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Monday, 19 August 2013

Tribal thinking

The small world mentality I mentioned in my last post is similar to what has been described as tribal thinking. This is when we think that the group or the tribe we belong to is the best, or the truest, the most important, or the only one that really counts. We get sucked into group-think, rather than being able to really evaluate things for ourselves; it becomes almost impossible to challenge our tribe's assumptions, values and belief systems and we are affected in our prejudices towards other tribes and ways of thinking by the assumptions of the tribe we belong to or identify with. As a result we can react badly to thinking and perspectives that are different to our tribe, and allowing our beliefs to be challenged and changed becomes really difficult. End result: living in a small world!

It is significant that the nation of Israel was made up of twelve tribes, that were different in character, culture, aspiration and prophetic mandate, but made up one nation. And that the apostle John hears the heavenly song about those redeemed from every tribe, language, people and  nation (Rev.5:9). God's kingdom is multicultural - and makes room for many tribes!

All people at least come under the influence of one tribe (ethnic, cultural, political etc.) even in the individualist West. And I believe all Christians are part of a spiritual tribe, and that there are many families or households within those tribes. Being part of a tribe and spiritual family  is fine (and inevitable). It is the danger of tribal thinking and tribalism that we should avoid. It is also OK to have affection and loyalty to your family and tribe, but not to the point that the beliefs of the tribe cannot be subject to critical reflection, or that other perspectives are dismissed, and even derided; and we become unwilling to learn from others. Two things to help keep us free of tribal thinking - 1) be willing to continually learn, even from those we are very different from and disagree with on many things, and 2) be willing to change and grow in your understanding, beliefs, perspectives and practices.

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