Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A New Tribe

In a matter of two weeks we saw the "not-so-great- wall of Berlin," the Holocaust museum, the Apartheid museum, and three different Genocide memorials. Talk about a heavy trip. Though each of these events occurred in three separate countries, I was struck by the similarities among these human tragedies. Celestin, our friend and guide in Rwanda said that one of the underlying causes to the genocide (and I would argue to the Holocaust and Apartheid) was "tribalism." Celestin says that God has given humanity many tribes (cultures). Differing cultures are good and should be celebrated. The problem occurs when a certain tribe begins to exclude others (tribalism). The exclusion takes on many faces and occurs at many different levels. In Germany, tribalism led to some walls. The Berlin wall (shown to the right) stretched right through the middle of the city and was erected to separate people. The Holocaust was the result of faulty thinking that one's "race" was superior to another's. As a result the one group thought it necessary to eliminate the other. The second picture on the right is the "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe." About 6 million Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust. More recently they are creating memorial sites for folks who were homosexual and those who were handicapped.

The third picture is from a Genocide site in Rwanda. In this church building, 10, 000 folks huddled together to escape the demonic killings. They all died. These are the clothes they were wearing, scattered throughout the building. A reminder that tribalism is a false ideology that ultimately leads to death.

Finally the last picture was taken at the Apartheid museum and represents the numerous political deaths that occurred during these unsettling years. Throughout this blog we will go into further details of each of these events.

Celestine says that tribalism leads to divisions, and eventually death. In Africa, there is a word that is commonly understood in many of the languages... ubuntu. There really isn't a word in the English that defines the word properly. Essentially ubuntu means that "in order for you to be all that you need to be, I must be all that I need to be. And in order for me to be all that I need to be, you must be all that you need to be." All tribes are connected, we all need each other, we are all beloved sons and daughters of God.

Celestin also noted that when we begin following Jesus, we are called to a higher tribe! In this new tribe there is no room for the "lower tribe." The new tribe includes people from all tribes. Even the language we use becomes different in that there is a new "us" and "them." Desmond Tutu in his book, "No Future Without Forgiveness" writes,"None is an outsider, all are insiders, all belong. There are no aliens, all belong in the one family, God's family, the human family. There is no longer Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free-- instead of separation and division, all distinctions make for a rich diversity to be celebrated for the sake of the unity that underlies them. We are different so that we can know our need of one another, for no one is ultimately self-sufficient" (p.265).

I can't help to notice the tribalism in my own country. The way I hear conservatives talk about liberals, and liberals about conservatives. It is frustrating to see the way many people in the church divide themselves superficially through denominationalism and "bad theology." As followers of Jesus, we must be "the Church." We must realize the calling to this higher tribe and seek unity and a better world.
- chris lahr
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing Chris. I have also been thinking about some of these concepts.