Saturday, August 13, 2005

Tribe -- Community

This concept has haunted me for years. Start with the revelation of Joseph Campbell, which many of you have read about before: three stages of human evolution:

a) the family: father/mother is God; a child can envision no greater absolute. The family is the total social environment.

(My wife has practically adopted a Mexican family: a mother who took care that all her 4 children were born in America. This family is so close-knit that I wonder if the children will achieve 'Americanization', although natives.)

b) the tribe: a very generic term- everything from church, to class, to team, to music group, to school, to college, to town, to state, to nation. Let's say anything other than humanity. The characteristic of the tribe is that all positive affect is centered in the tribe and all negative affect directed outside the tribe. The tribe is better; others are inferior.

The most lurid example of the tribe (for those of us who went through World War II) was the nation of Japan, as we knew it in those days. The Japanese were excruciatingly polite, considerate, loving to their own, and could (we thought) be utterly callous, brutal, inhuman to others.

We see plenty of that in our own country (whatever it is), especially our super-patriots: to kill an American is awful, terrible; to kill a few thousand others; we just don't think much about it.

c) Campbell's third category I describe as becoming a member of the human race. Not just a yankee or red sox, not just a Baptist or Catholic, not just an American. Jesus called it the brotherhood of man.

That's the third stage of human development, social development, spiritual development, Christian growth! When an African child starves, we cry-- and send money! (Unfortunately we often miss the malnourished children next door.)

When does a tribe become a community? There's a third category in this sequence:

tribe --> community --> colony of heaven

we all need community; in the spiritual realm there are no solitary Christians. We need friends to support us, affirm us, correct us, love us. But communities have varying qualities. When does a community (church, meeting) become a colony of heaven?

We have to grow beyond the law. A church or a meeting may be a tribe: we have rules to which you must conform; violations are frowned upon-- up to the point of expulsion (although this is usually very indirect).

This train of thought really started long before I met Joseph Campbell. Years before him I met Paul. Paul's beautiful poem on law and grace often seemed to me the very center of the gospel (Romans 7 and 8).

I like the King Jim version:
8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

and 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Brothers and sisters we are siblings of His! He belonged to no tribe; the brotherhood of man is non-tribal. He put Samaritans first in his kingdom. Can we do that? If the answer is yes, then maybe we belong to a colony.


Paul said...

I wish all Christians felt that way - fully respecting the religions of others too, and not using Christianity as a vehicle for being "right."

I seem to see a lot more self righteousness than righteousness in those who use words like "righteousness" the most!

Larry said...

You're so right, Paul. If we all understood Christ right, we would know that he loves everybody, wants the best for everbody-- whether they be zulu or hottentot.

Rightness never got anybody anything. Only love can help.

AsianSmiles said...

A site full of blessings..

Thanks and God bless..

gratefulbear said...

"Rightness never got anybody anything. Only love can help."

I remember hearing a sermon many years ago that had a big impact on me. The preacher's basic message was that it is more important to be kind than it is to be right. I heard the sermon with a friend who strongly disagreed -- she believed that we should be right, and not be concerned about whether or not we hurt peoples' feelings as we proclaim "the truth." What saddened me was the way she had alienated herself from most of her co-workers, as well as many of her friends. Her insistence on being right -- and trying to make others agree that she was right -- had caused most of her co-workers to doubt the seriousness of her Christianity.

Larry said...

Thanks, Bear, for that very pertinent and insightful comment.

Meredith said...

Thank you for this, Larry. You have mentioned the notion of tibe many times, and now I understand it much more fully.

This idea of tribe was highlighted for me just last evening in the paper where a letter to the editor was headlined, "Time to bring home the troops - too many Americans have died."

That pop slogan a few years back, "What would Jesus do?" is still with me. I often privately use this little slogan as a test strip. I believe Jesus would not hesitate to move far beyond the tribe, crossing any kind of tribal imposed border with simple and pure loving kindness.

Larry said...

Thanks, Meredith; you said "I believe Jesus would not hesitate to move far beyond the tribe". You better believe it. Although he lived in one of the most parochial, provincial, bigoted cultures there ever was, when he was asked who is my neighbor, he gave the example of the Samaritan. They were a despised race to his race.

The Samaritans of that day were very much what the blacks (african-americans, colored people, negroes) were in this country, especially in my region, the South.

To overcome the terrible race prejudice that still afflicts our country-- the only way is to move from tribe to humanity in our consciousness. Please, Lord, now!

Larry said...