In June, while corporations and governments mindlessly remind us that they fully support child grooming and sexual depravity, it is important to remember that hidden behind all of their rhetoric, the real god they serve is safety. That’s not to say there aren’t True Believers in the Debased religion; in fact, it’s the existence of these zealots that makes observing their holy days an important part of financial safety.

Companies and governments have a sort of broken incentive to minimize liability. The threat of lawsuits, the Twitter mob, the media spotlight on tragedy, and the general lust people have for exciting controversy all fuel this. A company that doesn’t want to be punished will step right in line. To do anything else is to become a target.

This bubble approach to risk explains a lot of the Great Hysteria. Evil men with lots of pull in governments were able to use it to their advantage to bring about a temporary hellscape across almost the entire world. If we still valued the rewards of risk-taking over the comforts of safety, this project would have failed. Men like Bill Gates would be public enemies and would fear every waking moment of their lives what might happen if they step outside their gated estates.

It’s a feature of declining civilizations that safety begins to move from common sense to cult. I think it’s also a feature of feminized cultures. Women tend to think more about safety than men. As the Western Roman empire collapsed, the strategy moved from a strong military to a defensive line and then from a defensive line to intrigue and bribery, and then all the way to a swamp in Ravenna. It makes sense to stay home when you’re sick. It might make sense in extreme cases to quarantine a building or a section of town. A “lockdown” never makes sense medically; it’s a totalitarian crime against humanity masquerading as a safety feature.

The recent school shooting in Texas reminds us of what this maximalist-safety policy has done. Fifty years ago, students would bring their hunting rifles to school and store them in the back of class so they could head into the woods after classes let out. By the time I was in school, these racks lay empty (though some classrooms still had them). However, there were no checkpoints, no guard posts, no locked doors all day every day, no elaborate visitor system, no escorts, nothing. We have all of those and more today, and yet school shootings still happen. The cult of safety responds to each and every horrific event by imagining it needs to find new and evermore oppressive ways to respond. The result is schools that function like prisons that still end up being attacked.

I suspect even people who know all of this still fall prey to it. When you hear about some horrific news across the country, is your first response to think of ways to mitigate that risk yourself? Mine often is, and I know better. For example, a local bridge over a river used to inspire thoughts about how I’d get my children out of the car if we ever went off of it. This, despite knowing full well that no one has ever gone off that bridge (it’s straight and relatively short) in the nearly 80 years it’s been in service, even during our somewhat brutal winters. The cult is so pervasive we need to guard ourselves from it with intensity or it ends up warping our thinking.

Mike Rowe likes to rephrase the expression “safety first” as “safety third”, and it’s a good first step to breaking down the reflexive pursuit of safety at all costs. Life isn’t safe. It never has been and we are deluded if we think it’s safe now. Most children survive childhood, for which we ought to praise God, but life after that is still dangerous.

We need to view safety in reasonable terms. What is the goal? Sometimes safety gets in the way. Sometimes in makes sense. Sometimes the response to a bad event is to find ways to prevent it from happening. I suspect most of the time, the right response is to mourn and pray and hug our own children.