They dragged Stephen out of the city and began to stone him until he died. That day, the church was scattered, and Philip went to the city of Samaria. There the crowds listened eagerly to what he said, seeing the signs he did—for unclean spirits came out from the possessed with shrieks, and those who were paralyzed were cured. – Acts 7:58–8:7 (abridged)
Maybe you consider yourself an independent thinker. Maybe you’re not one to follow a crowd—you’re a leader of crowds, and you’ll contentedly go your own way even if no one follows. Maybe you’re registered as an independent voter, just to defy the forces of a two-party political system. Maybe you pride yourself in bucking every trend that comes down the pike.
That’s great! Also, that’s not really possible.
We live in community, always and everywhere. Consequently, we are shaped by community: The lives of our friends. The opinions of our loved ones. The news of our neighborhoods. The concerns of our towns. The availability and quality of roads, stores, schools. The volatility of a warming globe. The market forces in a warring world. All of these things influence where we go, who we know, what we believe, how we understand the world.
We live in, are shaped by, and make sense of ourselves within the context of a mob.
Individual independence may be one of our highest ambitions (especially in the U.S. with our American Dream mythology), but mob living requires us to be wise in the ways of community—not just in the ways of our own selves. Mobs can persuade us to joy or to violence. Mobs can set a tone of wonder or fear. Mobs can stone Stephen or they can catch the Holy Spirit.
As we gather around your manger, O Christ, let love be the character of our crowd and let peace be the spirit flowing through this mob.