Today I was watching a sermon by Tony Evans, my favorite preacher. When he said “if you are under fire from the enemy, you don’t care about the color, class or culture of the man fighting next to you, as long as he is shooting in the same direction” people in the congregation, both white and dark, stood up cheering. When I saw those people, I said “that’s my tribe!” Yes, I belong to a tribe…and so do you. Humans are tribal. One of the most important understandings you can come to in this life is establishing what I call your “hierarchy of identity.”
Whom do you identify with most? What is the basis of your identity? Is it what you were born with or into–skin color, geographical location, economic class, family faith or secularism? Or have you consciously chosen your hierarchy of identity? I was born into a white, jewish, middle-class family in Philadelphia, Pa., but I don’t identify with any of that. In descending order of importance, I identify as a Christian (believer in and beneficiary of the atonement of Jesus Christ); a father of my three daughters, a husband, a citizen of the United States. Those are the identities that I labor to represent well. While I am also male, heterosexual, caucasian and middle class, I don’t labor to represent well those traits nor do I promote any superiority about them–they just are. You could say that’s an indication of how fortunate I am, since those traits automatically confer great advantages in this society. I agree…and so what. I am what I am, you are what you are. What matters most is what you can become, which is a function of what you believe OR what dominates your hierarchy of identity.
Those people cheering for pastor Evans’ words–most of whom were black Americans–are my tribe because they identify first as Christians, rather than by their skin color. I have no idea what their economic class is or where in the Dallas area they live. I don’t know if they are married or are parents, but none of that precludes us from being members of the same tribe, as I define it, which is the first level of my hierarchy of identity–Christian believer.
The “tribe”, as I define it, is the main filter of your worldview. Specifically for me, I filter everything that comes through my sensory apparatus as “either agrees with Biblical truth (or at least doesn’t contradict it), or opposes Biblical truth.” If the sensory input is the latter, then I know it’s false. That doesn’t mean I disregard it. My goal is to recognize the errors and to be able, when the opportunity arises, to refute, debate, oppose, ridicule or persuade–as appropriate–those who are spreading and preaching that gospel. What are some other prominent tribal identifications that present gospels in opposition to Biblical truth?
Skin color being the most visible, it is probably the most prevalent. There is also gender (feminism, transsexual), sexual preference, political affiliation, and other religions, notably Islam. So as I said, my goal is to recognize the errors and to be able, when the opportunity arises, to refute, debate, oppose, ridicule or persuade–as appropriate. So when is each appropriate? My system:
- When their counter-gospel results in aggression–including violence and frivolous lawsuits–against members of my tribe, as with militant jihadism, militant LGBTQ activism I prefer debate, but since those tribes don’t want to debate, I am fine with ridicule/satire, opposing and refuting.
- When their counter-gospel hurts members of their own tribe, as with gender-change surgery, I want to refute and oppose, but not ridicule, since many of the victims are children and their misguided families.
- When their counter-gospel tries to recruit and persuade, I try to debate and oppose.
- When their counter-gospel victimizes the helpless, like babies in the womb, I want to expose/debate, oppose and persuade.
This list of tribes and strategies is neither exhaustive nor final, though I do hope it will serve to inspire and educate members of my own tribe. Does identifying with your tribe lead you to become a better person?