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  1. Rudy Good
    29 November 2012 @ 5:50 pm

    For those of us who believe there truly is a supernatural realm that includes evil personalities capable of effecting human lives, it might be interesting to know what part those evil personalities play in mob mentality.

    I am more interested in what we can do counteract mob mentality and the influence of evil forces on our own experience. Most people realize that a crowd or mob can be easily deceived to support evil ideas. I do not think understanding crowd "think" or dynamics is what is needed to protect us from the danger.

    I think knowing Christ and coming under His influence is the only way to avoid being eventually caught up in mob mentatility and coming under the influence of supernatural evil personalitie (demons). We must truly know Christ, not endorse someone else's portrayal.

    Actually, I don't think crowds are ostensibly divorced from morality as suggested in the blog. It fact I think it can be nearly the opposite. It can be a since of moral superiority that really emboldens a crowd that has succumbed to mob mentality. One fairly consistent interpretation of passages in Revelation is that they prophecy of a time when mob mentality is aligned with moral deception. It may be true that a crowd has a diminished moral capacity, but those in the crowd may believe and claim just the opposite.

    • Rudy Good
      29 November 2012 @ 5:52 pm

      In the last paragraph "It fact" should be "In fact," and "since" should be "sense".

  2. Herbert Douglass
    29 November 2012 @ 6:42 pm

    Rudy surely added more substance to my blog. No question about it: most mobs are moved by people who really believe that they are riding the high ground–that is the secret of Goebbels' amazing conrol of Germany during the 1930s and 1940s. And any world power that convinces the world that world unity is the high road to world peace, surely sells the best motives.   Seems to me that the wide-awake Christian in the end-time will have his head on straight regarding just what issues have the highest authority. Cheers, Herb Douglass

    • Elaine Nelson
      29 November 2012 @ 10:38 pm

      There have been many protests,  some became mobs, that have achieved great things:  the many protests aided in ending the Vietnam war.  The Wall St. protests got the attention of leaders in Washington.  Womens' Suffrage used large protest groups; the Civil Rights used large groups.  We cannot label all such large groups of people as unruly mobs:  they call attention to what is often ignored by the leadcrs.  For those who believe in religious liberty and freedom of speech, protests have been very effective in the past to convince leaders that the people need to be heard.

  3. William Noel
    29 November 2012 @ 7:55 pm


    Thank you for a timely insight into what is happening in our politically correct world. 

    Mobs often are composed of people who, had they been on their own instead of in the crowd, would not have behaved in the same manner and probably even condemned the very things they do as part of the mob.  Resisting such pressure requires that a person have a clear understanding of the differences between truth and falsehood, have a living connection with God by which to request and receive guidance for the moment, and been tested so their perceptions are acute and they trust God supremely. 

    Mob behaviors happen in churches, too.  Unfortunately, political correctness has eroded and perverted that sense of right and wrong in many professed followers of God.  They spend more time studying the words of popular political leaders and being entertained than studying their Bibles and communing with God.  This allows their perception of truth to become perverted where they embrace lies as if they were truth and defend them with vigor that belongs only to what is true.  Thus they are quick to advocate for what is politically correct and condemn any who dare defend truth as if they were angels of darkness.  I am deeply saddened to see how many in the church have been deceived in this way and are acting like they were part of a mob.  I pray that God will open their eyes to realize how they have been misled so they will repent.

  4. Anonymous
    30 November 2012 @ 6:29 am

    Thank you, Herb. This is an excellent and timely blog. I do agree very much with Rudy, however that moral sentiment is a primary motivator of mobs. Pick any of the hot button political issues of the day, and you will see the agenda driven by those who are the most effective at jinning up moral outrage. Moral outrage is primarily driven by a sense of grievance, unfairness, and inequity. This was what drove the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution. This was what made the fascists and communists so effective in the 20th Century. This is what gives Islamofascism such appeal. The shift in the nation's anchor values from the rule of law to the rule of moral outrage has to a large degree been facilitated by demagogues who have used anger and moral outrage to replace traditional, voluntary, intermediate sources of moral authority – family, church, local community – with coercive, statist, elitist authorities.

    A second key aspect of mob mentality is the absence of an ability to see trade-offs, i.e., negative consequences of the actions urged by the mob. Using Elaine's example of the Vietnam protests, even today, those who see our withdrawal from Vietnam, and our post-Watergate reneging on promised aid to the people of South Vietnam, as a glorious victory, refuse to acknowledge the devastating consequences of that withdrawal to the people of Cambodia and South Vietnam. The lies of John Kerry were necessary to create and sustain the moral outrage that turned a winnable war into a catastrophe for the people of South Vietnam and Cambodia. Read "The Blood on John Kerry's Hands" by Jim Bancroft. Had the adolescent mobs of the 1960's and 70's been present in 1952, there would be no South Korea today. But they would view the prison State and desolation of a unified communist Korea as a great victory for peace and moral enlightenment. 

