Mobs have been around for a long time. It was a cruel mob that called for the crucifixion of Jesus. Pilate suggested that Jesus should be chastised and released, because He had done nothing worthy of death, but in Luke 23:18 it says the mob “cried out all at once, saying, ‘Away with is man (Jesus), and release unto us Barabbas.’” And when Pilate attempted to reason with them again they cried, “Crucify Him, crucify him.”
The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 are a perfect example of mob mentality and illustrates what can happen when religious extremism and the unruly masses collide. In Salem it appeared that the whole town agreed with the bloodthirsty mob and relished in the witches’ destruction even though the evidence used to imprison or execute the alleged witches was often implausible.
The Reign of Terror during the French Revolution started in 1793 and was led by a murderous fanatic who worked the masses into a frenzied mob that unleashed all kinds of terror including public beatings, firing squads, beheadings, weighting victims and tossing them from boats, and doing whatever cruelties that satisfied their bloodlust.
There have been times when fanatical soccer fans have wrought havoc in cities hosting major events by gathering in mob-like fashion to turn over cars, ignite fires, throw rocks and garbage at police, smash store windows, and loot businesses.
Most people in America have either forgotten or never heard of the mass lynching in Arkansas in 1919. A group of sharecroppers developed a union to protect themselves from planters that were taking unfair advantage of them. However, the planters also mobilized and decided to do whatever it took to put down the alleged uprising. Hundreds of white veterans, recently returned home from WWI, set out to find the sharecroppers and the result was the mass murder of 237 African Americans. According to the Daily Beast, “None of the participants in the killings answered for their crimes. No one was charged, no trials were held – at least none of those who had killed blacks.”
James Madison, America’s fourth president, wrote in the Federalist No 10, “A pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction.”
Madison wanted to prevent factions from distorting public policy and threatening liberty, so his intention was to exclude people from a direct role in government.
In commenting on Madison’s position Jeffrey Rosen offers the following explanation in The Atlantic: “The Framers designed the American constitutional system not as a direct democracy but as a representative republic, where enlightened delegates of the people would serve the public good. They also built into the Constitution a series of cooling mechanisms intended to inhibit the formulation of passionate factions, to ensure that reasonable majorities would prevail.”
However, today we have politicians urging mob rule. In June, U. S. Representative Maxine Waters told supporters in California to confront Trump administration officials wherever and whenever they could.
Waters reportedly said, “Let’s make sure we show up wherever we have to show up. If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out, and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
A coalition of black pastors, representing two million African Americans in their congregations, responded to Waters’ rally cry by holding a press conference and called for Waters to be censured by Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.
Diante Johnson, president and founder of the Black Conservative Federation called Waters’ actions “shameful.”
Star Parker, President of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, declared, “What Maxine Waters did was incite people to mob rule; to try to overthrow the will of Americans, and that is Third World. For (Waters) to take us back to the point of Jim Crow because now instead of your ethnicity it’s your values. That is not acceptable.”
In the last three years numerous newspaper and magazine articles have addressed the subject of “mob rule” in America. Newsweek published an opinion commentary entitled “America is in danger of being ruled by the mob.” Other articles include, “We have the choice of mob rule and anarchy or rule of law,” “Mob rule is coming to America,” “Noble individuals will save America. Mob rule will destroy it,” “James Madison’s mob rule fears have been realized” and “When the mob rules, everyone is a target.”
When Christianity loses its consensus in American life you can no longer have the respect and common courtesy that prevailed when the Christian faith was a fundamental influence in our society. As I stated in an earlier editorial, “The Death of Civility,” there is a huge difference in civil disobedience advocated by Martin Luther King, Jr. and mob rule advocated by some today.
Mob rule can lead to anarchy and anarchy leads to tyranny. To think one can turn freedom to decadence and avoid tyranny is the height of foolishness. Once the ancient landmarks of morality and Biblical ethics are removed, nations spin out of control and only an increase of centralized power can return order. It comes at a high price, however, as the darkness of subjugation dims the true light of liberty.