Last week in Boston, a trolley went ran a red light and hit another trolley. Forty nine people were injured. According to the report in the Boston Globe, the operator of the trolley that did not run the red light was text messaging at the time. He looked down at his phone to do so, and when he looked up and saw the other trolley in the intersection, he couldn't hit the brakes in time.
Now in response, all trolley operated are told that they may not even have a cell phone in their possession while operating these vehicles. There is more. The National Safety Council wants all cell phone use completely banned by those driving cars. Even hands-free units will be forbidden. According to some recent research, just talking on a phone brings about greater impairment of driving skills than driving while under the influence of alcohol. According to one report, "brain scans show the phone conversation sucking the driver's mind from one world into another."
I suppose they are right. Certainly, a phone conversation can be a major distraction. Of course, so are children. Especially when there are at least two of them and the two are siblings and each knows exactly how to punch the hot button of the other. Tell me that an adult with two screaming children in the back seat can drive with full attention on the road . . . and I'll tell you that you are dreaming.
I'm reading the pro and con arguments of cell phone use while operating a moving vehicle, and the children comparison always comes up. I'm hardly so original as to be able to think of that one by myself. So, do we ban children from the car? One person who did suggest this also said that it might be the solution to childhood obesity since the children would have to start walking everywhere. However, I suspect we will not find child passengers banned. But I bet more and more cell-phone use regulations will be coming our way.
Now, those who have been reading this column for a while will know that somehow, I believe there must be a response to this situation that reflects "God-with-us" living: that awareness that the kingdom of heaven is all about us. Our responsibility is to open our eyes and find it in the midst of cell phones and trolley accidents and injured people and screaming babies and the simple convenience of being able to be in touch with those important to us with great ease because of our cell phones.
So what WOULD Jesus say about all this? What kind of story might Jesus tell his followers as they face the complexities of modern life and realities? How would Jesus speak of our often long commutes and the time pressures and the ease of using the car time as a way to catch up on multiple conversations, both business and personal?
Should we, in the name of Jesus ban cell phone usage in order to stop a possibility of driver distraction? Do we limit our individual freedoms even more? It was certainly a good idea to bring about laws that impose more penalties on those caught driving under the influence of alcohol. That is a limitation of our freedom as well. I know that the Bible speaks often of the freedom offered to us in Christ--freedom from the laws of sin and death and the freedom to live with life-giving righteousness. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all exercise the freedom that self-control gives and voluntarily limit ourselves from cell phone use while driving instead of waiting for even more limiting legislation to be passed? I suppose I'm dreaming now, but I do know that a society guided by godly self-control is a lot more fun to live in than one girded by draconian laws.