Needing something bigger

In a recent piece in Christianity Today, Russell Moore took up the topic of “tribalization” in the culture and the church.[1] From politics to economics to religion to entertainment, there are no shortages of tribes in which we are sorted and voluntarily sort ourselves. The reasons behind this are legion, ranging from natural human tendencies to the micro-advertising policies of giant tech companies which allow us to live in ideological bubbles. Echo-chambers, after all, do not produce novel sounds.

This is no doubt a multi-faceted problem and a great difficulty of our times—how do you live together yet completely separate lives and worlds and sets of “facts”? Within the church, unfortunately, much is the same. The racial activism and then the Covid pandemic have highlighted in graphic terms how deeply divided churches are across the nation. Many movements forged around shared theological consensus have found group identity splinter into tribes over political and social issues. And what church hasn’t had its woes around the existential question of the last two years: “to mask or not to mask”?

Moore touches on an important part of the difficulties when he writes:

“Maybe the reason we as Christians find our loyalties in tribal factions and ideologies is because we’ve lost that sense of worshipful awe before a God who is not a set of doctrines or a motivation for institutional survival or a national deity or a political mascot. Maybe our clamoring for those sorts of hive minds is because we’ve become bored—unsurprised by joy, un-amazed by grace.”

There is certainly something to ponder here. If our eyes are enamored by smaller deities, then the bigger God Who Is will no longer command our attention and our loyalty. Perhaps it is easier to subscribe to various versions of the “hive mind” and find our meaning and purpose and hope in that then it is to sit before an awesome and holy God in recognition that he is both terrible and compelling, heart-destroying and love-giving.

[1] Russell Moore, “Tribalism’s Awful Antidote: We’re Made to Have a Herd. Made to Transcend It, Too,” Christianity Today, June 2022.