It was my freshman year and a beautiful fall day on the Texas A&M campus, I was walking to my engineering 101 class when I heard the sound of chaos up ahead. As I approached the Memorial Student Center I noticed a crowd surrounding a table in Rudder Plaza. The university was handing out free “Maroon-out” t-shirts to students and apparently, they were pretty popular. The school had sent out a university-wide email that these items would be available on a first come, first served basis until supplies ran out. There was no line and no order to the mess. People were expecting free shirts and very clearly I could see they were getting upset. Shirts were everywhere and people were slashing through them looking for the right size. I wanted no part in this mess, but I was a college student who could not turn down a free shirt. So I approached the crowd hoping that I might find a shirt my size but as a got closer I realized that people just didn’t seem to care about each other. They were pushing and even fighting for these free shirts! This was an experience of my fellow Texas A&M Aggies that I had never experienced before. What happened to cause people to act this way?
There are a few characteristics of behavior when we enter a crowd and I would like to share a few of them with you. The first is that when we enter a crowd, we become part of it and there is anonymity. Anonymity allows others to act as if they do not know one another. Second, being in a crowd tends to cause a person to act emotional and impulsive. It grants each person certain freedom to act impulsively on their own behalf. The final characteristic I would like to share is paradoxical to the second. The impulsive act of the individual causes them to lose individuality and act as one with the crowd. This is often known as mob mentality. Mob mentality describes how people can be influenced by others to adopt certain behaviors on a largely emotional, rather than rational, basis.
Crowds are not always angry or upset, but they often form out of expectation. They come expecting something, maybe they are expecting free t-shirts or maybe something more life-changing like equality, the right to be heard, or even a refuge from oppression. It is no surprise to me that often peaceful protests of crowds often turn into angry mobs. When a person loses the ability to act rational and begins to act purely out of emotion things can turn violent real quick. This Sunday’s scripture is Luke 6:17-26 and we will read about a crowd that forms expecting something from Jesus. Many of them come trying to be healed from their diseases so they press forward to touch Jesus’ cloak. The crowd never turned angry or violent, but why?
I believe it all has to do with how Jesus approached the crowd. Rather than taking a high place of authority and speaking to them from a high advantage, Jesus approached the crowd at their level. Luke 6:17-26 is often referred to as the “Sermon on the Plain”. The location on a level plain suggests that Jesus assumed a vantage point of equality. This Sunday join us 9:30 AM for Sunday School and 10:30 AM for worship as we discuss The Expectant Crowds that surround us today and how we like Jesus can meet those crowds at their level.
In God’s grip,
Pastor Chuck Church