“It’s Almost Never Wise to Trust a Mob”

Mobs. I never have cared much for them.

Personality—mine, that is—explains part of this. I’m not particularly freaked out by large crowds, I just don’t enjoy them and am happy to avoid them. It’s not a phobia. (“Enochlophobia” is “fear of crowds,” I’m told.) It’s a dislike.

I don’t enjoy what often seems mindless and is most certainly loud, and those two features tend to cluster around big crowds like flies around a dung heap. Peace is good. Quiet is precious. And the sounds we choose to fill our lives with (when we have a choice; we often don’t) should be an improvement over silence. (I wonder about a society that is afraid of silence, but that’s another subject.)

We’re told repeatedly in Scripture that Jesus often went out by himself to pray. Even God’s Son needed some time away from the ever-present and always needy crowds, which leads me to think that we might need some, too.

I like the music metaphor. Notes only have meaning and beauty because of the space between them.

To have something to say when we speak, we need some quiet time when we don’t have to speak. To be able to nurture others, we need souls able to go deep and fill up in the quiet. To pray. To read. To think. To breathe.

The time will come soon enough when we’re back in the crowd. Maybe if beforehand we’re still and quiet enough, we’ll have something worth sharing and a soul God-built strong enough in the silence to handle the soul-stifling noise that so often assails us.

All to say, crowds can be loud. Ah, but here’s a question for you: what’s the difference between a crowd and a mob? Let’s think quietly for a moment.

Well, not every crowd is a mob. Crowds may be loud; mobs are louder. But mobs are not just particularly loud crowds; they’re not even just mindless, frenzied crowds. (Those are called “fans.” Sorry.)

Mobs are crowds on steroids, including all the side effects. Mobs are loud, fickle, and downright dangerous. You see, even if their “cause” is not an inherently bad one, a mob is much more quickly described as “angry” than a simple crowd might be. “Deep anger” multiplied by “many folks” is gasoline just waiting for a spark.

Granted, it’s not impossible for a mob to begin with some “righteous” indignation. But it easily becomes just indignation and soon slides right on down into anger.

Some mob members are professional complainers and like nothing better than a good riot; they are misbehaving malcontents of the sort our national media loves to spotlight. People with sense who are not spoiled brats or professional victims, folks whose parents raised them to value civility, are in greater supply but are usually a lot quieter and, being generally occupied with worthwhile duties and pursuits, are less likely to be photographed shouting and with fists in the air.

I know. Some protests are worthy. I’m thankful and humbled when people who love freedom raise their voices together courageously to speak truth to Communist thugs or other dictators for whom truth is deadlier than bullets.

But I’m thinking here of mobs of a different sort.

Personally, I’d be slow at present to trust internet mobs, for example, who are careful about social distancing and quarantine but ranting that only fools would open up their states right now. We don’t all live in New York City.

But neither do I trust mobs who are carefully not social distancing, standing side by side, and screaming in front of state capitol buildings, “Open Up Now!” Shouting throws the human brain into neutral.

Of course, mobs are nothing new. Surely, anyone who has read the Gospels has wondered how many of the folks in that famous crowd shouting “Hosannas” on Palm Sunday were the same ones in the mob crying, “Crucify him!” on Friday.

It’s rarely wise to trust a mob. And it’s almost always unwise to join one.


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Copyright 2020 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or profiteering is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

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