Thursday, July 21, 2005

The OnStar Button

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To some, the whole existance of a global positioning satellite (GPS) and all the technology which goes with it is an assault on our freedom. Imagine if the government actually kept track of where each person is at every minute of the day and how that would make you feel. Speaking for myself, the word "creepy" comes to mind -- George Orwell's vision of Big Brother come to life. We protect our privacy with a vengeance. After all, there are some things which are nobody else's business. GPS makes it possible for our privacy to be stripped away.

While flipping through the channels last week, I stumbled across a third-rate reality show (is there really a first-rate reality show?) called Hogan Knows Best, which followed the family of former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan. The Hulkster, his wife and two kids have agreed to have their lives videotaped in the interest of filling up broadcast time on cable TV. But in the episode I saw, Daddy Hulk was tracking daughter Brooke via a secretly-installed GPS system in her car. While the 16 year-old was flirting with her date, Big Daddy and his biceps were following the car's every turn on the family's home computer. Sure you could call it an invasion of privacy, but are YOU going to go tell the nearly 7 foot, 350 pound Hulk Hogan to stop? GPS at it's paranoia-inciting worst.

Yet, car GPS systems are being advertised and purchased every day. Since I listen to a lot of radio, I hear the commercials a lot:

"Hello, OnStar"

"Help me, I've hit a tree!"

"I'll contact emergency services. Stay right there." (As if the victim were thinking of going for pizza right then.)

OnStar is marketed as a convenience because with a subscription to the service, the representatives will contact police or an ambulance in an emergency, tell you why the "Service Engine Soon" light has just lit up on your dashboard and even unlock your car doors when you've locked yourself out. All you have to do is hit the OnStar button. Please don't ask how you hit the OnStar button on the dash when you are locked out of your car. I'm still working on that.

Anyway, Big Brother is being sold and advertised because he is a "nice" big brother. Forget that he could beat you up, flatten your bicycle tires and coat your underwear with itching powder, this big brother can also beat up the neighborhood bully and bring you a cold drink when you're thirsty. In other words, you might not like the idea of someone tracking every turn you make in the ol' Buick, but you'll allow it as long as you have an emergency hotline at the press of a button.

There are times when I wish I had complete privacy. There are times when I don't see the words of the psalmist as a comfort:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

The main times I wish I could flee from God's presence are the times when I have rejected His direction. I don't like the idea of God's eyes upon me when I am wallowing in anger or greed. I'd love to be able to escape His notice, just for a while. And at my convenience, of course. When things are going badly, I'd sure be to make sure I was waving my arms so He could see.

But isn't it strange that our relationship with God could be so similar to having OnStar in the car? We may not like the spying eyes watching us sin, but we sure relish the loving God giving us strength and hope and hearing us when we pray. We love having a God who is there for our comfort and for our convenience. How incredibly selfish of us.

God is more than Someone who is there only when we want Him to be -- whether we like it or not. For us to treat Him as a God-at-the-push-of-a-button is just plain disrespectful. Like OnStar, God is there whether we want Him or not. Perhaps if we remember that, with the strength of the Holy Spirit we will be able to fight the temptation to wallow in our selfishness, comfort and convenience.

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