Tribalism

The Fear of Them

If you can remember back to when you were little, were you ever scared of the dark or afraid there was a monster under your bed? Maybe you still have those fears.  For little kids, it is more about the fear of the unknown than an actual monster or darkness.  In the dark of a bedroom all alone, their protector is no longer with them.  Just minutes before, they did not need to worry about things they could not see.  Even if it was dark, and you were in the room, the child knew you were there and felt safe. Eventually most people outgrow their childish fears.

Some kids are scared of loud or sudden sounds.  Again, it is something that they may not be used to.  For instance, have you ever seen a child get scared when a vacuum cleaner is turned on?  Whether they just don’t understand what it is or maybe think they are going to be sucked into it, they do not realize their fears are unfounded.  Once the child learns the reality of what a vacuum does and are no longer scared, they laugh and giggle when you suck in part of their shirt. Maybe they even beg to use it.  Unfortunately my kids never begged to run the vacuum.  I think I missed a good teaching opportunity.

Adults are even scared. Some adults are scared of bugs, some fear heights, and some are still scared of the dark.  Those fears most likely stem from some experience in the past. And even if someone admits that they know there is no reason to be scared, they just cannot shake that feeling. It is fun to watch videos of people overcoming their fears. I am sure most have seen a video of someone terrified of heights go zip-lining or parachuting, screaming the entire way.  It is not a scream of joy, but an actual terrified scream.  But once they realize how much fun they are having by not having the fear any longer, they beg to do it again.

What are your fears?  Supposedly, the Bible mentions the words “fear not”, or some variation, 365 times.  I honestly have not counted them.  But there are some amazing verses:

  • Matthew 10:31  So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
  • Matthew 14:27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid.”
  • John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
  • Revelation 1:17   When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.’

There are so many more that can encourage and uplift. 

One fear that seems prevalent among adults in the United States is the fear of “them”. To clarify who “them” is, it is someone outside of the tribe or group.  There are many groups in the US into which people are pigeon-holed, whether they eagerly or reluctantly want to be. However, regardless of which smaller groups you may be a part of, the tribe of Democrats and Republicans have become a dominating tribe.

Whether a person identifies as a Democrat, Republican, or Independent (not to discount the 3% of the population that identifies as Libertarian, Constitution Party, or Green Party), political identity has become a defining identity in our country.  Even Independents will generally align with Democrat or Republican ideologies. For those who believe they are not defined by their political ideology, others will box them into one of the two major categories (D or R) based on their beliefs and opinions.  If you are a Christian you are labeled as a Republican.  If you believe in protecting the environment you are labeled as a Democrat. 

Political parties were quite diverse, even 25 years ago. The Democrat Party had both conservatives and liberals, blacks and whites, homosexuals and straight, Christian and atheist.  The same was true with the Republican party. Today, those individual identities can be aligned with the major identity of political party with very little variation. The rapid polarization of the parties, especially over the last 20 years, has created such a divide that individuals feel threatened by the ideas and opinions of “them”.  When a group feels a threat to their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, the group fights back and does one of two things:  the group will rally and strengthen their tribe, or will try to destroy and tear down the tribe that opposes them.

The struggle for survival and well-being of the tribe, whether it is due to beliefs, religion, lifestyle, race, etc., has become the common denominator of both political parties.  In attempts to strengthen their tribe, polarization has drastically increased.  In 1960, only 4% of democrats and an equal 4% of republicans said they would be displeased if their son or daughter married someone of the opposite party.  In 2019, that changed to 45% of democrats and 35% of republicans.[1] Similarly, in 1994 23% of Republicans were more liberal than the average Democrat while 17% of Democrats were more conservative than the average Republican. In 2014, those numbers were just 4% and 5% for Democrats and Republicans, respectively.[2] As one side grows stronger, the threat to the other side causes it to find ways to become stronger as well.  If both do not succeed with equal strength, a one-party system is inevitable. 

The reason I referred to the two groups of political parties as a tribe is from the word tribalism.  The thing about tribalism is that it feeds on separation. It has become an “us” versus “them” mentality.  I believe the cause of the growing separation and that mentality is due to fear.  It still goes back to the childhood fear of the unknown. The “we” side wonders what America will look like if “they” get elected.

I also believe this fear explains the vast amount of conspiracy theories and how quick people are to jump on the bandwagon of belief.  It is easier to dive headlong into a conspiracy theory than to think logically.  If a conspiracy theory is posted by a friend or someone you look up to, you are more apt to believe it is true.  As it gets shared and re-posted, it spreads like wildfire. In reality, the general public does not understand the intricacies of the subject matter behind the conspiracy theory.  That unknown element causes fear.  Should “we” believe it or not?  Are “they” trying to harm “us”?

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Where will America be if “we” do not elect a leader that will promote “our” beliefs?  If “they” get elected, America will collapse.  You must vote for “us” because this is the most important election in history.  The thing about that is every election since I began voting seems to be the most important election in history.  At least that is what the population is told. As I have completely taken a step back and observed, it is like looking at the tragedy-comedy masks on people’s faces and in their actions depending on who is in the lead or who just won or lost the race.

The idea of being separated from politics allows me to be separate from the tribes. It is like the Civil War when the townsfolk came out to the hilltop to look down and watch the battle.  While I have no claim of being better than anyone nor am I so staunch in my beliefs that I think everyone else is wrong, I can sit back in His protection without worrying about which side wins. For me, now there is no fear of the political unknown.  For many, even if a particular person gets elected, the fear remains.  Will they live up to their stump speeches and protect “our” way of life?  Placing my trust and hope on the only Known Authority in my life erases the fears of any one tribe over another.

Peter, Paul, and other apostles of their time suffered horrifically under oppressive rule. Yet they rejoiced in their sufferings. They not only rejoiced, but even under threats the American Christian cannot even comprehend, the Message was spread throughout His Kingdom and people believed and were saved.  They didn’t need Caesar or Herod to get voted out of office.  They didn’t need to Make Rome Great Again.  They loved.  They worshiped in each other’s houses.  They were creative in spreading the Good News. Written by Paul somewhere around 56AD, soon after Christians and Jews were expelled from Rome, Romans 5:1-5 states,

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

For me personally, I would rather have my faith justified through Christ than through a win of a political party.  Once I was saved I became a citizen of Heaven. Yet I held on to my dual citizenship for so many years. Only in the past few years, and especially this past year, have I dropped my dual status and pledged allegiance to Christ, and Christ alone.  Now I am an ambassador in a foreign land. I am not taking part in the country’s politics. I am here to observe and not to change through force but through words.  There is no longer any “them” for me, for we are all called to Him.  As stated in Galatians 3:28

28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Let us no longer live in fear of the unknown.  Regardless of who gets elected or what laws are passed, we can live free. And that’s a freedom that can never be taken away. 

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3 thoughts on “The Fear of Them

  1. Well aside from creepy clowns I think fear can sometimes be healthy for us. But that aside, interesting way to view tribalism, however, as with many things I think we can become obsessed with politics which can become an idol in Christian lives. Engaging for me consists of being informed as a voter and voting for the betterment (or the attempt thereof) of my community and family. The notion that electing a person exactly lining up with my spiritual beliefs is not possible unless I can see personally the fruits of their lives, but this is not a spiritual position but rather a political position. Just two more cents from me Jacob. Great blog

    1. I honestly cannot take credit for the tribalism reference. It is in many books that I have read referring to the tribalism of American politics. Thanks for reading and responding!

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