Not too long ago, I read an article, which I forgot to bookmark, on why white people shouldn’t tribalize. I skimmed the article, and when I found it to be a meaningless bit of political correctness, quickly dismissed it. But the idea did stick in my head.
Sometimes it’s entertaining to follow folks who blame ___ for everything so you can see what the crazies think. (We all messed it up.)
— Stephen T Shores (@stephentshores) July 14, 2016
I’ve been in quite a few different Christian circles during my years of Charismania, and one of the more strange and amusing things I’ve heard is Christians saying that they have found their ‘tribe’. The handful of times I’ve heard the phrase, it’s been white American Christians who said it, and it’s always been funny to me.
This idea of ‘white tribalism’ has always struck me as weird. Is there a such thing as white people forming a ‘tribe’, like Africans, Native Americans, or other cultures? It’s a funny idea to play with in my head, like an irregularly-shaped bit of sanded, colored glass. Those of the ‘politically correct’ persuasion will say that such things sound like the KKK. I just think it sounds weird.
The only time I find the paradigm of ‘tribalism’ halfway useful is when I hold it up as an abstract idea against the metaphorical background of Christianity, specifically the Body of Christ–and when I look at the Body, I don’t see a ‘tribe’. In my emergence from Charismania towards Anglican orthodoxy, I’ve found that being united with others of ‘every tribe and tongue’ a much more useful idea than being a part of an isolated ‘tribe’. Israel was a nomadic tribe before the Tabernacle of David and Solomon’s Temple, but once Christ came, did Christians become nomads? I think Christians became a family, God’s family, and when they attempted to institutionalize Christianity, things went seriously awry. Where Christianity became compartmentalized (cloistered), it became useless. Where denominations were formed, wars started, either physical or ideological or both, and resulted in nothing good
It’s hard for me to take white or black supremacists seriously any more, because I understand their paradigm to a degree, but find it completely useless. Biologically, I am a person of English and Irish descent, so I have fair skin that burns easily, and I live in America. I’m angry at the American government, and I’m voting for Trump. But I don’t identify with ‘white people’, per se, because ‘white people’ is such an odd term. It brings up images of 1950’s nuclear families or ‘white trash’, both of which don’t describe me at all. I think of myself as either an American, or a Christian, or an Anglican. Playing around with different labels for myself is a fun thing, because I’ve never found one that adequately describes me. I think that might be a providential thing.
I feel sorry for those who don’t feel like they have a tribe, or a culture, especially white American Christians. Christian orthodoxy, for me, has been a journey into the Body of Christ, an entrance back into true Christian culture. Where I felt disconnected before, the weekly participation in the Sacraments and the daily conversation with fellow Orthodox Christians (those of Catholic and Anglican persuasion), along with the musings of writers such as G.K. Chesterton, have made me feel connected again, part of the Body, part of the Vine again. I think that’s the way it should be.
(In writing this article, I attempted to find a way to extend it to apply to unbelievers, but couldn’t find a way to accomplish that. I guess you can form whatever groups you like, but I don’t think you’ll find any deep, lasting, heart satisfaction in any ideological other than that of the family of God, the mystical body of Christ. Any other paradigm is subject to the changing whims of man, tossed about on the seas of moral uncertainty.)