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Saturday, November 1, 2014


Have lemmings gotten a bum rap over the years?

Are you a lemming?

Put on your big boy or big girl pants and knock it off.

Lemming "suicide" is a frequently used metaphor in reference to people who go along unquestioningly with popular opinion, with potentially dangerous or fatal consequences, according to Wikipedia. You can picture lemmings following each other off a cliff. But just as "spending like a drunken sailor" insults a drunken sailor who knows enough to stop spending when he runs out of money, the furry fellows may not be as dumb as their go-along human counterparts.

We see the error of fickle crowd psychology or peer pressure a number of times in the Bible: Children of Israel rebelling against Moses and God; the masses crying "Hosanna" on Palm Sunday and "Crucify him" a few days later; the crowd condemning Paul as evil when a snake clung to him, and then revering him when he flung it into the fire with no ill effect.

Such is the danger in uncritically accepting dire warnings about climate change, foods, or tap water. More than those, think about this: the lemming hazard permeates even your most sacred halls of learning.

Take virtually any subject: OK, climate change, artificial sweeteners, Calvinism or entire sanctification. One pursues a higher degree and joins like-minded colleagues in the study of your chosen subject, be it in a laboratory, classroom, dig or seminary.

Let me take an example not so close to (my) home. On PBS, and perhaps still available today online, you could view the thoughtful series, "The Mormons." The series portrayed the good, bad and ugly. Long before the series, my own studies found the Mormon history bogus. The Book of Mormon talks about magnificent ancient cities in the Western Hemisphere. In a chat room, I presented to a Mormon historian the notion that the Bible had ample documentation in the form of archaeology and other sciences. And yet, no archaeological discoveries documented the existence of the Mormon cities. None.

The historian in my discussion responded, "Yes, Dave, you're right. There is no archaeological evidence. You must accept it all on faith."

The PBS backed up that fact. Professors of history at Brigham Young University approached the Latter Day Saints leadership with the discovery that the history was without evidence.

The church excommunicated the professors. Later, PBS interviewed them, and some dissolved into tears. Their premise was correct and courageous, but they missed the community terribly.

Accordingly, my "lemming" theory goes like this: You see error in the party line: the earth is cooling, not warming; Calvin never taught "Calvinism" as it is generally accepted today; you observe folks who claim to be "entirely" or "wholly" sanctified, but you don't see corresponding behavior.

But, you have invested half a lifetime in your denomination/hospital/university/lab/team. You have tenure. Gravitas. Speak up or write about what you have discovered as error and, though colleagues are kind, loving, cordial, they see you as something less than orthodox, no longer a team player, a fly in the ointment, marching to a different drummer. So much for that choice assignment, promotion or publication.

Here's the good news: Romans 8 says there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That means you can live a life of risk, doing what no one else can do, things that would shock the world. Do the right thing. Do the courageous thing. Do the meaningful thing. Do the God thing.
Don't be a lemming.
The lemming myth may be a cruel joke on these lovable, furry animals, but humans too often act like the mythical conformists.


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