Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The perception of safety

Physical safety. Will I be mugged? Will I be assaulted? Will I be raped?

I hope that very few of my decisions are motivated by questions like these. I'd rather be motivated by something else. Will I get a warm fuzzy? Will my friends be glad I did this? Will I have a good story?

The degree to which you are motivated by safety concerns is the degree to which you suffer from paranoia. If everything you do is in the service of safety, you're paranoid and you're not pursuing joy.

Two things are getting me thinking about this. First, I watched a video of Geven Tully. He runs a summer camp that helps kids be budding engineers. He thinks we should let our kids do dangerous things. Play with fire. Carry a knife. He personally gives power tools to second graders. He makes sense to me. If you shelter kids and don't let them experience situations where they can make mistakes, they grow up to be paranoid.

Second, I was reading an article which was exploring the statistical link between watching violent movies and porn on one side, violent crime and rape on the other. The article is interesting but not very compelling. Some of the facts from the Department of Justice, on the other hand, are very compelling.

I wouldn't have guessed it but crime rates have dropped by 50% from 1993 to 2005. We went from 6% of the population being a victim of robbery to 2.6%. Aggravated assault dropped from 12% to 4.3%. Rape dropped from 2.5% to .8%.

Excuse me while I exaggerate a bit. We are living in an America which is safer than ever before. I'm sure much of the credit for the improvement goes to increasingly paranoid behavior. Still, how much comes from more effective policing? Better infrastructure? Community efforts? I don't know, honestly. But my gut tells me that, while paranoia has its place, there's no longer a compelling need for personal safety to be the driving motivation behind our decisions.

When you ask a Christian why they are a Christian, might get one of these types of unhelpful responses. Timid: my parents are Christian. Self-referencing: because the Bible is truth. Vague: because Jesus has done so much for me.

I'd like to contribute something helpful. In part, I'm a Christian because Christ's actions freed me from paranoia. Regardless of whether or not I live in a safe place, I am confident taking serious risks with my physical, emotional and fiscal health because Christ has made me right with God. Because I am unconditionally accepted by the foundation of everything, I'm not worried about losing a few somethings. I am a Christian because it allows me to pursue joy and not be hindered by the potential price of pursuit.

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