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

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Crowds or Mobs

On Crowds, Mobs, World Cup games, celebrations after the winning of the World Series, NBA finals and the Super Bowl.

The crow at the Vienna symphony is not the same as a crowd at a Rolling Stones concert. There will be applause at one and frenzied raucous noise in the crowds of the other.

There is a great difference between a frenzied man and a frenzied mob. A frenzied man may be crazy and can be subdued but a frenzied mob is considered innocent and cannot be subdued. A few may be arrested in a riot, but not everyone. A frenzied crowd is contagious for more frenzy.

This has been going on for centuries.
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
When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Acts 17:8

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 19:32-34

When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in human form!" Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. Acts 14:11-13
Then some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead. Acts 14:19
The same crowd who wanted to worship Paul and Barnabas a few days later stoned Paul and left him for dead. The same crowd who shouted “Hosanna” to Jesus on Sunday shouted “Crucify” on Friday. This was mob action, not individual action.

Here is a quotation from Charles Mackay’s book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds publication in 1841: “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herd, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”

When I was a boy, younger than eight, my father told me to not join a crowd even as an observer or with curiosity. My presence gives authority to the mob whether it is a lynch mob or a student riot. An attendee is not innocent of the actions of the crowd.

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