Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Flash Mob Flashback

Mayor Nutter has had enough.

Philadelphia will not tolerate flash mobs any more.

You may recall that flash mobs are roving bands of troublemakers summoned to a meeting point by text messages and tweets, who depart their meeting point and embark on an aggressive, threatening romp through city streets, and maybe inflict some violence and mayhem along the way. These petulant expressions of faux gangsta bravado have been staged in cities around North America, but seem to have been particularly popular in the City of Brotherly Love for over a year.

Two weeks ago, a relatively sparsely-attended flash mob of less than 40 people still managed to attack and injure two unsuspecting people at random in Pennsylvania's largest city.

Of course, not all flash mobs are violent. Perhaps not coincidentally, the old Wanamaker's Department Store in Philadelphia's Center City - now branded by Macy's - hosted a marvelous choral flash mob performing Handel's Hallelujah Chorus this past Christmas season. Last year, this same Macy's was vandalized by a flash mob which tore through its main retail floor.

But impromptu renditions of the Hallelujah Chorus aren't the type of flash mobs Mayor Nutter wants to squelch. It's the hoodlum kind, the ones with mostly black teenagers who seem to get a kick out of assaulting passers-by, smashing store windows, gridlocking traffic, and terrorizing shoppers.

"If you want to act like an idiot - move," Mayor Nutter, who is black, announced this past Sunday. "Move out of this city. We don't want you here anymore."

Making his comments from the pulpit of the church he's attended for 25 years, Mayor Nutter received enthusiastic support from his equally-weary fellow parishioners.

"Parents, get your act together," he ordered the adults in his city, as church members applauded. "You need to get hold of your kids before we have to."

And to continued applause, the Mayor made a gutsy analysis of the situation.

"A particular problem in the black community is we have too many men making too many babies that they don't want to take care of. We end up dealing with your children."

Wow - a sermon on personal responsibility! And Nutter isn't even a pastor, although he ended up sounding like one.

"The immaculate conception of our Lord Jesus Christ took place a long time ago, and it didn't happen here in Philadelphia. So everyone of these kids has two parents who were around and participating at the time. You need to be around now."

Mayor Nutter's reference to Christ made me think back to the crowds of people who followed Jesus when he walked the streets of Jerusalem in Biblical times. Those days, before social networking had its technological sophistication, the mere sight of Christ would attract throngs of people, to the envy and consternation of religious officials threatened by Christ's teachings.

But unlike modern flash mobs in Philadelphia, even though Jerusalem's streets must have become jammed with humanity, the people were all straining to hear what Christ was saying, and see what He was doing.  After all, He preached a Gospel they'd never heard before, and performed miracles as demonstrations of His Father's power.  They knew He was different.  And indeed, Christ's presence among them proved to be utterly historic, and His life the most pivotal in world history. Our calendar is set by His birth, and our faith by His resurrection from the dead.  No other Person can claim such eminence.

But Christ didn't ask for civilization's calendar to be oriented around His birth, and He even pleaded with God if there was some other way for the salvation of sinners than His death.  He had no swagger about Himself, nor anything humanly attractive about His appearance.

Still, to this very day, people like you and me - who He has called to Himself through the Holy Spirit - follow Him.  We don't maraud through neighborhoods, depending on strength in numbers to intimidate others.  In fact, we often find ourselves fewer in number than those who would seek to turn us away.

Too bad Philadelphia apparently has a generation of young people who can't even get the flash mob concept right.

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