False Reports and Mob Violence
Using social media to shout out insightful, titillating news has become the modus operandi in U.S. politics. Both Democrats and Republicans use spin, fiery rhetoric, and juicy scandal to fire up their base. The technology is new, but the technique is not.
On October 19, 1796 Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist, accused Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, of sleeping with Sally Hemings, one of his slaves. In the late Spring and early summer of 1797, Jefferson retaliated by having Callendar, one of his attack dogs, publish a pamphlet exposing Hamilton’s six month affair with 23-year-old Maria Reynolds, a married woman. The adultery was true. Callendar’s stronger accusation that Hamilton had misused U.S. funds was not.
Now all this fake news and juicy scandal sheets goes back a lot farther than our Nation’s founding. In the summer of AD 57 at the Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem, Paul’s enemies shouted out fake news—a false report that used religion and racial pride to ignite mob violence. This violence almost got God’s spokesman killed, but ironically God used Roman security forces to save His apostle.
“While the mob outside the locked doors of the Temple sought to kill Paul, the report came up to the Roman tribune, the commander of the security troops, that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Immediately taking soldiers and centurions, he ran down to confront the enraged crowd. When they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they immediately stopped beating Paul.
The tribune approached Paul, arrested him, and bound him with two chains. Then he tried to ask who he might be and what he had done. Some in the crowd shouted one thing, some another. When he couldn’t get the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. When they came to the steps into the barracks, the soldiers had to carry Paul, the press of the crowd was so strong. And the large crowd kept coming and shouting, ‘Away with him.’” Acts 21:31-36
The Judean prophet Agabus had predicted that Paul would be bound in Jerusalem and handed over to the Gentiles (Acts 21:11). It happened, and like the crowd that yelled ‘Away with this man’ at the climax in the trial of Jesus (Luke 23:18), and the crowd that rushed Stephen at the conclusion of his defense before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:57-58), the Jerusalem mob in this incident once again turned against one of God’s servants who was seeking to obey the Mosaic Law and trying to tell them the truth.
False reports, slanderous accusations, shouting down reasonable discourse, and fueling a mob’s anger—it worked. Paul’s opponents got him off the streets and into a Roman prison. But what kingdom were they building? From God’s point of view did they play the role of the good guys or the bad guys?
LORD, help me to face the reality that dirty politics is not a new phenomenon. It’s been used to build the world’s kingdoms from the beginning. It is effective, but help me to follow Paul’s example and not use these destructive methods. May I join him in humbly telling whoever will listen about the Gospel of grace.
For more from Dave Wyrtzen please visit TruthEncounter.com!