    A third key feature of mobs is a lack of respect for the rule of law. Their moral claims trump the law, which is merely a tool of oppression for the ancien regime. So we have seen public officials piously declaring their cities sanctuary cities; mayors marrying gays in violation of existing law; high public officials refusing to enforce laws they don't like, and bypassing the legislative process with regulations and executive orders.

    As our economy follows our morality into a state of total collapse, we will increasingly see lawless mobs like OWS and public employee unions intimidating the country. The elites of legacy media, academia, and politics want a world currency, with greater authority over nations vested in the U.N. Even the Pope has called for centralized global authority over the economies of the world. The political interests which are aligning to control the future are decidedly hostile to Christianity. Whether and how historical Adventist issues will stand out as the curtain closes on history, and the persecution of Christians intensifies, remains to be seen. But it is wonderful to know that we are in God's hands.

  5. Ed Fry
    30 November 2012 @ 5:25 pm

    Though this is not the focus of Herb's well-written piece, as a political conservative I take a different stand on the phrase "living, breathing Constitution" than most of my fellow conservatives.  My take is the U.S. Constitution is, in fact, "living" and "breathing."  It can be adapted to fit modern times and challenges.  The wisdom and forethought of its authors anticipated the need for the Constitution to evolve with changing times.  As such, they incorporated into it a mechanism for change:  the Amendment process.  The problem we conservatives have is when others attempt to change the Constitution through other means than that specified in the document itself.

    • William Noel
      30 November 2012 @ 8:25 pm


      I think you have misunderstood the concept of a "living, breathing" constitution.  It was an invention of liberals first written about in the 1920s as a means of preventing the continual frustration they were experiencing when the slowness of the amendment process prevented them from achieving their objectives.  It's the old concept of "If you can't win by playing by the rules, change the rules until you can't lose."   The result has been a continual assault on the specific rights that are guaranteed to individuals by the Constitution and based on the concept that those rights originate from our creator instead of the government. 

      The amendment process was written by the founders who had two objectives: 1) to require that changes be tested thoroughly before adoption, and 2) to prevent a minority from seizing control of the government and imposing on the nation the same sort of tyranny from which they had just fought a war to excape.  A lot of conservatives have forgotten about that perspective.  

      • Ed Fry
        30 November 2012 @ 11:18 pm

        William, I understand completely where this phrase originated. I just take “their” phrase and turn it around on them. At the same time, I remind my fellow conservatives the Constitution “lives and breathes,” too. That should be a descriptive phrase we’re comfortable with, albeit for different reasons.

  6. Herbert Douglass
    30 November 2012 @ 6:35 pm

    Frankly, I am quietly thankful that I submitted this blog. Rudy, William, Elane, Nathan, and Ed have simply filled out further what I was getting at. If I were to write it again, I surely would incorporate their thoughts. It surely is an exception for anyone who has moved from the crowd to a mob to do it without a self-perceived sense of moral rightness. In the days ahead, as Adventists see the Big Picture,economic realities will trump freedom.  It will take a lot of "practice" in putting the authority of God's will above that of realistic consequences. Think Nazi Germany. Being a willing son or daughter now may be the only default position available in the days ahead.  Cheers, Herb

  7. Herbert Douglass
    30 November 2012 @ 9:25 pm

    Yep, William, you reviewed history in the USA perfectly. No other nation in the history of Planet Earth has ever had a group of men who produced anything like our Constitution/Declaration of Independence. They sort of go together. Cheers, Herb

    • Serge Agafonoff
      01 December 2012 @ 12:33 am

      Yes Herb, the Constitution of the USofA is a wonderful document.  Does it help or hinder to realise that this group of men are largely Freemasons, Rosicrucians, Alchemists, Deists etc.?  Personally, I think that is what contributed to their wisdom in framing the document.  The more conservative might feel otherwise.

      • Elaine Nelson
        01 December 2012 @ 1:43 am

        A bit+ of humility should be used when "tribal chest beating."  Everything that is worth while in the world has been accomplished by the free, inquiring, critical spirit and that the preservation of this spirit is more important than any social system whatsoever."

         These ideals of a democratic government were designed by "infidels," as Serge writes;  Influenced more by the Enlightenment than the Bible.
        With the "war on terrorism" there has been a rather breezy dismissal of legal procedure–whenever it comes right down to a question of defending Americanism and our constituional rights, it's justifiable to set aside ordinary procedure.

