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Tribes and Tongues, pt. 1

Numbers 15:15-16
“You and the sojourner shall be alike before the LORD. One law and one rule shall be for you and for the stranger who sojourns with you.”

Have you ever considered that words such as ‘racism’ and ‘classism’ and ‘misandry’ and ‘misogyny’ and ‘xenophobia’ and every other similar term are just symptoms of tribalism, which, at best, is the effect of our innate connection to that which bears our likeness, and, at worst, is our sinful aversion to that which doesn’t? Tribalism is just differentism in all its multivalent forms: some malevolent, some harmless, but all divisive.

If you grow up speaking Spanish as your first language, filtering concepts through Spanish words and phrases, understanding the world through the scope of Spanish culture, you’ll struggle to become fluent in English or German or Greek later in life. Even if you do become fluent, you’ll never quite think like an Englishman or a German or a Greek, right? Spend your whole life fishing on lakes and with a rod and reel and see how well that expertise translates when you join an indigenous tribe of spearfishermen on their expedition upstream. Get comfortable eating rice with a spoon while sitting on a chair at a high table, and then try eating rice with a pair of chopsticks while sitting on your knees at a low one. The point is, from the time we learn to speak, nature and nurture have taken root. We have a way of talking, in the likeness of those who taught us to speak, and a way of eating, and of fishing, and of dressing, and of singing, and of travelling, and of thinking, such that even the most nomadic, self-sustaining philosopher among us, on his remote mountaintop somewhere, thinking himself divorced from a society of tribes, is, in that very place, part of a tribe too. A tribe of ascetics and anarchists and priests who are all alike in their difference.

Face up to it today, friend: look the real problem straight in the mirror and call it out. We’ve never, ever, not once, not for a second, disregarded someone solely based on tribal expressions—the color of their skin, the way they talked, the way they dressed—but because they weren’t like us. That’s why God has to teach us day by day to ‘love our neighbor as ourselves’. Because we’re born loving ourselves first.