In the quiet and calm of my small corner of the Kingdom I recently encountered an article written by a Seminary Classmate regarding “Mobbing” and his personal experiences with it. This classmate and I were never close; in fact, I would call him an acquaintance at best. But I do remember that he was smart – very smart. (See https://www.lutheranforum.com/blog/mobbing-systemic-spiritual-abuse-in-the-lcms). He excelled in the classroom. And he had many gifts to offer the church. I was not surprised when I learned that he was an editor for our Church publisher and was given the task of serving as the General Editor over our latest Lutheran Study Bible. In my world that’s a pretty big deal! And then I came across this article he had written concerning his very personal experiences with “Mobbing.”
So what exactly is “Mobbing?” According to Sophie Henshaw, DPsych., Mobbing is “bullying on steroids, a horrifying new trend whereby a bully enlists co-workers to collude in a relentless campaign of psychological terror against a target.Targets are usually anyone who is “different” from the organizational norm. Usually victims are competent, educated, resilient, outspoken, and challenge the status quo” (Bullying at the Workplace: Mobbing is on the Rise blog post July 8, 2018). Armed with this definition I had two questions rolling around in my head: 1-Does Mobbing happen in the church? And, 2-Did my classmate suffer from a Mobbing experience?
Maybe a better question to ask is simply this: Does Mobbing exist in the various corners of the Kingdom? During the recent Government Shutdown my family was directly affected by the financial consequences – you see, my 21 year old son serves in the United States Coast Guard. He has a position of (some) importance and works at a Base Command. We got to hear from him (up close and personal) the real struggles that were happening amongst his fellow Coasties as well as the USCG’s ability to function and perform at the level we have all come to appreciate and respect. And yet, when I would scroll through Social Media I would see the “Mob” arise. A person might say, “We need to pay the USCG” and the floodgates of visceral anger, mean-spirited words, piling on would occur. Before you knew it, through a flat-two-dimensional form of communication a person was being bullied for simply stating their belief – one way or the other.
In these days leading up to the Super Bowl there has been a reappearance of the Mob from the realm of entertainment. Maroon 5 decided to play at the Halftime show of the Super Bowl (to be played this Sunday in Atlanta). To play or not to play….that is the question. Adam Levine and the other band members have received pressure from other performers and Social Watchdog groups; even a petition that now claims 100,000 signatures is circulating demanding that they don’t play. There is the unspoken threat of consequences IF they play and, well, consequences from others if they don’t choose to play. But the show must go on and the build- up of visceral anger, mean-spirited words, and piling on will continue until the final whistle of the game is blown.
Technology, the Internet, Social Media, and the 24 hour news cycle has created an environment where Mobbing has become commonplace. Common decency has been caught in the undertow created by the tsunami of sound-bites, destructive words, forced compliance, and alignment at all costs. Just consider how far down the hill we have fallen when it comes to being respectful and kind to one another. Recently, a newly elected congresswoman from Michigan referred to the President as a “Mother F***er.” And more shockingly, was greeted with raucous applause and cheers! Whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent, I think we can all agree that we, as a society, have fallen further away from the kind and compassionate society we dream of living in.
So…back to my two questions: 1-Does Mobbing happen in the church? And, 2-Did my classmate suffer from a Mobbing experience? The sad truth be told – based on the definition, the articles of I have since read, and re-reading my classmate’s article – Mobbing does exist, even in the church. Sometimes we strive so fervently to have compliance and uniformity that along the way we hurt, wound, and fracture people who may not necessarily agree with what we say or do. Sometimes we “gather the troops” and systematically run down a person in order to “preserve what we have come to believe as good, right, and salutary. And what is most disturbing is that we can do it with lightening speed and efficiency. Three years ago I was the subject of such an attack through a website called Militant in Missouri (since gone from the Web). Nothing in it was true. It was quite clear the author(s) were focused on one objective: Tearing me down and defaming my character.
But…and there are moments when I love the word “But”…I remembered the words of my Lord and Savior: “You have heard it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45a). There it is…the “red-letter words” of Jesus – “LOVE your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”. In other words, LOVE the Mob…LOVE those who are Mobbing.
LOVE for enemies (and in our case, those Mobbing) is a direct reflection of the character of God himself. Just consider: While we were yet sinners Christ died for us. That is the ultimate expression of LOVE for the enemy….LOVE for the persecutor…LOVE for the Mob. And that is exactly what Jesus did for you and for me!
So, did my classmate suffer from a Mobbing experience? Well, based on the variety of digital responses that were “not so kind” in the wake of his article (and a follow up statement) I suspect he did and continues to receive it even now. But (there’s that pesky little word again) IF he is as smart as I remember (and I’m sure he is!) I know that he too is remembering the words of Matthew 5: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” So here’s a simple thought and plea: before we react, blog, post, tweet, and the like, maybe if we looked at the other person through the lenses of Love – God’s Love – the gathering Mob would disperse and relationships would be restored. In fact, IF we looked at the person through the lenses of God’s ultimate Love, the Cross, maybe the Mob would never form and an opportunity to listen, learn, and love would present itself to us.