The Lemming Effect

The Lemming Effect “is not an intellectual phenomenon; it is a psychological one… Lemmings are small rodents that have been observed to follow each other as they charge to their deaths – into raging rivers or even off cliffs… (it is) observable in the common people as well as the most sophisticated and educated elites.”[1] A key here is that intellect plays no part, animal or human. In fact, one might argue, it is essential that one not think in order to facilitate this flash of stupid.

I was the beneficiary of this social anomaly in a recent visit to Austin, a beautiful city but peopled by what seemed to be an inordinate number of lemmings (as it turns out, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Antonio and other metropolises were not immune, either). The horrors of Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath were being publicized mightily and, whereas most were concerned for victims hardest hit on our Texas coastline, many Lemmings living miles away from the actual damages took fright and lined up at gas pumps in a fueling frenzy. No amount of common-sense and reason would deter them from “topping off” their tank. Tempers flared, conflicts ensued and local shortages were artificially created, all this in spite of the unanimous consensus from those actually informed concerning our country’s energy situation that there “is not a fuel shortage.”[2] But, the Lemmings kept pumping; there was no stemming the stampede.

This social phenomenon is the epitome of ridiculous but the religious minion-mentality remains the saddest example of this behavior, mainly because the consequences of the spiritual Lemming Effect manifests itself on an eternal scale: Heaven and Hell are forever. A thinking soul will not rush to rashness but, instead, secure that constant, objective truth of God’s Word, which does not flit from fashion to fashion. Authored by God, Who does not change (Malachi 3:6), the Word is a constant rock of enduring truth, by which a person can be saved (James 1:21). From this never-changing Word, investigated, understood and applied, panic is pointless and fashion is suspect.

The hysteria hangover of the Lemming Effect is embarrassing, inconvenient and frustrating, to be sure, but the consequences of not thinking for yourself spiritually are devastating on a permanent scale. Leave the Lemmings (2 Corinthians 6:17-18); run with God (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Jeff Sweeten