Thursday, April 01, 2010

Flash mobs for the common good

A flash mob is a sudden gathering of a large group of people in a public place to do an unusual act and quickly disperse. The people are alerted via text message, Twitter or Facebook. The message is spread virally, as people alert their friends who alert their friends, etc.

The result is 500 people showing up at a designated time and place to have a pillow fight. Sadly some flash mobs have gathered in recent days to do violence.

Flash mobs can also be used for good. Before the social media revolution we had phone trees and fax broadcasts. When a Chicago church became the target of activists who sought to disrupt their Wednesday night prayer meeting, area pastors got on the phone and organized their own demonstration; a demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit.

Churches were called, phone chains activated and 1000 people crowded into Armitage Baptist Church for prayer that night. Outside 10 different political groups chanted offensive slogans.

Shortly after the service began, seven school buses parked across the street and the very large youth choir of Salem Baptist burst out and began to sing loudly. The protesters were trapped between the choir singing on one side and the church singing on the other.

The power of praise was too strong. In ten minutes the protesters were silenced, in twenty they were gone.

I saw a video on TV this morning of Fred Phelps’ religious group protesting a soldier’s funeral. A group of people with large American flags placed themselves between the protesters, blocking their offensive signs from view of the mourners.

Phelps’ group won a court decision regarding their right to free speech. Imagine the impact if social media was used to alert veteran’s groups and churches whenever Phelps’ group shows up to disrupt a funeral and are disrupted by a much larger counter protest.

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