Meanderings About Tribes

A little more on the book, Fear of the Other by William Willimon. The author is a professor of Christian ministry at Duke University Divinity School and a retired Methodist bishop. So he has given a lot of thought to what constitutes a Christian and a Christian community. Moving toward a discussion on hospitality, he writes:”The cross of Christ mysteriously, wondrously unites Jews and Gentiles, without regard to ethnicity, gender, race, or class (1 Cor. 12:13).” This made me stop to consider the word “gentile” that we see over and over again in the New Testament gospels and letters. I think, “How convenient!” Instead of distinguishing between people that are not like our tribe, we just call all of them by one name, “gentiles.” No need to really think about that. They aren’t really people, or rather, they aren’t individual people with thoughts of their own, with families and stories, jobs and such. Nope, they are one category. ‘Nuf said. Lazy thinking, in my opinion. And a discussion closer.

Some people criticize the age of enlightenment that raised up the idea of individualism. Many believe this is one of the problems with the modern psyche, a loss of being one with others. I am a little jealous of indigenous people in world like our Native Americans who still hold the sense of being part of a people. I can’t say I have ever felt that as a Polish American. Never has anyone looked me in the eye all sparkly and said, “OMG, I am Polish, too!” Actually, I do experience a bit tribal when the topic is food. Only another Pole would admit to eating duck blood soup.

But I am part of another distinct group. I am a white person. One doesn’t think of “White” as a tribe, as a family. Or does one? Perhaps this is what White Supremists are about. Maybe these are white people looking to be part of something, a group that they can take pride in. Maybe it is their answer to the loneliness that comes from having no people to call your own. In a way, White Supremism is akin to the Jews as depicted in the biblical texts who have this deep sense of belonging and identity. It is kind of understandable.

This blog went in a whole different direction than I intended as I began to write.  I never thought I would find an ounce of understanding for a group that I previously considered just evil. What is happening to me?

Where is my tribe? My family for sure. We do have our unique beliefs and rituals which my kids like to point out.  I also feel that the spiritual communities that I engage with are tribes for me. In a way they all represent one tribe of people who approach the Divine in a certain way. I am part of the American tribe. While there is a lot of pain in this tribe right now, there are some basic principles that make me feel proud. The secret of good triballing is that we can enjoy our oneness with others without in any way diminishing those not of our tribe.

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