What Tribe Do You Belong To?

I have a Facebook friend who made the following post recently, and I felt compelled to respond to him, not because I took exception to his comment, but because he makes a good point that deserves a response.

*preface* I am not okay with the slaughter of Christians going on in the Middle East…..that being said…..I’m sick of hearing all the outrage from Christians about it who think its just so barbaric and wrong when your religion has done the same thing to MILLIONS over the centuries. The Crusades, the Inquisition and what you did to the Native Americans in the name of Manifest Destiny just to name a few….but you all choose to ignore that. I guess you figure that it was different because it was in the name of YOUR God right? so its all justified. Or maybe its because there are no pics or videos of all the killing to be posted all over social media so you figure we can all pretend like it didn’t happen…….lets work on getting the massive logs out of your eyes shall we?

I am a Christian.  My friend is not.  It would be all too easy for me to be offended because he dared to charge me, and others of my faith, with wrong doing.  But I am not, mostly because I recognize there is truth in his comment, although I believe he does fall a bit short.

Humanity seems to be clannish.  I am generally going to hang out with people of my own tribe, or clan.  I am going to be more sympathetic of those in my tribe and will defend them against members of other tribes.  I am happy when my tribe is successful, and angry, frustrated, outraged, saddened when my tribe, or some portion thereof, suffers at the hands of outsiders.

Tribes were initially extended family groups, but over time they have expanded beyond simple blood lines into many other forms: skin color, economic status, religion, age, political leanings, gun control, national or ethnic identity, sports team.  I am an aging white middle class American Christian who is frustrated with both of the major political parties in the US, and who does not understand the current fascination with guns.  And in many ways that defines the tribe(s) I belong to.

It seems to come naturally to me to side with those of my tribe and against those from other tribes, and I don’t believe I am unique in that respect.  Witness the protest when a white policeman shoots a black man.  Or a gang of black youths attack a white person.  Members of the victims tribe in both cases will be up in arms, white the other tribe will mostly ignore it.  How much conflict is there in the US today over gun control or political philosophies?

And that extends to religion as well.  I am a Christian and someone else is not.  I am right and they are wrong.  God is on my side and is opposed to those of other religious persuasions.  I deserve the best, while the other side deserves little, if anything.  And heaven help you should you do something to hurt a fellow member of my Christian tribe.  Go ahead and replace Christian in this paragraph with Muslim, or atheist, or Hindu and you will likely find it just as true, unless of course you happen to belong to that tribe.  And yes, I realize that an atheist will not claim God is on their side.

And that is so sad, and as Christians we should be embarrassed by it.  In the Old Testament you see the ‘us’ against ‘them’ mentality with the world neatly divided up into Jews and Gentiles and an abiding conflict between them.  But in the New Testament that changes.  The good news that God cares about everyone is taken out into the world, regardless of what tribe a person might belong to.  But we seem to have forgotten that and fallen back into the trap of separating the world into two major tribes, Christians and non Christians.
When we do that we tend to forget that Jesus died on the cross just as much for my young atheist friend, or the Muslim terrorist who flew a plane into a building killing thousands, as he did for me.  When I vilify or denounce those who do not share my faith, and sometimes attack it, rather than pray for them, feed them and share with them what I have, including but not limited to the gospel; then I have fallen short of what God has called me to do and be, and should be ashamed.  Christ died to tear down the walls that separate us.  What gives me the right to rebuild those walls he died to destroy?

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