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Crowd mentality: Good, bad or inauthentic?

I am beginning to think about my Palm Sunday service (only because I don't have to do Passion Sunday as it's a 'Cluster' service with the BUGB president preaching).

Last year we had a sermonless service with loads of reading from the Bible and a central visual focus and lots of interactive bits as we went from Palm Sunday to Gethsemane in an hour!  We had Communion as we read of the Last Supper - it was all quite powerful and meaningful really.

This year, given that few will be at Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services, I intend to cover similar ground but in a more traditional preaching form.  I plan on using a Palm Sunday account counterpointed with a Good Friday trial account - two crowds and two very different responses.  It got me thinking about crowd behaviour and wondering which, if either, crowd was an authentic representation of people's views.  We like to think the Palm Sunday crowd was good because people acknowledged Jesus as 'he who comes in the name of the Lord' and the Good Friday crowd as bad (even as we think we Jesus had to die to fulfil his mission) because they shouted 'crucify him!'

This seems too simplistic and I started hunting around the web to find more educated views than my own.  For example, we tend to see massive 'responses' at evangelistic campaigns as 'good' while football pitch invasions are 'bad.'  Why?  At one level the behaviour is the same: people fired up by some sort of crowd fervour act in ways they might not do otherwise.  Yes, people are converted at evangelistic campaigns - but not the numbers who apparently respond.  Likewise decent law-abiding citizens can get drawn into violence once they are part of a big crowd (although here it seems to be called a mob!).

I suppose I'm left wondering if the crowd is ultimately just inauthentic in some way.  It is perhaps authentically 'of the moment' but with time to reflect guilt, regret, a sense of foolishness or artifice can set in.  I'm not entirely sure how this helps with my sermon but maybe we do well to be aware of crowd behaviour and a little less swift to judge individuals as  'good' or bad' because they are part of it.  It also makes me take stock of what I think of as 'good' events which may, to others, be bad (e.g. I think Palm Sunday is good; presumably for some Jews it remains part of a terrible and regretable  heresy). It also makes me think about the internal tensions inherent in a faith that is centred on a 'bad' crowd deciding to execute an innocent man so that 'good' may come out of it, and all the muddled theology that surrounds it - but that's a topic for another day!


  • Hi - I'm responding to a thread you set up in January - glad to hear that you liked my hymn "Lord, we thank you for the promise" and found it useful. But I'm also curious: where in Leicestershire are you based? I grew up in that same county (though I now live in Gloucestershire).

  • Hi Martin,
    I am honoured that you have visited my little place of waffle. I deliberately don't say where abouts in Leicestershire as the Baptist world is quite small and there are both guilty and innocent to protect!

    Let's just say North West Leicestershire and if you're good at word puzzles, the name of the 'village' is along the lines of 'snuggly jacket' and is on the outskirts of a small town named after the commodity that was once found there. If you know any New Connexion General Baptist history (and sensible people probably don't), some of their early Assemblies were held here - and it isn't Barton in the Beans!

  • Well, well. Having grown up where a candle was lit for Pentecost, I have a pretty clear idea where you mean. And that may also tell you about my home church in those days, if you are familiar with the churches in the town you mention; though these days I too am a Baptist by practice.

  • Well, there you go! Turns out one of my folk who also went to said church in those days remembers you and says 'hello'. So I guess that all goes to prove that the Dibley pseudonym has it uses and while not infallible achieves what I want of it!

  • I thought Dibley was one of the fire officers in Trumpton...

  • I don't know, I try to do some semi-serious thinking about Palm Sunday and Good Friday and end up reminising about childhood TV! I thought it was Dibble (Pew, Pew, Barny McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb) - but then Dibble was also the police officer in Top Cat.

    Don't recall there being a vicar in Trumpton or Camberwick Green but I could be wrong. Maybe you can tell me?!

  • Windy Miller was one of the first non-stipendiary ministers. Conveniently he didn't have to change out of his smock.

  • To return to an earlier strand in this thread ... I was a little puzzled as to who in your congregation it might be that knew me; then a mutual friend tracked me down quite independently and told me who she thought it was. I guess it is someone whom you would have to say initially is a saint ... please pass on my regards, and a Happy Easter to both you and the saint in question.

  • Impressive - and correct! Do you have a secret life as a crossword compiler?!

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