March 3, 2014

The First Flash Mob

by Clint Archer

One online encyclopedia (yes, I am a Wikiholic) describes a flash mob as:

a group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual and seemingly pointless act for a brief time, then quickly disperse, often for the purposes of entertainment, satire, and artistic expression…”

The dubious honor of inventing flash mobbing belongs to Bill Wasik, the senior editor of Harper’s. He claimed the idea appealed to him as an oddball social experiment, as well as holding the promise of potential notoriety for him being credited with starting the next big thing. Ironically, it kinda worked.

heart flash mobOn June 17, 2003 Wasik employed nascent social media networking to arrange for about 150 people to meet at four staging areas in Manhattan bars. There they received their mission, and proceeded to converge on a specific locale, namely a particular rug in the furnishing department on the ninth floor of Macy’s.

The atmosphere was electric as this bevy of strangers suppressed knowing smiles and did their best to maintain a poker face as they each answered the repeated question of the sales assistants. Whenever they were asked what they needed or if they could be helped, each of the flash mobbers simply explained that they were all part of a commune that occupied a bare warehouse, and that they were collectively deciding on a “love rug” that they all liked.

And then, as suddenly as the mob had convened, it dissipated like a colony of startled ants disgorged from the department store and vanished into the anonymity of New York City’s sidewalks.

What is the point of all that effort and co-ordination, you may be excused for predictably asking. The answer is: nothing. And that’s the point.

The term “flash mob” was added to the 11th edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, whose definition included the distinctive of this crowding as being “unusual and pointless” as opposed to purposeful public gatherings, like protests.

There is another spontaneous crowd formation in history that seemed pointless to some observers, but in reality was the most meaningful public gathering in human history.

donkeyIn Luke 19 we see Jesus entering Jerusalem for the last time before his atoning death on the cross. In a real sense, this trip was always the final destination of his terminal trip to earth. Jesus enters his Capital as the King of the Jews. He elects as his steed of choice, not a warhorse stallion, but an untrained, donkey foal.

The only pomp and splendor afforded to the King was the cries of his people, and even that was begrudged by the religious leaders who grumbled that he should mute the madness. In their minds this display was the pointless mass hysteria of unthinking plebs. They were calling him the Son of David, and quoting Messianic texts. This would all be highly irreverent and futile, if Jesus were only a man.

Some say that Jesus was an astute teacher, a moral example, an admirable philosopher, but he never claimed to be the Son of God. That deplorable heresy was attributed to him by delusional disciples in the emotionally-charged aftermath of his assassination. These skeptics assert that Jesus himself never claimed to be special in any way.

But listen to how Jesus replies to the Pharisees…

Luke 19: 39-40 And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

The Pharisees saw the mob as paying reckless homage to a mere man, which any respectable rabbi would deplore and dissuade. Instead, Jesus reasserts the propriety of the worship being offered to him.Palm Sunday flash mob

This means quite simply that Jesus was either deliberately playing into the crowd’s quixotic delusions of his grandeur, a trait of a resolute conman; or Jesus was claiming to be God’s chosen Messiah.

What do you think: pointless flash mob of frivolous followers, or a clear case of creation finally recognizing its Creator? I really think that if the people didn’t react to the historic significance of the King’s arrival, the rocks and stones would have formed a mineral flash mob of instantaneous praise. And that would have been sad: to be upstaged by a stone.

How about you? Do you take every opportunity to declare the glory of God, or is your witness being outclassed by the clarion testimony of inanimate creation?

Clint Archer

Posts Twitter

Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • I will take every opportunity to declare the Glory of God! Thanks for the reminder!

    • Go be a one-person flashmob of praise!