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Safe unsound

The idea that being safe is an inalienable right is dangerous

Safe unsound

(Krieg Barrie)

Last month saw a flurry of responses to a strange blog post by feminist Jody Allard. Allard has two teenage sons, whom she described as “strong and compassionate—the kind of boys other parents are glad to meet when their daughters bring them home for dinner.” But “other parents” don’t know these boys the way their mother does. She finds their cavalier attitude toward her fears of the rape culture very disturbing. Their “Oh come on, Mom” refrains prompted her to write a piece for The Washington Post last September, which in turn provoked a domestic backlash. Her boys took offense, and acted out. Allard reported that they’re even reading conservative websites now. That did it for her; the title of her controversial blog post said it all: “I’m Done Pretending Men Are Safe (Even My Sons).”

There’s plenty to say about the piece, and much of it was said (almost none of it complimentary to her mothering skills). But I’m struck by the haunting fear in the title echoed throughout: Men aren’t safe; they come pre-loaded with sexism. No wonder she’s never felt emotionally safe with a man, and now her own flesh and blood are beginning to reflect the twisted values of a broken culture. She insists she’s not paranoid; it’s the system.

Safety is a good thing, right up in the top three of Maslow’s scheme of basic human needs. A modicum of safety is necessary for humans to thrive, but certain feminists, and some college students, and many political figures, have made safety a fetish. If you keep up with campus news, you’ve probably seen videos of screaming protesters demanding protection from the dangerous ideas of conservative speakers like Ann Coulter and Ben Shapiro. You may remember a video from two years ago, when Yale students confronted a professor over an email about Halloween costumes that they considered offensive. Emotional safety was a major concern. A young woman identified as “shrieking girl” screams at the professor: “It is your job to create a place of comfort and home. … [College] is not about creating an intellectual space—it’s not!”

Such hysterics beg for the label “snowflake,” but adults are not immune. Since 9/11, unrealistic arguments for safety have become a staple of politicians who should know better. Pledging vigilance at the border and effective policing in the city is reasonable, but it’s wildly optimistic to promise, as so many candidates have, to “keep America safe.” Maybe that’s just rhetoric, or maybe we don’t know what that word means anymore.

Safety is a positive attribute but not a positive force. It’s no force at all; safety is distinguished not by what it does but by what it lacks—namely, danger. But danger is everywhere in a fallen world: crooks and murderers in the neighborhood, fires and floods in nature, zealots and tyrants in the world, lurking pathogens in our own bodies. No human, no home, no ideology is “safe,” either from receiving harm—or inflicting it. Every life begins and ends with danger, and every day, even the most mundane, harbors its unpredictable sting.

Like all good things, safety becomes an evil thing when it’s elevated to an ultimate good.

We’ve always known this; the difference now is how many of us seem to believe that safety is an inalienable right. Like all good things, safety becomes an evil thing when it’s elevated to an ultimate good. Parents swaddle their children in fearful cocoons. Young people can’t face opposition with confidence and reason but instead try to shout it down. Citizens clamor for more protection to be provided by others, and ideologues drive away family members whose skepticism they interpret as a threat.

King David, no stranger to peril, knew what it took to “feel safe”: Psalm 4 ends with, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” The Lord alone, no matter our circumstances, is our safety. But to those outside His grace, there is no greater danger. Pray for the snowflakes and feminist moms—and our own fearful selves—that all may find their one true shelter.


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  • RC
    Posted: Fri, 07/28/2017 09:58 am

    One problem is that, we in America, face danger so seldom, that when it does hit us, we go overboard trying to create a safe environment. Jesus said we are going to face trouble, John 16:33.  So wake up, don’t take unnecessary risks and Trust in Jesus. As the article says, we need to look beyond our circumstances to Jesus.  Then stop expecting this earth to be Heaven. 

  • TxAgEngr
    Posted: Fri, 07/28/2017 05:48 pm

    I think that the opposite of faith in God is not doubt, but rather, the desire to control all of life.  Managing risk is important, but safety can become a golden calf.  

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Sat, 07/29/2017 07:35 pm

    If we Christ-followers want others to listen to our concerns about our religious freedom, then we need also to listen to their concerns.  Sometimes I wonder if God is removing some of our freedoms because we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.