>A couple of years ago I had an interesting exchange with a good friend of mine. We were looking at clothing stores and she made some disparaging remark about ‘tribes’. It took me by surprise and so asked for clarification. She explained to me that she – and many people at her conservative bible believing church- was sick of this New Age-y push to get everybody to see themselves as part of a tribe. (We happen to be looking at a store that carried a brand of sportswear called ‘Tribal’.) I listen for a little bit about how this led away from a biblical worldview and toward New Age definitions of community and allegiances that compromised the church and getting our identify from focusing on God – instead, focusing on ourselves and what ‘tribe’ we were a part of.
I thought about it for a bit and then I said to her ‘ ya know, Tribes are not New Age-y but rather ‘Old Age-y’. They’re very ancient – from the Old Age. They are not a New Age invention. In fact, Tribes are quite biblical. The Hebrews were divided in to 12 of them and even the New Testament talks of ‘every tribe and tongue’ (Rev. 5:9). So I would think that God sees us far more in Tribes than as the Enlightenment did as Individuals.”
I am really worried about how we are conceiving of things that allows us to call ‘New’ what is ‘Old’ and ‘un-biblical’ what is clearly Biblical. Sometimes I suspect that we called good what is bad and God what is not- God.
Jared Diamond tells a fascinating story in his book “Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed”. He details the trials of the early settlers to Greenland in the 12th Century.
By using written letters, church records in Europe and archeology he draws a picture of people struggling to live in a place because of how they picture themselves and resisted a new identity for the new land and environment.
By looking at the bones in their settlements it is clear that they did not switch from beef that they ate in Europe to the seal meat that the Inuits in the area survived on. They barely ate the fish that they could catch in the waters of their shores (bones were 1:10 ratio compared to Inuit settlements nearby) and there were almost no bird bones even though Ptarmigan were plentiful. It is a tale of refusing to the adjust to the new place or adopt the practices of the indigenous population.
Writings showed that they treasured the view of themselves first as Europeans, second as Christians and third as settlers (Greenlanders). This shows up in there persistence to raise cattle on soil that was not suitable for it. They insisted on using large boats that they got from Dutch designs instead of switching to the canoes utilized by the Inuit. They also put large amounts of time, money and energy into making stone cathedrals with stain glass imported from Europe and costly & distant wine and wheat that were not Native so that the priest would have communion elements.
Their unwillingness to re-imagine their identity and adapt to the actual surroundings and circumstances allowed the experiment to creep along for two of centuries before eventually failing.
This is why I am interested in re-imagining ourselves as the people of God and re-inventing our conceptions and constructs of God: a global God who works for the next century.
I have been talking about God’s relationship to Haiti [link] over a month before the Earthquake.
I will be honest with you, i have no interest in Pat Robertson’s God who causes an earthquake in Haiti in order to warn the rest of the world or punish them for something that someone else did. (Or any of the famous white preachers who said similar things about the Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the Minnesota Tornadoes [link] or the 911 attacks).
That is a concept of God is leftover from when we thought that the world was flat and that heaven was just behind the clouds. That was our conception of the world and of the universe and subsequently how we conceived of God and how ‘he’ worked in the world.
I want to invest in constructs and frameworks (conversations and conceptions) of a Global perspective of God that works in the next century and for the world that we actually live in.
We need a better picture of God. I believe that. I do not think that what we need is to master concepts of God from the centuries past. That is not what we need. We need a Global God for the next century.
That is what I am hoping for here – to concieve together of an Everyday Theology.
Just remember – I am not advocating a new type of Christianity,
I am acknowledging that Christianity is always being made new.