The Tipping Point
Malcolm Gladwell, the celebrated young (at the time) writer whose first book, The Tipping Point, was a tour de force across the land, pushed his theory hard and well: social change behaves like an epidemic. “Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread just like viruses do” (7). Think geometric progression—1 doubles to 2, 2 doubles to 4, 4 doubles to 8, and so on. “We need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that sometimes big changes follow from small events, and that sometimes these changes can happen very quickly” (11).
I am very concerned we may be rapidly escalating to one such tipping point. The stunning sequence now of innocent strangers being gunned down by jittery homeowners—a black young teen mistakenly shot on a doorstep in Kansas City, a white young coed in a driveway mistakenly killed in upstate New York—tragic as these two incidents within the week are, I wonder at what point does proliferation of gun violence snowball into copy-cat, virus-like multiplication . . . until it reaches epidemic proportions?
Add to these two stories the recent string of mass killings within days of each other across the country. The backlash from a public that eventually refuses to stomach this heartbreaking cycle of gun violence could be swift and severe. And it wouldn’t take politicians long to do the political calculus and join them—no matter which side of the 2nd Amendment debate they may be on.
My humble point is that America is fast becoming a tipping point on a myriad of seemingly disparate and disconnected points. But connect the dots (as somebody will) and sound a rallying cry (as they do)—it isn’t rocket science (or even political science) to foresee draconian measures—swift and liberty-crushing—instituted as a reaction.
Through the years my Fourth Watch blog (the Roman fourth watch being the darkest part of the night before daybreak) has tracked public trends and paradigm-shifting events for those who call themselves “Adventists.” Jesus’ unvarnished command to disciples living in a period of immense upheaval is stark: “‘Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen’” (Luke 21:36).
“We need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that sometimes big changes follow from small events, and that sometimes these changes can happen very quickly”—Malcolm Gladwell’s counsel almost seems prescient, doesn’t it?
The trick about geometric progression is that it always appears to go slowly. But give it enough time, the killer virus will explode into an epidemic humanity is ill-prepared to meet. (We barely survived the pandemic, after all.) So watch and pray. I’ll be doing so all the more after our last Sabbath together, May 20, comes and goes. And I will find a way to connect you with a new website and podcast that will enable my personal (unretiring) mission to continue. In the meantime, watch and pray.
Because as you and I well know—the best is yet to come. With Jesus.