Sometimes I think about 9/11–the way the whole country became one in spirit for a short while after the attacks. For the first time in decades, America was one tribe. The tribe of America.
It reminds me of movies about alien invasions, where not only America, but all of humankind becomes one tribe. It’s the tribe of humanity–the tribe of “us” vs. the tribe of alien invaders–the “them”. Lately I wonder if the world couldn’t benefit from a hostile alian invasion so we would realize we’re all more alike than different. Or maybe it needs to go even further. Maybe it needs to be bigger than the tribe of humanity. Maybe it needs to be the tribe of Creation. That’s a tribe I’d like to identify with. It feels more liberating than the alternatives. It’s like the phrase is infused with a fresh breeze. The tribe of Creation. Tribe of All. Tribe of God.
I’ve grown increasingly sensitive to tribalism – that clanging gong of us vs. them which blares from car-radios tuned to political talk, circles the world a million times a second aboard the bullet train of social media, and reverberates against the walls of our church sanctuaries. Tribalism in church. It ought to be a source of chagrin, but instead, we celebrate it, don’t we? Instead of greeting one another at the eucharist with an understanding that says “I am broken in the same way my neighbor is broken”, we most often resemble the pharisee in Jesus’s parable, saying, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men…”
But what about here in America? What about in church?
It’s ironic: tribalism has been key in allowing humanity’s survival, yet it’s the very thing strangling the life from countless church communities. Awhile back, I was listening to an episode of the Bad Christian Podcast. One of the hosts of the program is going through an incredibly painful season, as his wife is fighting breast cancer. During this particular episode, his pain foamed over during a discussion about former CMA artist Jennifer Knapp, whom they’d interviewed the week prior. “Is this really what’s it’s about, guys?” he said. “I mean, what the fuck are we doing? My wife’s got cancer, and we gotta defend ourselves for not being harder on Jennifer Knapp for having a girlfriend?”
More and more each day, I find myself echoing his lament. Is this really what it’s all about? In my heart, I hope it is not. In my bones, I know it is not.