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For the Christian traveler: 'The Lord's Airline,' blessed luggage

By SYDNEY SHAW

WASHINGTON -- When thousands of Christians descended on the capital for the National Religious Broadcasters meeting this week, programming displays were no match for a host of auxiliary exhibits on the convention floor.

You'd expect the 'Praise the Lord' network to have a booth at the annual Grand Prix of fundamentalist TV evangelism -- likewise the various TV and radio equipment suppliers and producers hawking everything from gospel music shows to spiritual cartoons.

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But other displays at the convention, which ended Wednesday, were harder to figure out.

Take, for instance, the booth for 'The Lord's Airline.'

A spokesman for the fledgling carrier said he was 'signing up convention goers right and left' for flights to the Holy Land beginning May 1. He said the carrier will pick up passengers at their church door and hustle them onto a heavenly blue plane emblazoned with a dove.

No booze or cigarettes are allowed on board, but what secular airline can offer communion en route, a Bible tucked into every seat-back pocket and gospel music wafting from the earphones?

Twenty-five percent of the discount fare goes to finance missionary work, he said, stressing that the airline is non-denominational when a colleague said the backers were from the Assembly of God.

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Speaking of donations, a look at the booth for EFT -- for Electronic Funds Transfer -- confirmed that charity, if not faith and hope, has entered the space age.

'Giving is Easier, Donations Increase,' said a banner advertising the system that electronically zaps money from a believer's bottom line into the bank accounts of churches, Christian broadcast networks or other charitable organizations.

Across the aisle, a young woman who could have been sent from Central Casting to fill the description 'wholesome' enticed passersby to sign up with her Christian Employment Agency.

Around the corner was a man from El Paso, Texas, promoting his book on how to find Satanic messages he says are recorded backwards on virtually every popular phonograph record.

Best of all, there were the people selling luggage that had been blessed.

After all, one bystander commented, 'When you're bound for glory, you have to pack.'

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