My favorite period of the Church is Christ to about 400 A.D. I love this era because it is still incredibly relevant to our current situation.
At that time, Rome was the world power, and Constantine the emperor (not for all 400 years of course). Religious leaders fought to have their ideas accepted and find themselves in good graces with the emperor. It started in good old-fashioned passionate debate, but dissolved to gathering mobs to pressure decisions. Often times, the theological idea with the largest, loudest mob was accepted as right.
Does that sound familiar?
One of the main reasons I wanted start a podcast was because I saw a culture that had no community. What I saw was a mob.
Watching and listening to everything from Black Lives Matter to Red For Ed to Donald Trump, I started to notice the same mob mentality. A mob runs down the street and grabs everyone who remotely agrees with the cause. They then socialize the group with extreme reactions and convert their other ideals to that of the mob. For example, a Republican who agrees with paying teachers more, will join the Red For Ed cause. They will then be told fervently and consistently how Republicans hate educators and teaching children to the point that one cannot consider themselves serious about the Red For Ed cause and remain a Republican.
My position here is that, though they can often be confused, a mob is not a community.
I come from a large family. We’re not Mormon large, but a pretty good size. This is the model I pull from. We have many different personalities, and not all of them mesh perfectly. We have different income levels, political views, ages, and religious perspectives. Diversity is a key indicator of a good community. A mob on the other hand does not embrace diversity. A mob wants sameness. It is that singular voice that gives it power, so it cannot afford differing perspectives.
A community is a passive entity. It is. It does not do. Where as a mob only exists in conflict. If there is nothing for it to do, then it will dissolve. Therefore, it is constantly looking for other conflicts to fuel the fire. A community will continue to exist regardless of action as it resides inside the individuals. I don’t see my extended family every day, even in the world of social media, but I still remain a part of it. Similarly, because it does not require action, the same community can manifest itself in numerous expressions.
Now, mobs and communities share a lot of similarities as well, which is why it is so easy to devolve.
As I stated above, a mob will challenge your perspectives outside of the specific cause. A community will challenge you as well. They will push you and poke you, and some of them know how to really get your goat (since many of them have known you since you were a baby). The difference is that a community will push you to make you better, because the community benefits from the best version of you and suffers from a poor version. Their challenging you will make you think, which will make you better, which is the goal. The mob does not value the individual. Contemplation would lead to overcoming the passions. The mob thrives on the passions and does not care if an individual grows or develops. It cares about the numbers, how many people are marching down the street. If your ideals do not conform to the necessary sameness, individuals are bullied into submission or cast out.
A community and mob both use the individuals to accomplish something larger than itself. The mob’s goal is focused on what others should do. The larger goal of a community is legacy. It is ensuring that those that come after are better off than the ones who came before. Now, like wise, a mob can accomplish good, though I would argue it is usually a half good as all reactive decisions made from pressure are. The difference is the means rather than the end. The community seeks the greater good by what they can do for others to ensure their success as individuals. A community is much like a nurturing parent. The mob makes demands of others. A mob is a baby tantrum, yelling and screaming until they get what they think they want. When they get it, it usually comes back to bite them because it is not thought through. That is the way of the passions.
In a healthy community, it is the means, the life that is lived, the pursuit, that is challenged with love and hope for the best possible end. When you find that right community, you will find that it makes you better and does not demand you conform. And in my closing remarks I would just like to say that, no, Facebook and Twitter are not real communities.