Lies+Emotions+Bias=Mobs

January 21, 2015


Act 19:32  Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.

Sounds like a great many meetings that I have attended.   Some were bored and doodling like me or trying not to be called on or asked questions not very relevant just to end awkward silences or stop endless quibbling.   Sometimes what was put forth as a policy in the beginning of the meeting got convoluted so much that by the end of the meeting the policy flip flopped.

At one place, I just started dropping out of meetings.  No one fussed or seemed to miss me so while they discussed the same things for months with no resolution I was out accomplishing tasks that were needed.   I even turned a meeting I chaired into a email session that saved me time because the face to face meeting had too many derails and rabbit trails.  I used that hour far more effectively.

Our story here started out with some silversmiths that made idols being concerned about their bottom line.  Paul was converting people to Christ, which meant they no longer bought the silver idols.  Angered by this the silversmiths started spreading the word that Paul was seeking to make Diana’s temple despised and upset the order of the world.  In a sense, they were right because Paul was preaching one God and one only, which smacked down all the gods/goddesses.  When people came to Christ, the idols would be done away with and temple attendance would go down, but that was not the real goal.  The goal was to win people to Christ.  The others things were the result of coming to faith in Christ.

Act 19:29  And the whole city was filled with confusion: and having caught Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul’s companions in travel, they rushed with one accord into the theatre.

Consequently, the whole city became emotionally confused, not having all the facts and running on high emotion can easily cause that. So they drag these men into the theatre to publicly denounce and abuse them.  People start pouring in and others seeing the crowd start heading that way as well.  As they go, they are probably asking what is going on and most likely got varying answers.  Thus when this crowd was complete you have the situation described in verse 32.

Act 19:34  But when they knew that he was a Jew, all with one voice about the space of two hours cried out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians.

Add to the confusion the introduction of someone or something despised and boom you have a two hour shouting session that makes anything you would hear at a Super Bowl game sound like a whisper.

In this situation a town clerk or government official comes in, calms them down by giving them the facts and sending them home.  He did well because often once the emotions have reached this peak facts mean very little.  It is a big swing from shouting for two hours to quietly leaving the theatre.

This method of spreading a lie for someone’s gain or agenda, raising emotions and getting those emotions expressed by shouting with the intent of leading them into violence of some sort has been practiced many times throughout history. Indeed, we have seen it many times in our life time.

Emotions are a wonderful thing, but don’t let them get out of control.  Seek the truth or facts first.  Facts should be the engine and not the facts you think you know or what you want to be a fact, but the truth.  I don’t know how many times I have had to send people links from http://www.truthorfiction.com or http://www.snopes.com showing that the thing they are elated about or angry about or makes them afraid are bogus.  Basic rules of thumb if it sounds too good to be true it probably is not.  If it is too horrible to imagine it is probably exaggerated.  If it says so and so said so and so about something, it is probably out of context or not said by that person but it was attributed to them.  It may even have been contrived to create unnecessary and excessive traffic on the network to try and bring down a server.  Don’t help a hacker.

To my Christian friends, did it ever occur to you that folks that are not exactly Pro-Christian might generate crazy stuff just to get you emotional so you will start petitions and look like a fool?  They could also write some of what seems like the most wonderful story or miracle just to have you share a million times a fairy tale as they laugh about stupid and gullible Christians .  I have been fooled myself because I trusted the judgment of someone I respected.  Preachers, be careful about using some of the stuff you see on the internet or was sent to you by a pillar of the church.  They may have been sincere about the post, but they may also be sincerely wrong.

Once you have the facts then let your passion fuel that engine.  Still, you don’t want to over stoke that engine or the boiler can blow and derail your sincere attempt to fix something, right a wrong or even advance a good thing.  In fact, it may be far better to let your faith fuel the engine and allow the passion to be pulled along like a caboose.  How often have you seen that illustration when speaking of the Christian life?  Facts are the engine. Faith is the coal car and feelings are the caboose.  Seeking by faith God’s direction when you have the facts will keep the emotions under control.  Maintaining control of emotions will keep you from being swayed by the mob and by His grace getting caught up in the melee.  That is the way to avoid being a victim or God forbid, a perpetrator of the violence.  No, you may not physically harm someone, but your words may beat down someone just as badly as if you used a hammer.

It has taken me many years to come to this understanding. I was raised in an area where bullying seemed like a rite of passage and people screamed and verbally abused each other rather than have rational dialogue. If you were someone they held a bias against your life would be rough. Compounded by being mentored by pastors who thought being rude and crude was being bold for the Lord it was no wonder I was led down that path and took on that mentality and demeanor.  Stirring the emotions was also part of their normal protocol and often generated negative actions and attitudes rather than positive ones.  Sometimes, whether intentional or not, there was even some half truths or speaking from the pulpit things heard in private. It is not easy to overcome that, but by the grace of God, I trust I am making progress.

So avoid lies, keep your emotions in check and ask God to remove any ungodly bias from your heart.  Stay away from mobs and make sure you are not a mob of one in your words and actions. The peace that will bring to your soul and your family will give peace in your community and country a chance.

Shalom! Maranatha!

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