A Christian Science perspective.
While more and more cities in Britain struggle with mob violence, many people are asking how such activities can happen and why they are happening now. Although the violence was initially sparked by a police shooting in Tottenham, an area of London, the current consensus is that it is now largely disconnected from the initial event. Some concerns remain about economic disparity, but British citizens are shocked by comments by young looters in particular, who suggest that their motivation has more to do with simply being able to get away with something, with the excitement of firebombing and looting.
Dr. James Thompson of University College in London suggests that the mob creates a situation in which anonymity contributes to bad choices: “Morality is inversely proportional to the number of observers. When you have a large group that’s relatively anonymous, you can essentially do anything you like.” The BBC reports, “Psychologists argue that a person loses their moral identity in a large group, and empathy and guilt – the qualities that stop us behaving like criminals – are corroded.”
Concerned citizens are taking to the streets throughout England both to try to stop the violence and to help clean up the mess left by looters. I’m currently visiting Britain, and having worked here for periods of time over several years, I love the country and its people and have a deep desire to help. But no matter where we live, we can help in the effort to restore order by joining in prayer both for those whose properties and lives have been affected and for the looters themselves. In particular, we can take a mental stand for the spiritual identity of each person – an identity not influenced by mob mentality.
The Bible contains a history of individuals who have found that their identity comes directly from God, divine Love. Perhaps the strongest example of this clearer sense of identity can be found in the story of the Apostle Paul, who started his career as a persecutor of Christians. You could say Paul was part of the mob mentality that sought out followers of Christianity and sent them to their deaths. In fact, he was on his way to Damascus on such a seek-and-destroy mission when he was struck with a blinding light, a new insight into the true nature of God, good. He was subsequently healed both of this physical blindness and the moral blindness that led to his desire to persecute others in the first place.
In truth, no one can lose his or her moral identity. Our identity – who we really are – comes directly from our Father-Mother God, from the one divine Creator who holds each of us in His consciousness as a loved idea. God, who is good itself, created His universe with the only material He had on hand – His own goodness. That goodness is innate, permanent, and present in every individual.
How much do we love those involved in the rioting? Do we love them enough to take a mental stand for their God-given goodness, to see them as He really made them? Instead of shaking our heads or continuing to identify the acts as “mindless,” we can see that God, the divine Mind, is ever present to direct and redirect those involved. That same Mind is present to assist the police in wisely and safely protecting communities. And it is present to help the government humbly seek both short- and long-term solutions to the problems.
Our identity comes from our all-loving Creator, and true morality cannot be taken from anyone.