. In the airport, everyone else seemed to be plugged into some sort of gadget before getting onto their plane. I may have been the only person there without either a Blackberry or i-Pod.
5. Busyness - Everyone was in a hurry regardless of whether or not their flight was leaving soon. They all seemed so serious, as if the fate of the world depended on their movements. Most of the folks almost appeared to need to be busy. I wonder if they ever relax.
6. Noise - There was sound everywhere. This went beyond basic conversations. CNN was everywhere in the background. Announcements blasted over the speakers. Various machines were buzzing/whirring here and there. There was no peace.
The Atlanta Airport served for me as a microcosm of our society in general. We live in an incredibly diverse culture that is increasingly secular and materialistic. We depend more and more on technology everyday. Everyone seems busy, and there is noise everywhere.
Many of the above factors serve as a barrier to the gospel. My hope is that we will not be discouraged by all this. People continue to have only one source of hope and good news. No matter how secular, materialistic, technologically-oriented, and busy people are, they still need one person: Jesus Christ.
Atlanta was a good reminder for me of our commission.