Big Brother

Out of the blue and usually at meal times, we’re no doubt all familiar with persuasive sales calls. In 2013 I’m finding double-glazing and kitchens have been surpassed by financial services and charities. The most recent call came at lunchtime and was unusual in that it was on my mobile, a number I rarely give out as it’s used for work. So I was somewhat taken by surprise when ‘Dan’ introduced himself and I discovered he didn’t want a speaker for his church weekend away, instead he wanted to sell me appliance insurance.

In fairness to ‘Dan’, his company already cover my assorted Whirlpool kitchen gadgets; hob, oven, cooker hood, fridge freezer and dishwasher. You may be reading this thinking I must be a seriously risk averse person to be paying out monthly for five kitchen appliances, but it’s a new build house and discounted cover came with the kitchen. Last month the Whirlpool man was put to good use fixing the dishwasher and so I was more inclined to think positively about ‘Dan’s’ call.

So having exchanged pleasantries and assured him the dishwasher was now in fine fettle, I was somewhat dumbstruck when ‘Dan’ asked me about my Hotpoint tumble drier.

“How do you know I have a Hotpoint tumble-drier?” I ask him.

Silence.

“Seriously, Dan, how do you know I have a tumble-drier? Don’t take this the wrong way but it’s a bit disconcerting when someone I’ve never met knows what’s in my house.”

The more the conversation goes on, the more I get the heebie-jeebies. ‘Dan’ knows more than the make. He knows the date I bought it, how much it cost and how I paid the warranty. He also knows the history and finance details of my washing machine and television set. Whilst holding my phone I have to resist the urge to look over my shoulder. Suddenly I’ve morphed from risk adverse appliance owner to paranoid householder. Big brother is clearly watching me, or at least living in my utility room.

There is something deeply disconcerting about strangers, be they individuals or companies, knowing the details of my life. The experience is one of mild violation; somehow this anonymous insurance company has intruded into my home, my personal space and the room where I do my laundry. I no longer feel quite as safe.

I have a relative who once said to me he would never become a Christian because the concept of God felt creepy, like a cosmic big brother always watching him. None of us want to be spied upon, watched from afar by anonymous beings who occasional interfere and offer us insurance plans. But I do want to be watched over by a loving Father, who speaks to me multiple times a day, is passionately interested in all aspects of my life and cares about the details. Is that creepy? On the contrary His constant and intimate presence is a reassuring comfort in our increasingly intrusive society.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121 (NIV

Fiona McDonald
Director of National Ministries