As I was standing in the shower this morning, pondering the latest news story about the new Travel Safety Administration (TSA) search procedures, I came up with an interesting, Biblically based, idea about how one might go about resisting these new invasive search procedures.
Strip for the TSA
Follow me for a second and I’ll tell you what I mean.
The TSA has now upped the game when it comes to air travel. They are introducing new full body scanners which virtually remove all of your clothes and allow the TSA agents to see everything. And I mean everything. If you don’t want to submit to this scan then you can opt for the new enhanced pat down which involves, among other things, actually touching your genitals. Here’s the catch. Once you have gotten yourself into this situation and didn’t want to do either one, one would assume that you would be able to simply say, ‘no thanks, I’ll walk to California’ and leave the airport. Not so fast. It’s against federal law to leave the security screening process one you have started it, therefore if you choose to refuse both of these methods of search, you are subject to a $10,000 fine and/or a civil lawsuit (All of this was brought to a head by the experience of John Tyner) So what that means, is that anyone who is traveling through a major city, has the chance of being stuck in a situation where you two apparent options are 1) be violated or 2) face fines and lawsuits.
Or are there really only two options?
Bible story time
One of the scriptures that popped into my head while thinking about this situation is from the Sermon on the Mount. Specifically Matthew 5:38-42.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
In the book “Engaging the Powers” Walter Wink has an interesting interpretation of this passage in which he argues that each one of these things is actually a creative way to find a third way of creative non-violent resistance. I was most drawn to his interpretation of the part about giving your cloak as well. Wink says that if someone became naked in the Biblical culture that the shame rested not on the naked person, but rather on the person who made them naked. Therefore, if someone is suing you to take the clothes off of your back, give them all of your clothes and walk out of the courtroom naked with your head held high. In a situation where the only two apparent options are to fight or be victimized, Jesus presents a third way that resists the abuse and places the shame back on the abuser, all while complying with the letter of the law.
So here’s my proposal.
When you find yourself in a situation of being scanned, you should voluntarily, in public,
strip down naked.
This act would not be disobeying the command of the TSA but rather it would be going the ‘second mile’, if you will. While on one hand it is submitting to the invasiveness of the screenings it is also doing it in such a way that takes control and power back in the situation. And I would also venture to say that if such an act were done in front of all of the other passengers waiting in line, it would expose the true invasiveness of the procedure and thus place the ultimate shame on the TSA, not on the individual.
Creative. Non-violent. Resisting.
The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. 1989 (Mt 5:38-42). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Wink, Walter, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination. 1992 Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress. 75-84