• Is God surveilling us too?

I have received one traffic violation in my 17 years in Arkansas. One evening near Subiaco I was pulled over for speeding. I deserved my citation. It was a nuisance but no big deal.

As a white male blessed with various resources, I’ve never feared the police. However, if a person of color is pulled over for a traffic violation – or just pulled over – their experience is likely to be much different. Besides hearing stories from black men about how they are treated by law enforcement in many jurisdictions, I have seen countless videos that clearly demonstrate profiling and racism. (Thankfully, I have not heard stories like this about Fayetteville police).

Technology has changed this dynamic. Citizens can easily record encounters with law enforcement and many agencies require bodycams for their officers. This technology helps prevent possible abuse of power (though I often fear what happened before cameras became commonplace).

It is estimated that London, for example, has over 700,000 surveillance cameras – one for every 13 people. Not to mention that almost everyone carries a camera with them. Even a Tesla has eight cameras. Who else has a camera in their doorbell?

We are being watched. Do you ever wonder how many times you are on camera each day and don’t even know it?

And what about other gadgets? How much personal information about my family is being gathered by smartwatches, thermostats, toll tags, streaming services, Ms. Alexa, wireless locks and the electronic doo-hickeys offered by car insurance companies. And who knows what personal information is being sold and shared by the company that makes smart beds. Oh my.

By the way, I haven’t forgotten about our online footprints. I suspect that not only have our personal profiles been harvested from the internet and placed in a massive, secret database, but algorithms know more about us than we know about ourselves. Frankly, all of this creeps me out.

When I was a new Christian during my sophomore year in college, I joined a campus ministry. During the fall semester some of us committed to memorize Psalm 139. It fascinates me how memorized scripture can be a lifelong treasure. The Psalmist says “I’m an open book to you; even from a distance, you know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence.” Suddenly I began to live my life knowing that there was no use in hiding. God was surveilling me.

But there is a difference. Does it bother me that a neckbeard in Cupertino or AI at the NSA knows what medicine I buy? Absolutely. Does it bother me that God knows my thoughts? Not a bit. Like the Psalmist who says “This is too much! This is too wonderful!” I trust God with my secrets. Because God loves me and always wants the best for me. I welcome my heavenly Father into my inner life. But Big Brother? Not so much.