Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Daily Office Reflection: Crowds and Mobs

Psalms 119:49-72; Joshua 8:30-35; Romans 14:13-23; Matthew 26:57-68

I was at a baseball game recently sitting out in the right field bleachers. It was a beautiful evening, the stadium was crowded, people were talking, watching the game, buying beer and sodas and pretzels and peanuts and hot dogs: most everyone just having a grand ole time.

Over in the center field bleachers there was a group of younger men who, throughout the evening, kept trying to get the crowd to "do the wave": where people raise their hands and jump out of their seat all around the particular tier of the ball park, making what appears to be a human tidal wave moving around the stadium. Try as they might they just couldn't get the "wave" going. The crowd just wasn't into it that evening.

A "crowd mentality" can be unpredictable: it can be infectiously fun but it can also be infectiously dangerous. When it is the latter the "crowd" usually becomes known as a "mob": something unruly and uncontrollable where conscious thought leaves and people begin to act in ways that are less then up to society's standards of decency.

We have just such a mob mentality develop at the end of today's Gospel reading where the crowd around the high priest, who has just rent his garments, are pushing on, spitting on, slapping and tormenting Jesus. They were whipped into a frenzy by his calm presence and demeanor and by the manipulation of them by the high priest Caiaphas. This crowd of people did develop into a mob.

Although I have never been caught up in a mob mentality, I have been in situations where great joy has permeated through a group, where those feelings of camaraderie are communally felt. The opposite of that kind of experience is what appears to have happened with Jesus when he was brought before Caiaphas. And I can't help but wonder, in what circumstances am I brought to a frenzy to do things that are not right, without thought. What circumstances are going on in today's world that requires us to take a step back and not get caught up in a mob mentality.

Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.

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