Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Everybody's doing it!

From the Egyptian Revolution to March Madness to the Save Our Schools protests it seems that everyone has been jumping on one bandwagon or another this year.  The bandwagon effect, where people do and believe things merely because many other people do and believe the same things, is also called herd instinct.  I have spent many hours, both as a parent and as a Christian, contemplating this phenomenon. I've never met a child who hasn't said "everybody's doing it" to justify doing something; and I've never met a parent who hasn't said, or at least thought, "and if your friends decided to jump off a cliff would you do that too?"  It's a human tendency.

This tendency to jump on the bandwagon comes to mind for me every year as we approach Holy Week.  On Sunday a crowd is saluting Jesus with palms and covering the ground with their cloaks and on Thursday they are screaming for his crucifixion.  How did the tide turn, and who turned it?  Unlike a fall from grace suffered by people like Tiger Woods or Bernie Madoff, Jesus hadn't committed some scandalous act that was the breaking news story.  Jesus was going about his business, being the same preaching-teaching-healing person he'd been all along.  So why did the crowd change its mind? Why does someone who never even watches college basketball care who wins the NCAA Basketball Championship? The herd called.

As a parent, I feel like I should prepare my kids to evaluate what the herd is saying before becoming part of it. Yet I know how easily you can be sucked in. Remember Y2K?  I resolutely refused to jump on board the panic-mongers wagon.  I didn't stock up on food, fill my gas cans or lay in cases of bottled water. Still, on December 31, 1999, I found myself at the ATM machine pulling out cash and filling my car with gas.  Neither precaution would have made much difference, but my resolve against the bandwagon only extended so far. Deep down inside was a small spark of fear that made me doubt my own convictions. I expect this is what happened to that Jerusalem crowd. Doubts kicked in making them question their own judgment. And those doubts allowed them to be swept away.

Here’s what I want to tell my children: There is only one safe place in the midst of madness: Love.  Love at its fullest and most perfect casts out fear and doubt. It considers the cost of an action to everyone, not just to self.  Love would not allow crucifying an innocent man. Loving rulers do not inspire revolutions.  If jumping on a bandwagon is an act of love, by all means do it.  Otherwise, step back, evaluate carefully lest you be swept away by a wave of fear with no basis in reality or a stream of excitement about something irrelevant.

Would I have screamed for crucifixion?  I hope not, but I don't know for sure. I can only return to the fountain of love once more, asking the One who is Love to cast out my doubt.

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