With the possible exception of the very first sin, the worst decision in history (in terms of moral miscalculation) was inspired by mob mania. Foaming and frenzied, they cried, “Release Barrabas. Crucify Jesus!” Pilate buckled.
Governor Pilate was prefigured by Aaron at the foot of Sinai. While Israel’s true leader was away with God, the people formed a mob and prevailed upon his brother. By definition, mobs assert demands and theirs was this: “Make us gods who will go before us.” Wobbly and weak-kneed, Aaron complied. The idol calf was born. Maybe Aaron knew the danger of resisting a mob, especially in that rocky terrain. Ask Stephen (Acts 7), who died underneath a pile of bloody stones. For that matter ask Stephen’s stoner (Acts 14), later himself the victim of a less familiar stone-hurling mob in Lycaonia.
The spirit of the mob still roams the whole earth wherever men walk, rocky or not. Post-Eden, nothing is more human than mobbism. Emotions are manipulated, hatred stirred, facts flexed. Voilà, a mob forms. Despots of all stripes have learned it well, whether leading a protest, a stoning, or an all-out revolution: it’s an efficient means to the desired end.
The mob is perhaps most dangerous when it is least recognizable. We think of mobs as wildfires with the wind at their backs, fanning across the landscape. Mudslides of tumbling rubble. You can’t miss them. But don’t limit your concept of a mob to Genesis 19, or forty Twittering teenagers looting a Walgreens store, or something similarly overt. One can just as easily trample justice in a suit and tie. Mobs exist wherever multitudes gather in unison to make victims, forsaking virtue, reason, and truth.
Possessing a biblical worldview, our founders acknowledged the sinful condition of humanity. They understood our susceptibility to mass manipulation and seemed less concerned about marching mobs than seated mobs. James Madison observed in Federalist 55, “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.” Having been so warned we ought not be surprised if and when Congress itself functions as a mob, swayed by passions, ruling against reason, and piling up victims. To understand fully one must forsake the media-crafted Democrat vs. Republican narrative and perceive the contest as that of a few non-establishment heroes putting up body barricades against the advancing horde of Ds and Rs.
Mob rule in any form means ruination and though you are less likely to take a chunk of granite in the temple, “civilized” mobs are ultimately no less ruinous. They, too, must be resisted with force — intellectual force, mostly. But who will put up such a resistance? Only those whose worldview permits it.
If we are to remain a civil society governed by sturdy things like truth and reason, effective resistance to the mob will not rise up from atheist quarters. It will not because it cannot. Against all protestations to the contrary, it is a fact that the atheist has abandoned the foundation of reason and objective morality. Matter does not produce mind.
As I see it, our only bulwark is the reemergence of a robust Christianity, which builds leaders of courage and discernment — men who with all their hearts believe in such things as transcendent justice, truth and beauty, equality and the rule of law. Resembling our founders, men who think deeply. Men who stand firmly and speak boldly. Men who act selflessly.
The mob is assembled. If Christians retire to our homes in this hour our neighbors may be trampled in the street.
Image: twitter.com/mattwi1s0n; https://www.flickr.com/photos/piccadillywilson/330935072; CC by 2.0