Tribal Angst

All my life I’ve had to deal with what I’d personally call, “tribal angst.” That is, I’ve always had an anxious desire to figure out which Christian “tribe” is “right.” And, quite frankly, after three (or so) decades of battling this angst, I’ve discovered again and again and again that it is a very naïve preoccupation.

Broadly speaking, there are three main Christian “tribes” – Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant. And, of course, there are an embarrassingly large number of “tribes” within Protestantism, each of which have countless tribes of their own – tribes within tribes within tribes… ad infinitum!

What a shame. After all, Jesus did pray this: “I pray they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (John 17:21). Sadly, with our 35,000+ protestant denominations (who can keep up?), we don’t seem to be fulfilling this desire that Jesus had for us as his followers.

Interestingly enough, I am told, that in lands of severe persecution, most Christians, regardless of tradition, band together as one and don’t see distinctions the way “we” do. They can’t afford to – in the face of intense opposition, they need each other whatever their creed.

From time to time, I still have my bouts of angst about which is the, “right tribe” but I’ve found that the medicine to such silliness consists of a very simple sentence. I heard it when I was having coffee with a friend – after I shared my angst with him, he simply said three words: “God is bigger.

It’s such a simple sentence – only three words, and yet, utterly profound! Uttering them dissolves my “tribal angst.” To think that God can be “rightly” contained within a single “right” tribe is ludicrous when you think about it – God is infinite.

So, whenever I think to myself, “Am I in the right tribe?” I just say: “God is bigger!” God is bigger than my tribe and the tribe next door and the tribe across the sea. God will not be boxed in. His name, after all, is, “I am who I am” and/or, “I will be what I will be” (Exodus 3:14).

One implication of this is that we need not judge the tribes around us, trying to decide which is the most Christian. We are all Christian and we are all trying to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Amen?

Every blessing, Ps. Craig.