I’ve been thinking about behavioral scripts a lot lately, probably because I just got the new album by Icon For Hire called Scripted. Icon For Hire is a metal band from Decatur, IL, who is now on tour with Brian “Head” Welch. I had the opportunity to meet Icon For Hire—Shawn, Ariel, Josh, and Adam—they are top-notch individuals and incredibly nice. I’ll get back to Scripted in a minute.
Behavioral psychology (I was a psych major) teaches us that people use hundreds of scripts each day. Scripts are routines that we memorize when we’re in familiar situations. When seeing someone in the morning at work, we know exactly what to say and do. We simply follow the “script.” When checking out at the grocery store, we follow a script. When talking with a friend, we follow a script. When meeting someone new, we follow a script. We not only follow verbal scripts, but also we apply scripts to people, in order to stereotype them, and easily brush our hands of them. If we see a certain ethnicity, for example, we follow a script in our interactions with him or her.
By following scripts, we are mentally able to “check-out” and exert the least amount of physical, emotional, and intellectual energy. In any given situation, a script tells us what kind of behavior to do or expect. Thus, scripts put distance between people; we no longer engage another, but merely act out a memorized script.
Here are some lyrics from Icon for Hire’s song Scripted:
I know they’ll come with what I’m owed; My enemies belittle me reminding me the penalty of all my deeds despite my plea is death; Don’t let go cause; Don’t wanna be this; Don’t wanna be this; Death is mine I know.
In this song, it’s recognized that humans are bound by scripts. We know that we’re sinners and we deserve death. That’s where we’re headed and we cannot get out of the script no matter how hard we try. So we cry out for a savior to pull us out of the script, “Don’t let go!” When it comes to spirituality, we need a script-breaker. We cannot operate on how things have always been, for that would spell tragedy for us.
We follow scripts when it comes to God, if you haven’t figured that out yet. Even if we aren’t surrounded by enemies, as in the song, but friends, we follow scripts. Even those in church could need a script-breaker.
I’m thinking of John 2:13-22, that part about the temple worship. It was just another day in the life of the typical Jewish worshipper. They were offering sacrifices in the temple. They were bringing their tithes and their offerings. They were exchanging their foreign currency for the native stuff. It was just a typical scripted day in the life of these good religious people.
Then along comes the Script-Breaker, Jesus himself, who storms the temple with a whip and a war cry. Jesus knows no script. He rushes the temple and tosses over all of the tables. He frees the animals and flails his whip like a madman, no doubt piercing skin along the way. All the while he’s shouting out Bible verses.
The Script-Breaker knew that religious scripts needed to be crushed. There were things that were getting in the way of our relationship with God, scripts that put a convenient distance between us and the Almighty.
What scripts do you follow with God? Maybe you don’t believe in God, and that’s your script. You follow the script of disbelief so you don’t have to deal with God. Or maybe you have a religious script; you know what routine to follow to keep others happy, hoping that it will keep God happy, too. Or you might have a prayer script; you say what you need to say to “get through it” and keep God at a distance. Perhaps you have a cultural-script; you follow what the culture says about God rather than investigating him for yourself. If the culture says that there are many ways to God or that God is whatever you want him/her/it to be, then that’s what you’ll believe, just so you won’t rock the boat.
Maybe your script has to do with money. You do whatever is financially reasonable rather than whatever is divinely commanded.
The truth is that Jesus hates our religious scripts, for they put a wall up between us and God. When a wall is up, we cannot experience his healing and life-saving presence. We forget that we are loved by God himself, despite who we are. We are left to face our enemies and death alone.
Icon for Hire is challenging our scripts; we don’t have to follow them and they don’t have to destroy us. There is a way out—for he broke his way in.
© Samuel Kee, 2011