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Don't be a Lemming!

These adorable little arctic creatures have a really goofy--and quite troubling--mythologized practice that has become part of accepted wisdom. According to lore, lemmings will follow other lemmings en masse, scurrying off cliffs into the ocean, plummeting to their deaths by drowning. That is, group suicide. This baffling behavior has come to describe when we humans blindly follow the crowd to destruction. While this is not an entirely accurate understanding of lemming behavior, it's too perfect an illustration to pass up for my purposes. Whatever the source or the science, I'm here to say, "Don't be a lemming!"

Lemming Lore

Lemmings inhabit arctic regions like northern Alaska and Norway. The little fur balls are championship breeders, and every three to four years, their population explodes, stretching their resources. In response, the lemmings disperse or migrate in large groups, often in a growing panic. The frenzied migration causes them to rush along, over, and through any obstacle, even to the point of diving off cliffs in droves, attempting to cross oceans, and exhausting themselves to death by drowning.

Sadly, an Oscar-winning 1958 Walt Disney documentary falsely portrayed this practice as mysterious mass suicide, and movie producers are said to have driven packs of lemmings off a cliff for dramatic effect. It's apparently not actual suicide, but scientists still don't fully understand the behavior.

Human lemmings.

On the other hand, destructive mob mentality among humans is well documented. Group psychology explains many otherwise inexplicable human behaviors, like rioting or even otherwise decent German citizens not merely overlooking, but actively cooperating with the Nazi annihilation of Jews or Americans endorsing and exploiting slavery. In fact, science shows that that when enough humans are doing wrong, and there's no apparent threat of consequences, even law-abiding people can quickly run amok to the extreme. Tim's Keller's message below presents this reality in a very relatable way.

We'd like to think that the average person is never going to encounter such a scenario. That we will never be swept up into destructive behavior, but I'd say many are already there! Maybe an entire country! We're like frogs in the pot on the stove, increasingly desensitized to amoral thinking and practice of every kind, and most destructive of all, a total disregard of God. Honestly, we seem so desensitized that bad even seems good! Caught up in a majority barreling to disaster, in a mindless lemming-like frenzy, we plummet off the proverbial cliff to our real or figurative deaths.

Here's just one of my little pet peeves: Women of all ages posing as porn stars on social media. I have a 15-year-old son and some of the girls on his Instagram feed--including classmates at his former Christian high school--are contenders for the Playboy mansion. I'm really no prude, but when did this become OK? What are the girls imagining they're attracting? What are these parents thinking?

"But mom, everyone's doing it!"

Everyone's lost it!

The narrow way.

While I want to point fingers, it's very, very tempting for any of us to be lulled into a false sense of security. We Americans may be more vulnerable to blindness than most because of our relative insulation from many refining hardships, including those of the ordinary people surrounding us. Prosperity is a dangerous blind, and most especially, extreme wealth, because as Tim Keller points out, great material success can give us both the illusion that we're authorities on everything else (including right and wrong), and can give us the notion that we're above the law. Read the headlines.

Unfortunately, this is true even within The Church, meaning the body of believers of every denomination. There's widespread indifference and a watering down or selective sharing of Truth that's contributing to the national mess we're wading in.

This is magnified by a variety of factors, like the idea that the church should model itself after the culture to be culturally relevant. So some churches turn a blind eye to challenging biblical truth or sugar-coat it, because they don't want to offend and lose members and money. Another approach is to focus on Christ's love and grace without any mention of judgment or standards. This is a very comforting message, and I love it, but it doesn't capture the fullness of the truth or the implications of chronically ignoring God. On the large scale, this becomes a lemming problem, where masses of people, including Christians, go rushing off a cliff.