Polarization is a reality that God did not create. It uncreates. It unmakes what has been made in a way that says, “If you don’t want to be robbed, you can only be with people like you.” I used to think that tribalism was the issue, but I remember in history when different tribes lived together in peace. God successfully brought twelve tribes together, and even though they fought a lot with other, non-Hebrew tribes, God told them that they should live in peace with these. God had them live at peace, as long as they maintained their identity and did not worship the gods of the other tribes. Does God support tribalism?
What we call tribalism today is much a different thing than the tribalism of the Bible. Whereas God said to the tribes of Israel, “welcome the immigrant in your midst,” we now say, “if you’re an immigrant, your body and mind must be assimilated or you don’t belong.” Whereas God said, “I will bless all nations through you,” we now say, “What we have is ours. US first.” Whereas God said to Israel, “You will be my witness to the world and a servant nation,” our foreign policy now says, “give me your resources.”
The table at Thanksgiving Dinner used to be a beacon of light in a cold time. But fear of differences has made us shorten the table, while refined pallets have caused us to remove elements of the feast. We question whether partisan politics will be brought up, because we have grown intolerant of what is different. Rather than loving the diversity of opinion, our minds wander and wonder how to deceive people who are different, afraid that someone might deceive us.
Polarization is a symptom of the cancer of loneliness that causes us to eat up our resources. We spend more on our insurance and items which bring the assurance that we don’t need each other. Rather than ask to borrow a lawnmower, we will dig into our savings to fix or buy another one when we are in need. Rather than ask for help when our cars break down, we will call a mechanic to change our tire. We see the struggle in our resegregation on a national scale, too. Rather than work through our differences, our politicians shut down the government. Rather than share resources, we build walls so we don’t have to see people who don’t have them.
The problem is not that we have a unique, cultural identity. Living in a post-Christian country, I am afraid of the disdain for tribalism, because it might be used against Christians. The problem is that we think that our tribes are the only ones that matter, and we have forgotten that we are connected. The Body cannot say to one member, “I have no need of you.” And likewise, a society of tribes and cultures that have naturally been created cannot say to each other, “I have no need of you.” In fact, the group that seems the most despised might actually be the most important. As Ghandi once said, “The greatness of a nation can be judged by how it treats its weakest member.”