Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pronouns, Tribes & the Kingdom

Pronouns are important.

Pronouns tell us a lot.

But we'll come back to grammar lessons later.

I grew up in a generation whose parents were careful to build a strong self-esteem in us. We received trophies for participating on sports teams. Most of my friends received money for the number of A's we received on their reports cards. I got tokens at Chuck E. Cheese, which was more valuable than anything else I could imagine at the time.

The returns on that kind of parenting are coming in and it's not all positive.

And yet...a healthy self-esteem is a part of healthy self-development. When children are born, they have an ego-centric level of awareness. The world revolves around them. That's why when playing hide-and-seek with my 4-year old son and 2-year old daughter, they think they can hide in broad daylight. They assume that as long as they can't see me, I can't see them.

Early on, children are able to begin sentences with the word "I."

This stage of ego development is crucial to human development. And that is why parents nurture love, care, compassion, discipline, and morality in their kids. You want them to have a healthy, formed ego...


If your children remain egocentric, something destructive begins to happen. And if they never evolve out of that stage of development, they will be come sociopaths who will eventually become harmful to society

So, you have them do chores as a way of "inviting" them into the tribe. And over time, mowing the lawn and cleaning the toilet helps them move from an egocentric view of the world to an ethnocentric view of the world. Our tribe (family, school, athletic team, nation, etc.) has a certain way of doing things. In doing this, you are helping introduce them to how the tribe functions. Most tribal cultures have initiations for young men (sometimes women) to mark this transition.

And at that point, young adults can begin sentences with "We."

Beware: You can rush this. If you yell at a 4-year old because they didn’t mow the lawn correctly, you might be rushing it.

But if you stop at an ethnocentric or tribal view of the world, we could have trouble. Because what happens when the tribe goes down the wrong path? You want to instill in your child the courage that when the tribe veers off course (jumping off a proverbial bridge, engaging in certain fraternity initiation rituals, Nazi Germany in 1938), they can do what's right for humanity rather than just following the path of least resistance. 

There are certain times in a tribe when you don't want your child to be ethnocentric or tribal. You want them to question the rules and rituals of the tribe. You don't want them to drink the Kool-Aid.

If there is any hope for our world in a nuclear age, we need the majority of people to move to a world-centric stage of development. Because sometimes, what appears to be the ethnocentric party line is actually bad for other tribes.

Hopefully, we develop into the kind of people who think about what's best for all of humanity and begin our sentences with "All of us."

In Genesis 12, God calls Abram forward in his consciousness. He's called to leave his tribe and start another tribe. But he's not some bandwagon fan. It's not that the new tribe is cooler, stronger, or better-looking than the last tribe. God is calling forth a new tribe who is called to reflect what God is like.

And though some religious tribes make God sound like a tribal God (sectarian, nationalistic, racist, etc.), he isn't tribal. He is well past an ethnocentric consciousness. He's a world-centric God.

He's for us.
All of us.
Every one of us.
He shows no favoritism.

Or as Paul says, "...for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:27-28)

Which reflects exactly what God told Abram about this new tribe in Genesis 12: "...all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

Which brings me back to grammar.

In baptism, our allegiances change. Our tribal identities are no longer primary. When we come up out of the waters of baptism, our pronouns even change.

I have many tribal identities. I'm a Native Texan...a Colorad(o) American...a Caucasian...a Wildcat...a Longhorn...a Preacher...a Littleton Church of Christer. All of these tribal identities explain who I am.


None of these descriptors identify me best. After coming up out of the waters of baptism, the allegiance that trumps all other tribal allegiances is my commitment to Christ.

So, I struggle with my pronouns.

God's kingdom isn't just about me. It's not just about us. It's about all of us!


Lelo and Stitch said...

this is a powerful message and one I wish more people could read and fully understand and take hold of. We all have many tribes that we are part of and they all come together to make up who we are but the one that should be the largest part of who we are and the one that I pray people see in us is our identity in and through Christ Jesus! Beyond that everything fails in comparison.

Lelo and Stitch said...

thanks for sharing your thoughts Colin