The Madness of Crowds: Give Us Barabbas

The Madness of Crowds: Give Us Barabbas

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When innocent people get killed, it’s about the worst feeling in the world. We should be morally outraged. In fact, while some deaths are justified, they shouldn’t be what we wish. In a prayer with me last night, a little kid requested, “God, please make bad people into good people so that they can be our friends.”

That’s a great prayer. It’s what we should want. We should desire redemption while it is possible, and remember that where there is life, there is hope.

What we can’t let happen is the mob mentality that takes over, when we see a truly terrible person have something bad happen to them due to their own actions, and we desire pain to be inflicted on the innocent. When that happens, it’s indicative of a society that wants to have dominance over others, rather than justice and mercy.

Recently, a man convicted of sexual assault returned to a victim, and the outcome was horrible. Elsewhere, a man convicted of stabbing four people tried to stab law enforcement and tragically died. In both cases, there was an uproar against the officers, and officers in general. Following those events, an attempted execution on two unrelated officers took place on the other side of the country. Some people cheered, hoping that the officers would die from their wounds. It is as impossible to say that all officers are good people as it is to say that the attempted execution was a good thing.

In these times I am reminded of Jesus. When He was hauled before the Romans, Pilate offered to free any one person that the Jews chose. The Jewish people were incensed by Jesus, who was innocent, and demanded that the Romans free Barabbas. Barabbas “had been imprisoned with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the insurrection,” yet it was this murderer for whom the crowd chanted. (Mark 15:6-15)

When we get caught up in the madness of crowds* and the desire to accomplish goals sans nuance, we often end up abandoning wisdom and justice. I have been guilty of this. It’s one of the most wildly difficult things to combat, and it’s easiest to fight by getting to know others at the personal level.

*Dr. Dan Ariely’s studies have shown that crowds, even with command structure, are by no means more rational than individuals, and often are in fact less rational. (The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone, Especially Ourselves, p. 50-54; see also Douglas Murray’s The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity.)

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