        • James Wilson
          01 December 2012 @ 3:24 pm

          Using labels like "infidels" and "Christians" should make it easier for Adventists to know where to expect religious and economic oppression before group think sets in. There is so much that we can learn from history and prophesy if we only take the effort to do so.
          Really good article Herb, it is not obvious to me that mobs or groups head off in a particular direction. It would seem that the direction evolves over time. However, once an individual is part of a group it becomes difficult for them to realize that the group no longer shares their values. Instead the individual's values meander with the values of the group.

  8. Ella M
    01 December 2012 @ 12:20 am

    Groupthink isn’t just about mobs but about society in general. People are easily swept away with the newest and often immoral concepts. Without a foundation they follow their peers. This happens in academia and untions, politics and religions, etc. We are subjective, and do not want to look at the other side of issues and think things through.
    Now people who join protests over some moral issue would be going in with a passionate belief that they have already thought out. Those people would be in a different category than a mob (though they may draw some who just want the excitement).

  9. Bill Garber
    01 December 2012 @ 12:27 am


    Been missing you … 

    Mobs are rare, crowds are frequent … gratefully.  I have to say that one of the great benefits to the U.S. has been its forced regular solicitation of the will of the crowd.  I read The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki a few years ago and immediately saw how it had translated into benefits the  U.S. enjoys by its frequent forced elections.

    Surowiecki offers that it is the proven truth that the collective opinion of a thousand Memsa members will be significantly improved by the addition of 100,000 non members, even in matters apparently demanding brilliance to comprehend.

    My sense, and it would be nice to have a citation and I don not, is that mobs are local phenomena.

    As for your interest in … “All the world marveled and followed the beast” Revelation 13:4, NKJV. Or, “These are of one mind, and they will give their power and authority to the beast.” Revelation 17:13, NKJV. …

    In neither case does this seem in any way a description of either a crowd or a mob.  It is, though, an ample description of the human condition.  

    About the beast and Babylon … Ellen White's early sense that the beast of Revelation is the Roman church was common in her day.  As the decades unfolded, she came to declare that the three angles messages were in verity the righteousness by faith message.

    It is no wonder that human anxiety over our individual salvation if dependent on our own actions and knowledge is of such profoundness that it is likened to a life lived in its totality under the awesome sense of God-grade wrath likened to a perpetual rain of fire and brimstone in contrast to the utter serenity of holy angels and the Lamb of God.
    It is not that God is wrathful, but that Babylon is falsely declaring God to be wrathful in an effort to offer fornication-grade succor in lieu of returning the embrace of the pure love of the Creator God. 

    Indeed, had she lived on I imagine that the trajectory of Ellen White's life of progressive understanding would have long ago resulted in her declaring that any church is acting as Babylon when it asserts it specifically has any role in salvation, because such a role always is to call on the individual to take action on their own behalf in terms of their own salvation, often by 'joining' the church or by 'worshiping' in its context.

    I truly look ahead to your next installment.  You are a rock (some would add star) on this site!

  10. earl calahan
    01 December 2012 @ 12:36 am

    Let's seperate large popular movements from Mobs. In the USA there have been orderly large gatherings for redress or notable noble causes, ie: Selma, Ala. & other Martin Luther marches & addresses. Student sit ins for popular reasons, & those listed above by others. However there have been bad endings to some, as you all know, the Veterans march to Washington, D.C., Kent State etc.
    More recently we'd had the Occupy movements. These had a paid nucleus that fomented mob action in various cities, drawing into their groupings young derelicts of our society, wanna bes, and criminal elements. They achieved nothing good. They caused a lot of heat, media attention, destructive behaviour, interruption of peoples & businesses, and with their overnight tenting & partying, a lot of booze, drugs, & rape, reminiscent of some earlier 1960's beatnik crowd happenings, Woodstock, for example. i believe we will be witness to a lot more of these type of occurences in 2013, as the youth unemployed, the drop outs, those who love to be in on these type of violent disorderly happenings, supported by paid organizers move on the inner-cities,and certain media who report & exploit these movements. Keep your families out of the big cities at night.

  11. cb25
    01 December 2012 @ 9:15 am

    Here's a good example of what persistent crowd power can produce. First link is the history, after reading that, do a google search for "spanish tomato festival" in google images. Enjoy!

  12. Anonymous
    03 December 2012 @ 7:18 pm

    Once an individual realizes the value-added factor of the group (mob) in empowering his values, the group itself can become the supreme value, and one loses the capacity to critique expressions of group morality.

