The main trait of any kind of tribalism is primitivism. In the ages past tribes were after each other just because they could. Not belonging to one’s family, caste or tribe was enough for conflict, because in the eyes of a tribe no one else existed worthy of respect, and everyone else was a threat.
Today, despite all modern sophistications we are returning to the age of tribalism, just as primitive, forceful and savage as any in the former, barbarian ages. Bitter rivalries between ideological, political, gender, racial, ethnic, national, socio-economic, cultural tribes are branding our days. It is not a war of civilizations that we are facing, but the war of tribes, each determined to settle the scores of the bygone hurts – real, perceived or falsified. Nothing else matters any more except one’s tribal pride.
It seems everyone is up against everyone else in this war of survival of the meanest. Each tribe demands a revolution and retribution of some kind. Everyone provokes and blames the other with gusto, while declaring our own innocence. The other is always at fault. Everyone demands justice and respect while showing none for the other. Everyone screams that to be on the right side of history means pledging our allegiance to their cause alone. And everyone venerates only their own villains as heroes.
For us, followers of Jesus, the most urgent priority lies in finding a way to be above and removed far away from any form of tribalism of today. We must choose our battles carefully and discernibly. The tribal wars of self-righteousness, self-victimization and uncritical blaming of everyone but oneself are not our wars. While it is true that we can’t stay neutral, we can’t afford to let ourselves be tribally prostituted either, “for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12. NIV
And if the cynics of today are so quick to label us a tribe too, let it be clear to us and to them that our identity is in Jesus Christ alone, and never in any form of tribalism – national, ethnic, racial, religious, or any other form of ideological tribalism. Likewise, our identity is not in any kind of supremacism, whether white, black, brown or of any other color or ideological persuasion.
Let me say it again: no racism, nationalism, supremacism, fascism or communism, or any other ideological tribalism, even if blanketed in Christian clothes and buttressed by Biblical quotes, has anything in common with the claims of the Kingdom of God.
Our identity is formed as we are continually looking upon Jesus Christ, and thus becoming a new creation in Him.
Let’s be careful with our allegiances lest we find ourselves fighting wars that are not ours.