Virtual Voices
Protesters outside the Michigan state Capitol building on Tuesday
Associated Press/Photo by Romain Blanquart (Detroit Free Press)
Protesters outside the Michigan state Capitol building on Tuesday

The nature of crowds

Faith & Inspiration

“Now some cried out one thing, some another, for the assembly was in confusion, and most of them did not know why they had come together” (Acts 19:32).

The poorly covered news of the pandemonium in Lansing, Mich., preceding passage of the “Right to Work” bill brought to mind those words from Acts. In every mob there are always the instigators, the impassioned with conviction, the impassioned without conviction, and lastly the rubberneckers and violence-lovers. Scanning the faces in the crowd in front of the Michigan Capitol building you can spot all types.

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There is a French saying: “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” (“The more things change, the more they stay the same”). Meet the ringleader of a civil outbreak in first century Ephesus who employed similar tactics in stirring up labor union participation:

“For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no little business to the craftsmen. These he gathered together, with the workmen in similar trades, and said, ‘Men, you know that from this business we have our wealth’” (Acts 19:24-25).

Plug in UAW for “craftsmen” and SEIU for “workmen in similar trades.”

And, of course, there is the obligatory appeal to noble principle to mask monetary greed. Demetrius continued:

“And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence …” (verse 27).

Nevertheless, I would say that the difference between the mob in Lansing and the mob in Ephesus was that, at the end of the day, the mob in Ephesus was better behaved. See how a modicum of reason prevails and order is restored:

“And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, ‘Men of Ephesus. … If … Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another. But if you seek anything further, it shall be settled in the regular assembly. For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” And when he had said these things, he dismissed the assembly’” (verses 35-41).

And how many people wielding picket signs even understood deeply what they were fighting for?

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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