    I remember a few years ago hiking down the tourists' Mt. Sinai with a prominent Adventist theologian. We fell into conversation with a charming Muslim English high school teacher from London about the British education system, and afterwards, my theologian friend commented that it was too bad more people couldn't see and experience adherents of the Muslim faith as we had just seen and experienced them through this gentleman. I jokingly inquired as to the provenance of his confidence that the man we had just met was not a radical Muslim.

    During the ensuing conversation about the relative merits of our own faith and the Islamic faith, my friend magnanimously suggested that religions really ought to be judged by their best qualities rather than by their pathologies – which are endemic to all religions. I remonstrated that such a standard, while commendable in the abstract, would limit our ability to learn from history and to confront evil at its source. Remember what happened in the early 20th Century, as a result of the West judging communism and fascism by their best qualities? And is it not ironic that the primary lesson the West appears to have learned from the Holocaust is substitution of blind intolerance toward highly tolerant Judaism for blind tolerance toward highly intolerant Islam? I understand there is a Talmudic saying: "Those who are kind to the cruel will end up being cruel to the kind." 

    I countered my friend's standard with one which still seems to me a good metric for evaluating both political and religious systems: I proposed that one of the best criteria for judging the merits of a religion or political system is its capacity for self-criticism. Now of course, finding a standard doesn't make the conclusions reached by application of the standard self-evident, any more than viewing the Bible as sacred text results in consensus among Christians. But it does seem to me that a quality which makes Christianity stand out from other religions is its demonstrated capacity for self-criticism and evolution within different cultural and political environments.

    Increasingly, the world's "enlightened", self-appointed moral guardians are losing the capacity for moral self-reflection or humility, and relying on exploitation of mob psychology (think Saul Alinsky) to create internal conformity to identity group ideology and to demonize critics, whether they are inside or outside the "group". They do not accept or understand that tolerance toward those who subscribe to evil leads to intolerance toward those who subscribe to good.

  13. cb25
    03 December 2012 @ 8:37 pm


    Well stated. A religions (crowd? Is Herb part of one?) capacity to be self critical is/would be a good sign of a "healthier" psyche.

    I've just read an article by Sam Harris, in which he compares the freedom one has, or would have, to criticise Mormonism, with that which one clearly does not have to criticise Islam. Below is a paragraph from his text leading into this illustration. He refers to the recent debacle of the "film" on mohammed, Jim Jones etc. The whole article is worth reading.

    "…What exactly was in the film? Who made it? What were their motives? Was Muhammad really depicted? Was that a Qur’an burning, or some other book? Questions of this kind are obscene. Here is where the line must be drawn and defended without apology: We are free to burn the Qur’an or any other book, and to criticize Muhammad or any other human being. Let no one forget it."


    Perhaps in keeping with Herb's blog, we could suggest that the mob psychology has taken over/become dangerous when we are not free to criticise that entity, whatever it may be. Maybe that could lead us to add a criterion to your suggestion: A religious or political system's ability/willingness to undergo external cricicism. This would remove/reduce the problem often associated with "measuring ourselves against ourselves", and the "self evident" issues you mentioned. I think both are classic SDA diseases, though I suspect they endemic to all entitities to a some degree or another.

  14. Anonymous
    04 December 2012 @ 4:20 pm

    Thank you, Chris, for that quote by Sam Harris. It is particularly disconcerting to see the highest officials in America pandering to mob sentiment – giving moral validation to causes fueled by violent hatred – by using their official positions to condemn lawful expression which Americans die to protect.

    But I intuitively want to differentiate between mob psychology and group think. The mob and the group are not moral equivalents, even though group think is certainly characteristic of a mob. Group think operates within the law primarily to maintain conformity within the group. Mobs act at the outer fringes of the the law, or even well beyond the law, to intimidate and subjugate those beyond the grasp of reason or lawful coercion. I look forward to Herb further exploring these differences in his next blog.

    Group think can actually be healthy. It was certainly a part of what made America the Great Melting Pot. It also serves to maintain cultural norms and loyalty within intermediary groups – family, home, school, community – that act as buffers between the centripetal force of political collectivism and the centrifugal force of political individualism. Only when private institutions gain political power does group think threaten to morph into mob action. Unions are a good example of group think morphing into mob action. The agenda of the mob dwarfs and trumps all other moral priorities that would normally operate in the absence of what is emotionally framed as an overriding moral imperative.

