Weekly Reflection, November 10, 2016

The Book of Common Prayer teaches that genuine hope is, by definition, “religious”. This word comes from the Latin “re-ligare”, to “bind back”. Hope binds us back to communities in and through which we live.

This begins with tribes, which are defined and bound together by, among other elements, a shared hope.

“Tribe” can be numbered among the powers and principalities that mediate between humanity and God. It’s a fundamental pattern of human organization. Like all such powers, though, it seeks to cross its God-ordained boundaries, and perennially threatens to become “tribalism”. Tribalism insists that the realization of my group’s hope must come at the expense of yours.

It’s a vain hope, a fantasy, to imagine that we can “evolve beyond” tribal configurations. They’re indispensable, not susceptible to being left behind by the march of history.

But from time to time events conspire to place us on a slippery slope. Now is such a time. It calls for heightened vigilance, first of our own conduct, then of our public life. How can we practice this vigilance? Here are some suggestions: rebuke the voice of tribalism, with its insistence that hope is a zero-sum game; teach those commended to our care by word and example; endeavor to be kind or kinder; stay informed, shake off sloth, and take part in public affairs, local and national, with both civility and conviction (if this requires fasting from social media, or learning more about an opposing point of view, so be it). We don’t know when or how, but God will prosper this holy work. “Tribe” will re-gain a foothold on the slope, abiding within appointed boundaries and releasing “tribalism” to slide further down, its voice growing fainter as it does.
John Graham