Tribalism And Its Negative Effects On The Human Race And Catholic Church In General

The purpose of this post is not to offer a solution to Tribalism but an awareness of it. We will discuss its positive effects but mostly the negative that it tends to have on the Catholic community on both a local, national and international level. Here, I take a stick and stir the waters to get my readers thinking about this subject more and its damaging effects upon the soul of the individual and the larger community that is the Church. Enjoy the article and if you’ve any comment you’d like to make don’t be shy in sharing that with us.

Tribalism is something in humans that is both historic and biblical. It goes back as far as the beginning where different tribes banded together to form groups. These close knitted teams of people presented themselves as strong and capable in their position with the land they held. Being such a united front afforded them the ability to stand with courage against the opposing tribes attempting to take their land.

They would paint their faces and even dye their hair in an attempt to make themselves look more scary to the people they were at war with. Whether or not you were religious didn’t matter, the innate natural desire to be part of a small click of like-minded humans held attractive then as it does now in the so-called modern era.

I’m not too good at American history but the movie gangs of New York presents this concept of tribalism with exceptional clarity. The Irish vs Italians vs the Russians vs the Chinese vs the Africans and so on. They were supposed to be this very loving multicultural society but that plan went south very quickly. Instead they formed national groups of their own and mixed only with their own tribes. They’re still like that today in multicultural societies. They come in to a country whether it’s the Irish in Australia or Nigerians in Ireland and form their own societies.

You find the same behaviour in prison. In prison you have the whites only group, the hispanics only group and the blacks only group. When you come in you decide what nationality and race you are and then you run with them. If you don’t you make up your mind and bring your politically correct politics into prison then you make yourself a target and get killed. If you’re not willing to die for your belief that you should all be one group then it’s probably best to fall in line and go along with the circus world of Cain.

There are so many other areas where tribalism is evident in the world. Pop Culture is another one and in the 80’s you’d various gangs who dressed according to the music they listened to. Skinheads, Punk Rockers, ravers, mod rockers, hard rockers and teddy boys. The funny thing is while they all fought with one another, all of them claimed they were being rebellious against the system professing their right to individual uniqueness. It’s cute because they all walked around looking different to society, while looking uniformed and the exact same as the other. So much for uniqueness, right?

In politics you have the left wing and the right wing. You’ve left of center and right of center and you’ve those claiming to live in the center. The Church may be an institution that is a few thousand years old but because it’s something inhabited by the sinful human, it too has felt the waves of tribalism. You had the Benedictine monks and then the breakaway of them the Cistercians who felt they were more hardcore than the former. You had the Jesuits and the Dominicans locking heads in theological wars and you had people like Martin Luther who eventually formed his own tribe of protestants and left the Church.

In the modern Church you’ve got the same liberal vs conservative mindset that has existed for centuries playing out on YouTube. There will you find them destroying the whole image of the Church making videos against one another revealing each others secret sins and squabbling like the overprivileged juvenile brats that they are. Tribalism can offer us a lot of psychological comfort. There are people who feel that if they’re not part of the LGBTQ+ community, Atheist forums, the pro life community or certain Catholic prayer groups, that they wouldn’t be able to mentally cope living in this world.

The problem I have with these self soothing societies is that they tend to make people more unchristian and immoral. I remember when I first encountered the pro life community over a decade ago now. I immediately sensed the strong bond of a group that has known one another for many years. I knew that being an outsider, when I run into trouble with one of their members, they’ll choose to compromise the truth and shield one of their tribe over me. And that’s the same with the Church itself, people form friendships and groups with priests so as an outsider you’re more likely to suffer in such a group than flourish.

Little villages are also like this. I remember living in a village in the highlands of Scotland which was an area very protestant and hostile to the Irish never mind Catholics. I got the village girl pregnant and the freemasons and village people all banded together to give me the boot. It even got to the point where I was homeless and the hotels wouldn’t let me in. I had to beg the owner of one hotel who eventually gave me a room in an outside shed known as the summer house. It was the middle of January and the temperature well below freezing.

Coming together to pray is encouraged by the apostle Paul. Having a sense of community and being close to one another is also a vital part of living. However, we must never neglect the power sin has and how it can really make or break a community. It’s very important to be aware of our own innate sinful desire to become a closed community and not one that is open to the general public. When being a part of such a community, we need to learn to love each other and the stranger in equal measure as would be pleasing to the Lord. The Bible says the Lord has no favourites and does not favour one over the other and neither should we.

We should also be careful that the group we belong does not do more to destroy our faith than build it up. There are very extreme right and left wing Church groups out there claiming all sorts. These groups give Catholics the sense that they belong to something authentic, but it’s like the fruit in the garden of Eden on the forbidden tree. It has the appearance of something good and tasty to eat, but in the end it brings death to the soul. Ask the Lord for His Holy Spirit of discernment. Sometimes that discernment can come in the form of joining a group and having to endure the painful consequences of your decision. Whatever the case may be and how that discernment presents itself, it’s important we listen.

There is also a necessary requirement of looking at how Jesus avoided tribalism in the Gospel. He had his own group of friends but he was not exclusive to the outsider. The Pharisees were like this and were surprised that Jesus acted outside the religious moral code (their moral code) and met with sinners.

His own group were surprised that Jesus would talk to a Samaritan woman at the well, not just because she was a woman, but because Samaritans were absolutely hated by Jews. And when I say hated they were detested because they were considered complete heretics. Yet, she was the first person in the Gospel of John Jesus reveals that he is the Christ. He reveals it to nobody else except her. Jesus had no favourites, and he scolded his own group when they stepped out of line towards the outsider. He did not compromise the truth because of his friendship but loved all equally.

Jesus often repeatedly scolded or warned his disciples not to allow sin to seep into their group or community. But all too often throughout the times of the Church this can happen. Church laity conferring honors upon one another and ignoring the outsider forming family dynasties where they promote their children to high places in the Church. Laity committing acts of clericalism, developing friendships with priests that are so strong the priest can literally do what he wants and not be held accountable for it. I’ve experienced this first hand, and it’s the type of behaviour that permitted sexual abuse of children by clergy in Ireland to continue for such a long time.

This behaviour might have changed with regards to sexual abuse, but when it comes to jumping on the faults of their priestly friends, laity are still doing it to this day. Something like that just doesn’t go away and will always exist. In the end there is no solution to tribalism, it will always be with us. There is no solution to car crashes, we will always have them. All we can do is try to make the experience better and more safer by instructing people to take caution and be aware of the danger. That’s what I’m doing here, encouraging my readers to enjoy the ride, but the take extra precautions before embarking upon the journey and be aware of all dangers.

In this post we’ve learned what tribalism is, the importance of coming together for prayer, worship and to have a sense of community. But we’ve also learned how sin can intervene in these situations and really make or break a group. We’ve understood the consequences of treating the outsider with contempt and how such tribal wars in the Church can destroy its image and make it less inviting for the outsider to consider. We will be held accountable for any loss of souls through our behaviour. So as the Beatles put it, let’s “Come together” but being aware of our attraction to sin and the dangers that presents.

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