tribes, other religions and friendship

You make your way through the long checkout and hand over the goods and use your medium of exchange to purchase some snacks for tonights’ game. You communicate by using the language of the tribe. You use the tools of the tribe, like the bags they use to carry the goods. In that moment, you are a part of their tribe. The tribe of Wal-Mart.

You go to a football game and people in this tribe use screaming as part of their tribal language. They raise their hands. They buy beer. They hug people they don’t know. But for those in the tribe, this is not odd behaviour. Its expected and accepted. This is the tribe of the Dallas Cowboys.

You go to a building down the street where some of the people get together on stage and create a concert experience where all can experience their interpretation of the divine. And a speaker gets up and relays words from the divine one to the masses who sit in the blue plastic chairs. And they masses go home and digest the words. They too have their own language.

They too are one of the many tribes in the world.

We live our lives in tribes. We speak our own languages. Our very own families make up our initial tribe. We have memories and jokes that are only known within this context that no one else could ever know. Our next outer tribe would be our friends. Then maybe where we shop. Where we eat. Where we worship the god we believe in.

Tribes aren’t bad. But, if we never interact with other tribes. Then our tribe becomes our world. Our reality. Our own code within the tribe becomes the only right way to do things. Right way to believe. And right way to live. The tribe itself becomes the ultimate authority and the community we were all meant to experience becomes centered around those we call our tribe. This can be dangerous because the tribe was never intended to be the point. The tribe was intended to be the vehicle we all drive to discover our part in the journey.

Samir Selmanovic author of “It’s all about God” who is a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian says this about the tribe of Christianity: “So herein lies the choice for those of us who are Christians. We can either stay within the Christianity we have mastered with the Jesus we have domesticated, or we can leave Christianity as a destination, embrace Christianity as a way of life, and then journey to reality, where God is present and living in every person, every human community, and all creation” (63).

Samir lays down the gauntlet. He invites all followers of God to see that we are invited into a way of life. Not a set of rights and wrongs, dogmas or doctrines, but a manner of life that is committed to see the value in all people. Where our tribe doesn’t rule. But our desire to serve the other drives all we say and do even at the risk of the tribe.

Jesus did many things that would seem counter to his tribe but was so compelled by his love for the other, that his fierce compassion drove him to even break rules like the Sabbath and the Mosaic law because the person that he was interacting with was the point. Restoring the person’s status within a society that said they could not be a part. Healing someone. Forgiving them. Challenging them.

Muslims. Atheists. Buddhists. These tribes are not our enemies.

I recently came back from Pakistan where the Christians and Muslims use the same word for God, and neither groups see this act as something offensive. It is a point that brings them together. Once we realize that our tribe isn’t the point it opens up the possibility of creating dialogue amongst other religions who are in the search for truth just as much as we are.

It allows us to love the other.

To share our beliefs with one another and reintroduce Jesus and his campaign of compassion, grace and love to those we might have once thought to be against us. He says to the disciples in one place, if people are for us then do all you can to encourage them and don’t stop them. I hope we can all come to a place where we don’t stop those who are on their search for God whatever tribe they belong to or language they use within that tribe.


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