    I see churches demonstrating both the healthy and pathological effects of group think. The trick for healthy churches is remaining open to criticism, while at the same time keeping members loyal and faithful to their covenants. Thoughtful, responsible criticism should not be seen as disloyalty. Unfortunately, the church's most vocal critics seem to have attachment issues. They believe they should be welcome to participate at all levels of church life and employment, without demonstrated loyalty or fidelity to the covenants of membership or conditions of employment.

    Is "group think" the product of God's Spirit working in and through the members lives, or must unity be maintained by Pharasaical enforcement of orthopraxy and orthodoxy? I see the SDA Church as quite diverse, and fairly open to criticism, at least if Spectrum and AToday are any indication. Of course that is not the case throughout the world, or even throughout North America. But don't most local churches and conferences, at least in North America, pretty much have the kind of church they want?

  15. cb25
    04 December 2012 @ 7:17 pm

    Nathan, perhaps the following couple of questions can allow focus of the points you have made re group vs mob think, and give examples of how they may play out in the religious and political arena's.

    * Would you see Iran as an example of religiously based group or mob think? In other words, is Iran currenty a "group think" example? Would it take a "mob" think to bring a revolution and freedom? If so, would that "mob" be doing good?

    * Would you see North Korea as an example of politically based group or mob think? We can also ask of NK similar questions, is this an example of "group think". Have they passed that stage and are now ruled by a "mob"? What would it take to bring change to NK? Revolution? Mob think?

    I'm not saying you are wrong in your points, but perhaps it is not simple.

    Certainly, both these entities are not open to external criticism.

    As for "most of the churches vocal critics having attachment issues…" How would you apply that to a vocal critic within Iran, or NK who may want to make major changees from within? Would we not consider them from quite a different perspective?

  16. earl calahan
    04 December 2012 @ 8:05 pm

    Chris, as you know, Iran is controlled by the Mullahs, a dictatorial Islamic religion. NK is controlled by a military (probably  atheist) regime, the fat boy is a puppet face. Group think is instantly destroyed by both regimes, if group think is anti- regime. Change in either regime can happen only by external intervention. In Egypt, what brought down Mubarrach was a combo of group think, mob action, and acquiescence of the military. The military is the power behind the throne in Egypt.
    Change in SDA conservative 19th & 20th century mindset, could only occur if the majority of Unions vote to bring greater input from the church at large. Doubt this will happen as the power is in the developing countries, which have been organized with conservative doctrines.

    • William Noel
      05 December 2012 @ 8:36 pm


      A polite correction.  I understand your point but think your remark about North Korea was reversed.  Group think rules absolutely in North Korea and even the slightest suspicion of deviance from it risks death as an enemy of the state. 

      If you want to get a picture of what such absolute rule can cause, read Blaine Harden's book "Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West."  I downloaded it to my kindle a couple weeks ago, started reading it and soon found the story so incredibly horrible that I've had to put it down for a while.  CBS 60 Minutes did a story about the man in the story recently and you can watch Anderson Cooper's report on-line.  So I shudder to consider the possibility of such repression happening in the "free" countries of the world as the Second Coming approches. 

  17. Anonymous
    06 December 2012 @ 5:51 am

    Chris –

    Your questions are good. I don't think one can realistically have a true mob in a strong police state, like Iran or N.K. To my way of thinking, a hallmark of mob action is violent action against persons and property. The mob does not respect the rule of law. A breakdown in the rule of law and/or the capacity to enforce the law is a necessary condition for mobs to take root. This is a big difference between protesters and demonstrators on the one hand, and a mob on the other. Protests and demonstrations are generally respectful of property rights and personal safety of others, and that is why they are often tolerated to a degree in police states as a sort of safety valve. Mobs are transitional, anarchistic phenomena, that are readily exploited by political forces that stand ready to move in and offer reform and security in exchange for iron-fisted control. I am not aware of historical examples where mob action has produced or paved the way for anything of enduring positive quality, unless you want to characterize the Boston Tea Party as mob behavior. (Arguments can be made on either side of that question.) 

    I'm not sure I follow your last point. A totalitarian police state is vastly different from a diverse, voluntary church organization. Drawing a parallel between critics of totalitarian regimes, like Solzhenitsyn or Guangcheng, and critics of voluntary religious organizations, like Erv Taylor or Elaine Nelson, trivializes the former in the extreme.  

    I used the term "attachment issues" quite loosely as a shorthand reference to Adventists or ex-Adventists whose interest in the Church seems to be primarily driven by a love of hating the church. This, I suspect, is often the product of unresolved anger and guilt issues from adolescence, which prevent them from either turning their back on the Church or committing to the Church. Like children, they believe they should have all the privileges and benefits of family membership, without responsibilities, loyalty, or conformity to church standards.