Tribalism in an Age of Outrage

Will return to the all-mysterious Winnie the Pooh in a day or so. But today and tomorrow, I want to focus on tribalism.

Tribalism … one author calls the tribal spirit the common demonic zeitgeist of our time. That’s pretty deep. But what is it in terms for people who are more likely to read Winnie the Pooh over German theologians?

Tribalism “refers to a group attitude of undeserved pride and superiority based solely on identification with a group. It is the tendency to look down on other people for no other reason than they don’t belong to the group.” (R Olson). It’s an arrogance, a belittling of others, a mocking, ridiculing, harassing, anything to put others down and elevate ones own group. I think it may be more about insecurity than superiority. But what ever the reason – it exists today in a loud and prominent part of our society. And the sad part is it exists both outside and inside the church. Tribalism is dividing us, driving wedges between sections of society, an antagonism to the rights and interests of other individuals and thus the community as a whole.

– – Tribalism “refers to a group attitude of undeserved pride and superiority based solely on identification with a group. It is the tendency to look down on other people for no other reason than they don’t belong to the group. – –

What makes it even more volatile is that it is existing in an age of outrage (Stetzer). Twitter, FB, blog-a-sphere, and more … make this volatile tribalism in our face 24-7. Whether it’s the response to a baker not desiring to bake for a wedding he believes not supported by Biblical teachings, or a restaurant asking a political figure to please leave, or a politician calls to harass those of the opposing party, or a Hollywood Star calling for the abduction of the President’s son … we see this repeated louder and cruder. It is sobering to think where this might lead as we head own this road, even a bit frightening.

The Church is not immune – Calvinists vs Armenians, old vs younger, large church vs small church, denominationalism, contemporary vs traditionalism worship styles, those who wear jeans on Sunday vs every one else, and so on … we find arguments at on almost every level.

Now, one might trace Tribalism back to the early chapters of Genesis. The Tower of Babel might be the last time that everyone worked together. And where was it getting them? They were putting man on the same level of God himself. Building that tower as a sign of pride and arrogance. So God caused confusion in the languages and we all went our separate ways. And tribalism was born. Shortly after that, Genesis gives us the table of nations. God is Lord of all, but ‘all’ is now divided into smaller groups and history shows these groups fought at every turn. Wahoo. Man is broken and we fight. Nothing has changed since that field in Babel.

In simple terms … birds of a feather flock together. But the birds are getting angry and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Tomorrow, I will discuss how tribalism is seen is in our lives, but let me give the good news today. The Gospel overcomes the curse on man, and the unity in Christ is stronger than the tribalism of the world. Paul said there in neither Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, we are all one in Christ.

Caution … Danger Will Robinson …. we might immediately get proud of our salvation and think we are the better tribe – thus producing arrogance in us. The cure … realizing we are only in this tribe because of grace.

The Gospel doesn’t eliminate any of our group identities, but it does change them. Christ is the focus now – not our race, our economic status, our gender, or anything. Our identity is about being a Christian – all else is far second, and those categories are now defined by being a Christian.

We can pull for Spain in the World Cup even if your pastor is pulling for Russia. Redskin fans can dine with Cowboy fans – yes, I said it. We are to be submissive to our governments, be good citizens, be faithful to our biological family, and so on. But our identity is now first and foremost in Christ.

– – The Gospel overcomes the curse on man, and the unity in Christ is stronger than the tribalism of the world – –

And it changes the way we treat others. But I think I will hit that tomorrow. Today, focus on our new identity, an identity that supersedes everything else in our life, and an identity we have only because of grace.

To those who believe that Jesus is Lord and call Him Savior – Your new tribe has a name – You are a Christian, part of the family of God. And that changes everything.


Two references.

By Olson. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/03/the-sin-of-tribalism/
By Stetzer. https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2018/april/tribalism-outside-church-and-in.html

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