On Tribes and Community: Part 4, Can You Have a Tribe Without All the Bad Stuff?

I started this series on tribes because of a conversation in our small group. Jana and I are a part of a small group at our church, a group of four couples who gather on Sunday nights to share life and prayer together.

One night we were talking about our shared experiences growing up in smaller, conservative Christian communities. (We all grew up as members of smaller, more fundamentalist Churches of Christ, and now attend a larger, much more liberal Church of Christ.)

The stories we shared growing up were all wonderful. All those great stories and experiences being in a small little tribe. True, there were hard stories and sad stories. But most of us look back on those times with great fondness.

And when to turned to talk about our larger more liberal church it paled in comparison with those memories. True, a lot of this comparison is likely due to childhood nostalgia. But we also felt that there was something missing in the larger, more liberal church that we experienced in the smaller, more fundamentalist church.

There was a disjoint between agreement and community. Theologically, we disagreed with the churches of our youth. But we loved the community we experienced there.

By contrast, we agree with the liberal stances of our current church, but find it lacking in community and intimacy.

Pondering this contrast, my friend Grant asked, "Is it possible to have that sense of community and intimacy we experienced in those small, fundamentalist churches without bringing along all the bad stuff?"

I've been thinking about that question ever since.

Because it seems like one has to pick their poison. We flourish in tribes, but tribes require loyalty and submission to the group along with a clear sense of in-group/out-group boundaries. But submission and boundaries have a very dark side. So you embrace a liberalism where there are no boundaries between you and anyone else in the world and refuse to give loyalty to the group that could trump your personal autonomy and choice. Such moves most definitely expel the temptations of tribalism by effectively disbanding the tribe. We've become inclusive and tolerant, we're now liberals, but we've become homeless, isolated, and adrift. We've lost the tribe and long for it.

Thus Grant's question. Do we have to choose here? Is it really an either/or?

Can you have a tribe without all the bad stuff?

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