Scriptspot weaves together a tapestry of current issues, biblical thought, language, and images. I have based it on the firm belief that we each matter and can affect the world around us by paying humble attention to God, to our nation, to those whose lives touch ours.
Scenario 1: A drunken drug dealer (say that 10 times fast) breaks
into the wrong house, shoots a single mother and her three children with a
Saturday night special. Shocked by this vicious crime the city council heads up
a campaign to get people to trade in or sell all their handguns.
Scenario 2: A hundred-year-old brick building in a
California coastal town collapses during an earthquake. The family gets out
safely, but their dog dies in a rain of falling bricks. This event sparks 42
new housing restrictions.
Scenario 3: The state bird, the purple-legged honey-sucker, starts
dying off so the state sets up strict regulations, which disallow the use of
the insecticides used to protect the state’s all-important cabbage crop.
OK – these are all fictional, but the stories must sound
familiar: a problem arises – a shocking, emotional yank that scares us silly.
We react in a natural way – “Mommy make it stop hurting!” The truth is that
Mommy never did have much control over life’s nastiness, but we believed in her
and her reassurances made us feel so much better.
When my children were little, we lived in Nebraska where
giant, dramatic, fabulous thunderstorms frequently lit up the night sky.
Lightning would suddenly brighten the world and then thunder would shake the
house and the kids would cry. I’d run upstairs to their rooms and hug them down
out of their fear, but before I went back to bed I’d put little wads of toilet
paper in their ears. We all knew that smidgen of tissue was not going to do
anything to block the next thunderclap, but the fact that I’d gone through that
ritual warded off the terror and they’d go back to sleep. It was a lovely
But we’re grown-ups now, in fact, we’re taking care of
Mommy, so who’s taking care of us? We transfer that dependence onto our
spouses, our friends, our shrinks, and, wisely, onto God, but in a society
that’s becoming more and more secular, mostly onto our government. Make a law
against whatever it was that rattled our sense of security; put toilet paper in
our ears and we’ll be fine. The problem is that the laws are just that – toilet
It was Thomas Sowell and his book Economic Facts and Fallacies that helped me figure out why the
toilet paper doesn’t ever fix anything and why we continue to use it; it’s only
Stage 1 thinking, which is far more emotional reaction than actual thought. There’s
And no matter what the problem, follow-through is necessary.
Here in Oregon we fight blackberries. They can take over almost as quickly as
kudzu, and even worse -- blackberries are covered with thorns. If we don’t
think about it long enough, if we fail to do some Stage 2 thinking, we haul off
and spray them with brush-killer without realizing that dead blackberries leave
behind two formidable problems: masses of dry, brittle thorn-covered brambles
and seeds that quickly become more blackberries. Don’t ask me how I know this.
Stage 1 thinking supposed that the spray would just make the
thicket disappear. Instead, it created a new problem without really solving the
old one. In politics that’s called “unforeseen consequences” as if it had been
impossible to figure out ahead of time all the possible repercussions. No one
did any Stage 2 thinking.
Stage 2 thinking is all about what happens next. Consequences
are heavy things. Here in Oregon several decades ago, some environmentalists
discovered that the spotted owl was dying out. The Stage 1 thinking went like
this: Owls are dying, owls live in old growth timber; timber companies are
cutting it down, therefore, if we stop doing that the owls will be fine. That
rudimentary thought process ruined the state’s most prosperous industry, put tens
of thousands of people out of work, blotted out entire towns and drove up the
price of lumber. Now, decades later, the economy still has not recovered and
the owl is still dying off. Turns out that logging wasn’t what was killing the
spotted owl. The hapless bird was losing its competition with a more effective
species of owl.
Political examples surround us, but let’s look at some less
We teach our children that if they find
themselves on fire to “Stop, drop and roll.” Why? Because our natural instinct,
our Stage 1 reaction, is to run, but running has dire consequences – it isn’t a
reasonable solution. Running creates wind; wind is full of oxygen, and oxygen
feeds fire. But since we are unlikely to go through all that Stage 2 thinking
with our pants singeing our backsides, we hope that pre-thinking in the form of
training will help.
tell each other that in a storm we should not run for the shelter of the
nearest tree. It’s a natural reaction – duck and cover, but it’s a bad idea for
Stage 2 reasons – the only thing between you and a HUGE electrical charge is
the insulation of the atmosphere; anything that pierces that atmosphere – like
a tall tree – opens a path for the electricity to follow, and you do not want
to be in that path.
Now we find ourselves so divided as a nation that we may
well not survive and that rift, for the most part, showcases the two different
stages of thought.
The Left reacts to a crisis with a rudimentary, almost
childlike, simplicity of thought.
-- The Batman shooter killed those people with
guns, therefore we should have a law against guns.
-- The government needs more
money, the rich have money, therefore let’s take it from them.
-- Living in
apartments is not as nice as living in single family dwellings, therefore we’ll
use building regulations to limit the number of apartments built so everyone
will live in houses.
That’s what Stage 1 thinking looks like.
The Right, on the other hand, looks at those same scenarios
and sees past the immediate emotionality of the situation.
-- If a city bans guns then criminals
will be emboldened to attack the unarmed citizenry; they, of course, will have
guns because breaking the law is what they do.
-- If a country raises taxes on the
rich, the rich leave; they’re smart and they don’t mind taking risks – that’s
how they got rich in the first place. Once the rich leave there are no
businesses to hire people, therefore no revenue and massive expenditures
because the government is having to support all those people who no longer have
-- The city that makes building
apartments difficult forces its citizens to move out into the suburbs which
necessitates long commutes, hundreds of miles of tangled freeways, and all the
traffic problems and pollution that go with a commuter culture.
That’s Stage 2 thinking – it’s all
about what happens next.
Frankly, I’m a little worried about what’s going to happen
next. Here’s hoping a lot of other people are too.