God is my copilot
August 13, 2010 9:16 AM   Subscribe

I am thinking about a title of the book (film), "God is my copilot". What does it mean, actually? I think God is your guide. Then he might be the main pilot, not the copilot? Or does the copilot mainly work? Or does it have a sort of ironic meaning? Please tell me!
posted by mizukko to Writing & Language (19 answers total)
I think the idea is that you are the person really guiding your life, but God is there to help out and offer backup support if you need him.
posted by brainmouse at 9:19 AM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I suspect it means that when you get tired of being a good theist, he or she is always there to help you. I think a similar sentiment would be expressed by "God is my parachute".
posted by fish tick at 9:22 AM on August 13, 2010

I first came across this phrase as an adolescent because there was a band with this name, and I assumed at the time that it was a joke, like, I'm awesomer than God - he's just the VP, kinda thing. But then I came across its more sincere use (or maybe the band meant it sincerely, who knows) and I agree it's confusing.

Still, I think it's meant to be that idea that you're the pilot of your own ship, but God will help out in times of need. Like that "footprints in the sand" story. God isn't some kind of dictator, ruling how you do things, but will be there when you go into a storm to back you up...
posted by mdn at 9:27 AM on August 13, 2010

Also view it from the more literal perspective. You're in a plane flying. The seat beside you, the co-pilot's seat, may appear empty, but really, God is there. God is there to help and support you on your journey (like a co-pilot).

That's what it's supposed to imply in my opinion.
posted by Atreides at 9:27 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

He's always there to help you?
posted by k8t at 9:35 AM on August 13, 2010

In Christian mythology the god character cannot be responsible for your actions, as judgement is very important in this religion. I'm guessing the tradition stems from before the 1st century jews who created the religion and has a lot to do with old testamanet rules. Its important that the person be the pilot, because if the god figure was the pilot then the responsibility to act ethically and the idea of religious freewill would be null. Modern takes like the book you're referencing probably has some kind of connection to the modern self-help movement and the god character turned into something of a self-help coach or someone to turn to for advice.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:43 AM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I always took it as a less-violent/modernized version of "God is riding shotgun." You've got to lead the horses and watch the map, but God (i.e. your faith) is there to help you out with the nasty surprises along the way that you can't take on by yourself without getting lost along the way.
posted by griphus at 10:02 AM on August 13, 2010

I think it's basically "God's got my back." If you screw up, he'll be there for you. If you stumble and fall, he'll catch you. Something similar to the idea of a guardian angel on your shoulder.

Fundamentalists famously retorted with their own bumper-sticker phrase "if God is your copilot, you're sitting in the wrong seat!" The suggestion was that God should be in the topmost authoritative position, not just as a backup. I think that response, while well-intentioned, kinda missed the point of the original slogan.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:06 AM on August 13, 2010

From Wikipedia:
In commercial aviation, the first officer is the second pilot (sometimes referred to as the "co-pilot") of an aircraft. The first officer is second-in-command of the aircraft, to the captain who is the legal commander. In the event of incapacitation of the captain, the first officer will assume command of the aircraft.

Control of the aircraft is normally shared equally between the first officer and the captain, with one pilot normally designated the "Pilot Flying" (PF) and the other the "Pilot Not Flying" (PNF), or "Pilot Monitoring" (PM), for each flight. Even when the first officer is the flying pilot, however, the captain remains ultimately responsible for the aircraft, its passengers, and the crew. In typical day-to-day operations, the essential job tasks remain fairly equal.
I think it means that both you and God are directing your life contemporaneously. Neither is in charge, but you both are collaborating.
posted by ND¢ at 10:08 AM on August 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Why not find out what Robert Lee Scott meant when he popularized the phrase in his 1943 book God is My Copilot?
posted by Miko at 10:19 AM on August 13, 2010

Kind of like the saying "God helps those who helps themselves." Manly expresses popular cultural distortion of Christian discipleship. Best when used for liking the talk but avoiding the walk.
posted by cross_impact at 10:36 AM on August 13, 2010

God's with you, but it's your life.

Note that the phrase was started up when flying was awesome, glamorous, expensive, and daring. I don't think you can read too much into the "copilot" thing specifically; it was used because flying was cool at the time.
posted by SMPA at 10:45 AM on August 13, 2010

Apparently people disagree about what it specifically means, but only because people always more or less disagree about what sentences specifically mean.
posted by voltairemodern at 10:46 AM on August 13, 2010

Miko has it. It helps to know the source of the phrase, in this case the title of a memoir by a WWII pilot.

As such, it isn't really meant to have any subtle theological implications relating the role of God to the role of a copilot. He basically just meant that, as a committed Christian, he did not believe he had to face the challenges he faced alone, but was supported by his faith and saw it almost literally as God being at his side to help him out. And since he was a pilot, that makes God the copilot. And the phrase just scanned well.

(If it helps, try emphasizing "GOD is my copilot," as in, even though I seem to be all alone up here in this single seat fighter, I am not alone, for God is with me. As opposed to "God is my COPILOT," meaning I run the show and am such a badass that God himself takes the second chair and handles the gruntwork.)
posted by Naberius at 11:20 AM on August 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've always associated it with that footprints-on-the-beach thing. When things are really terrible, god backs you up or takes over.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:18 PM on August 13, 2010

I think it probably wasn't really thought out that well in the first place, whenever that may have been. I can't think of any christian slogans with appreciably specific meanings.
posted by cmoj at 2:51 PM on August 13, 2010

According to Nietzsche, he ate the fish.
posted by blueberry at 6:57 PM on August 13, 2010

When an atheist says "God is my copilot", she means "I don't need a fucking copilot".
posted by little light-giver at 9:28 PM on August 13, 2010

It may help to know that the author flew single seat aeroplanes. (I think, I can't get at my copy right now.)
posted by GeeEmm at 10:37 PM on August 13, 2010

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