The Perils of Overcrowding

Over the past few months, we’ve been having a recurrent problem. Whenever the services end a few minutes late, the queues will snake from the entrance of our church all the way down to the ground floor and go right out of the building, sometimes reaching even Katong Shopping Centre. Whilst this might seem a good problem to have, believe me, in the long run, it’ll begin to wear on the people in the queue.

Apart from this, we’ve been having issues stemming from this overcrowding. It takes a much longer time to get out of the carpark. You’ve to queue up for the toilets, especially the ladies. People have walked away when they saw these long queues and sometimes, they get impatient and lose their sanctification, and this has happened more than once. We’ve a great ushering team and they try to do their best to pacify the crowd, but with this happening every month, people start to get weary. This is an issue we need to address and tackle.

In 2 Kings 6:1, the sons of the prophets, in the days of Elisha faced the same problem. They had outgrown their current facility and problems always arise when there’s overcrowding. So they came to the prophet and said, “The place where we dwell is too small. Please let us go to the Jordan and let every man take a beam from there, and let us make a place where we may dwell.” Hear the word of the prophet – “GO!” The God that we serve is a generous God. All through the Bible, the idea of spaciousness was an important one.

Here’s a remarkable story. A research physiologist at the National Institute of Mental Health, Dr. John Calhoun, had a theory that overcrowded conditions take a terrible toll on humanity. He built a nine-foot square cage for selected mice and observed them closely as their population grew. The cage was designed to comfortably contain a population of 160. Starting with just eight mice, he allowed them to grow in numbers up to a population of 2,200. The mice were not deprived of any of life’s necessities except privacy – they had no time or space to be all alone. 

Food, water and other resources were always clean and in abundance. A pleasant temperature was maintained. No disease was present. All mortality factors, except aging, were eliminated. The cage except for its overcrowded condition was ideal for the mice. The population reached its peak at 2,200 after about two-and-a-half years. Since there was no way for the mice to physically escape from their enclosed environment, Dr. Calhoun was especially interested in how they’d handle themselves in that overcrowded cage.

Interestingly, as the population reached its peak, the colony of mice began to disintegrate, and strange stuff started happening. Dr. Calhoun made these observations: Adults formed natural groups of about a dozen individual mice. In each group, each adult mouse performed a particular social role. But there were no roles in which to place the healthy young mice, which totally disrupted the whole society. The males which had protected their territory withdrew from leadership. The females became aggressive and forced out the young, even their own offspring. The young grew to be self-indulgent. They ate, drank and slept, groomed themselves but showed no normal aggression and, most noteworthy, failed to reproduce. After five years, every mouse died. This occurred despite the fact that right up to the end, there was plenty of food, water and an absence of disease.

After the research physiologist reported on his experiment, a couple of significant questions arose:

1) What were the first activities to cease?
The most complex activities for mice: Courtship and mating.

2) What results would such overcrowding have on humanity?
We’d first of all cease to reproduce our ideas, and along with ideas, our goals and ideals. In other words, our values would be lost.

The experiment conveys a few analogies worth thinking over. Again, take a look at the list of observations and draw your own conclusions. Don’t miss a couple of Calhoun’s remarks – One, an observation; the other, an opinion: The observation: “The young failed to reproduce”; the opinion: “Our values would be lost.”

Now I know we’re not mice, and we’re not caged. But we’re getting to the place where we’re overcrowding, which is not good and healthy for us in the long-run. Something urgent needs to be done. I’m setting you all up for something that God has been speaking to us about. Stay tuned.


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