Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mobs and Riots

Back in the early thirties, when I was a little boy, my father told me a story of a lynch mob in Omaha who stormed the Douglas County Jail. They intended to hang a black man who was incarcerated in the jail. The sheriff stood in the way and told the mob that they would have to hang him before they could hang the black man. The mob agreed and proceeded to hang the sheriff and the inmate. An open touring car came driving through the mob. The occupants cut the ropes of both men. They fell into the car. The car drove off.

My father had one moral to the story. It was, “Do not join a crowd. Most people in the crowd are there because they are spectators. They think that they are not part of the mob; they are only onlookers. However, they are the ones who give authority to the leaders of the mob.”

I have seen on TV and heard of many kinds of mobs. There is a hysteria that is created that affects everyone.

Here are a few:

1. Spectators in English soccer matches
2. Riots that burned down Newark, Watts in L.A. and Detroit, all in the late
3. Anti-Viet Nam War Student riots.
4. The Chicago Democratic Convention in 1968.
5. Home town celebrations after winning the Super Bowl or the World Cup.

Today, 10,000 men in a frenzy in Baghdad hating Israel.

All of these mobs are incited by a few men. Then they become self sustaining

Here are a few more from the New Testament.

The crucifixion of Jesus; Pilate was coerced by the mob and the mob was caused by the chief priests and the elders.

“But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" asked the governor. "Barabbas," they answered. "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked. They all answered, "Crucify him!" "Why? What crime has he committed?" asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, "Crucify him!" When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!" All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.” Matthew 27:20-26

The riot in Ephesus: “About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: "Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty." When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater. Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater. The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. The Jews pushed Alexander to the front, and some of the crowd shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” Acts 19:23-34

The riot in Thessalonica: “But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.” Acts 17:5

The riot in Antioch: “The word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.” Acts 13:49, 50

Do not join the crowd regardless who is inciting it.

People seem to think they are personally not guilty when they participate in riots which destroy, loot, harm, and kill.

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