Texting and Driving: A Good Reminder For This School Year
When I was in student ministry in a local church, I would try to have a regular public service announcement for our students. Typically, at the start of a new school year, I would get up and say something about the dangers of texting and driving. There was one year I even played the compelling AT&T commercial to convey the realities and potential dangers of this all-too-common practice.
Therefore, I thought it might be a good idea to pass this idea on to other youth workers. Maybe take a few minutes during announcements in a large group time, or simply pull a few students to the side and encourage them to abstain from this practice.
I know we’re all guilty of glancing at our phones and taking our eyes off the road. In fact, it seems that this practice has become so culturally acceptable that questioning it sounds strange.
Without a doubt, I’ve been guilty of replying to a text through an intersection, driving down the interstate, or in a neighborhood. Any guilty conscience I feel, however, I often justify by my driving expertise, right? I’ve been driving for years. Since I look back at the road repeatedly, this is very safe. Thoughts like these salve many notions of danger passing through my mind.
Driving Home the Truth
Many may say the inexperience of teenage drivers makes the practice of texting and driving so alarming. While that is definitely true and should be a point to address, it’s vital to communicate the dangers of texting while driving from a theological standpoint. That is, it is good and right to challenge our students from a common sense perspective, but rooting the issue in Scripture not only adds weight to the discussion, it also helps students connect the dots from theology to life.
Tony Reinke does a great job of this in his newest book, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You. One of the ways our phone changes us, says Reinke, is that we “ignore flesh and blood.” Texting and driving is one implication. Consider some of the startling statistics and sobering truths he mentions:
“[T]exting while driving makes your chance of a crash twenty-three times more likely [than talking on the phone]. Assuming a driver never looks up in the average time it takes to send a text (4.6 seconds), at fifty-five miles per hour, he drives blindly the length of a football field. Texting and driving is so idiotic, forty-six of fifty states have banned it.”[i] (emphasis mine)
The discouraging truth, as Reinke points out, is the fact that many of these laws can actually increase the danger. For drivers to conceal their texting habits, they lower their phones, which only takes their eyes further off the road.[ii] “As we drive, our phones ping, our brains get a shot of dopamine, and very often our decisions express our own neighbor negligence,” says, Reinke. “We assume we can ignore the people we see in order to care for the people we don’t see, but that idea is all twisted backward . . . . We sin with our phones when we ignore our street neighbors, the strangers who share with us the same track of pavement.”[iii]
Texting and driving, in Reinke’s words, is more than just dangerous (and illegal in some cases), it is sinful. Biblically speaking, texting and driving is not loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is not following the “golden rule.” (Matt. 7:12) It is breaking the second greatest commandment (Matt. 22:36-40). Following these lines of thinking, the conclusion is that texting and driving nailed Jesus to the cross.
The Reality of the Matter
I’m sure there are many reading this who would protest the severity of this conclusion about texting and driving. Labeling it as a sin Jesus died for may seem a little on the extreme side, to say the least. Therefore, if that’s a reality you aren’t totally convinced of, maybe this is one that will convince you and your students. What if you hit and killed someone while texting and driving? Many think this would never happen to them, but just consider if it did.
Year after year after year, you would be asking “Why? Why did I think I could text and drive? Why did I think responding to that text message (or email) was so important? Why did I knowingly put others’ lives in danger just to scroll through Instagram or Facebook?”
This is not a farfetched scenario. At this moment, there is a family grieving the loss of their preschooler who was playing in the neighborhood and hit by a teenager. There’s a widowed spouse struggling to put a meal on the table for their family. There’s a father looking at an empty bed in his home because he glanced down for a few seconds to type a one-word response to an email. When we weigh the costs, the absurdity of sending a text or an email while driving is incalculable.
To push this thought further, Christians should be the examples to the watching world when it comes to texting and driving. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, and texting and driving stands in complete contradiction to that. To put it bluntly, we are often in sin when we participate in this practice because we are selfishly putting our felt needs ahead of our neighbor’s safety.
I shudder at the reality of being responsible for killing a husband, wife, mother, father, teenager . . . infant. The guilt and shame that would accompany this tragedy is not beyond the grace and forgiveness offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Praise the Lord our guilt and shame was nailed to the cross! That said, why wouldn’t people – Christians or otherwise – make every effort to prevent this from becoming a reality?
To lead the charge in raising awareness and encouraging Christians to put their phones down while driving, maybe having a “PSA” at the beginning of this school year isn’t such a bad idea. Point them to the theological concerns behind the issue as well as the immense tragedies that could become reality. Who knows, the Lord may use your words to spare a family from tragedy. Even if you choose not to mention this to your students, at least there’s the chance that you’ll stop this practice.
[i]Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You (Crossway, 2017), 55.
© Reformed Youth Ministries