Ed Stetzer on Tribalism Outside and Inside the Church

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Many of us recall playing little league baseball, soccer, or softball as kids. Something about being a part of a team excites and energizes the human spirit. Groups of youngster’s rally behind a common ambition and celebrate our reliance on one another in order to see our goals come to fruition.

Society at large has this same sort of phenomena; except, instead of calling them little league teams, we’ve coined them as factions.

James Madison, a founding father and the fourth man to serve as President of the United States, wrote about the presence of factions in American society as early as 1787.

He explains factions to be a group of individuals “united by some impulse or passion, or interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” To be human is to possess a unique set of possessions, opinions, and passions; we are inherently unequal in these areas.

While no two of us are completely alike, we tend to find fellow humans who share at least one if not more of our convictions. We like to look for similarities—sameness, for many of us, feels most comfortable.

Tribalism

Like the little league teams from our childhood, adulthood is full of team spirit. Be these groups political, social, or religious, each is intended to bring likeminded folks into conversation and community with one another.

But the thing is, these teams have a tendency to cultivate unflinching devotion to achievement of some end goal. The game can quickly become zero-sum. In order for us to win, they need to lose.

The purpose of the team is then seen on binary all or nothing terms which are then used to frame those outside their clan as opponents to compete against—those who don’t see the world as we do and might differ from us on religious or political lines.

This—the notion of the ‘other’ as enemy—is tribalism. It feeds the age of outrage in which we live; a world where opinions and ideas that contradict our own are not to be respected or even remotely entertained.

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Source: Christianity Today