The Tribe Has Spoken

Posted: August 13, 2012 by Matt Horan in Uncategorized
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By Matt Horan

I recently left a tribe.  You know what a tribe is, right?  One of those groupings of people according to some sort of common criteria.  Republicans and Democrats, Pepsi people and Coke people, dog people and cat people, the dreamy vampire guy and the dreamy werewolf guy, etc.

I’m not sure why, but it really bothers me when people assume they know me because of a tribe I’m in.  “You insert tribe name here are all the same.”  I’m not excited about being lumped as apart of some kind of -ism.  “It’s not that I condone facism, or any kind of -ism for that matter.  Isms in my opinion are not good.  A person shouldn’t believe in an -ism… they should believe in themself.  I quote John Lennon, ‘I don’t believe in Beatles.  I just believe in me.’  Good point there.”  (Ferris Bueller)

I felt at home in my tribe for a long time.  But over time, my membership in tribe began to feel uncomfortable.  The other day my daughter and I were walking through along and she said, “I think my shoes are getting too small.”  I replied, “Do you think it could be that your shoes have been the same size all along, and that your feet are getting bigger?”  She’s been my daughter for quite a while now, so she’s become adept at my love language, sarcasm. “No, that can’t be it.”

Anyway, that membership just didn’t fit me anymore.  Decided to go barefoot.

Since then, I have received many emissaries from the tribe, sent to see what happened to me, what was wrong with me, how I had become so mistaken and misguided.  An old friend said I had become what the Bible calls a “false teacher,” and warned of my accountability before God.  Some connected me to some “-isms.”  See, the tribe had to do with an issue that Christians currently disagree over.  Take your pick, there are plenty, but it seems that these tribal memberships within Christianity have become a bigger part of the Christian faith than the commonalities we share as Christians.  People were sad, angry with me, frustrated with me, fearful for me, afraid of what I might teach others.  They quoted some verses from the Bible to show me that I was wrong to leave the tribe, but the verses didn’t have the effect of making me feel like I belonged in the tribe.   So obviously “more Scripture” wasn’t the solution to our disagreement over whether I belonged in the tribe or didn’t.

I feel like there are two options: either I should be in the tribe or I should not.  Therefore, is there a way that disagreeing people might approach these options in order to discern together which is right?  Since they’re opposite, they can’t both be best, no?  What would be the rules?  What would be the path to deciding? We would have to come up with some answers to hard questions:

How can we agree on what the Bible says?  We quote the Scriptures all the time and I’ve never seen it have the effect of swaying someone to an opposing viewpoint.  So, if “quoting more Scripture” isn’t the solution, what is?  We usually say that the Bible supports our own view, and look for interpretations that support our side.  Can we stop doing that?

Is it possible for us to step out of our tribes for a moment and converse freely apart from our tribal allegiance?  If we were to admit that the other side is right, we would have to go back to our tribe members and and face them a failure, rather than coming back with tales of great lines delivered like a right cross to the jaw of the opponent.  What if pleasing our tribe, or maintaining tribe membership were removed from the equation?

Can we assume integrity in each other?  Can we assume that each side means well?  Can we forgive each other for harsh words and distrust of the past?

Can we see our allegiance to Christ as a priority over the tribes that various issues put us in? Can we call the gossip about each other the sin that it is?

Not sure if we’ll ever get there, because if we did, we’d all be submitting ourselves to a process that might in the end tell us that we’re wrong.  Otherwise, I guess we’ll all just keep fighting and distrusting and caricaturing and mocking and gossiping and overgeneralizing and insulting each other for a while longer and see if that gets us anywhere.  There’s great risk, because the feeling of belonging offered by the tribe feels really good.  If only working together to discern God’s will was as important and feeling good, we might be able to really get somewhere.

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