I know many folks are into this new-fangled “find your tribe” stuff, but it deeply concerns me. It is postmodern; it denies the “communion of the saints” and it’s yet another one of those “church growth” theories that prevents genuine integration and creates potential racial, gender, and theological divisions — not to mention the economic division it creates.
So, I’m very pleased that, in their new book, Hidden Worldviews: Eight Cultural Stories That Shape Our Lives
, Steve Wilkens and Mark Sanford address “postmodern tribalism.” The influx of tribalism thinking in the Church must be challenged. (By the way, I spent some time with Steve Wilkens in New Orleans — great time and I look forward to more times with him.)
The authors bring out the terms connected to tribalism, and not all of them are positive: multiculturalism, affirmative action, postimperialism, ageism, balkanization, identity politics, … and others.
Where does our identity lie? Ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, American, human being, social underdog, etc..
Power structures are laced together with these sets of terms. Does tribalism threaten the Church or is it the only way forward?
Can the Christian surrender the universal claim and the universal community?
The USA used to see itself as a melting plot, where many became one. At some point many feel they have abandoned their heritage when they are brewed in the melting pot.
Is it better to see the USA as a Mosaic than a melting pot? Here cultural identity is maintained and sustained as a right.
Postmodernity contends, the authors argue, that all social structures are political and about power. This leads to the idea that even justice and truth have become political categories. Postmodernity has shattered not only the melting pot but also the mosaic.
Postmodernism props up tribalism. Modernity focused on universality; postmodernity focuses on particularity (tribes). Truth is socially constructed; one’s happiness is not measured by a universal standard but by one’s integration into a tribe; and this means the marginalized need to undermine the power structures.
There are advantages to be gained from postmodernity: empathy, new perceptions of power and the systemic nature of sin and that culture provides a way of ordering life.
But the authors find problems: tribalism can become deterministic, it relativizes “tribes” while absolutizing “my tribe” and it can too often become just another power ploy. Furthermore, it can create a cult of victimhood.