Beyond Tribalism – a reflection on Geoff Thompson and Ben Myers

At times of uncertainty – when fear is hammering in on us – it is very easy to fall into tribal ways of thinking.

We see this kind of thinking being manifest in Australia by those who are taking to the streets and seeking to condemn all people of Muslim faith, because of the actions of some people who are committing atrocious violence in the name of Islam.

While perhaps less obvious, we also see this kind of tribalism exhibited by people who identify themselves as open and left wing when they resort to violent and dismissive rhetoric about those who they don’t agree with.

One of the significant challenges of the Jesus way is the call out of tribalism. Jesus dares to challenge people to love those who are like them and who they agree with, as well as those who they vehemently disagree with and can’t stand: in short, their ‘enemies’.

Choosing to remain truly compassionate and respectful towards those we agree with and towards those whom we disagree with is astonishingly difficult.

It is important to stress that remaining compassionate and respectful does not mean accquiesing to the views of those we disagree with. Instead, authentic compassion is about being able to challenge, and speak truth to power, but with dignity and respectfulness.

It can be difficult to find examples of people seeking to embody such a robust non-violence in our current political and cultural climate.

In recent weeks I have been pleased to read an ongoing exchange, on the ABC Religion and Ethics site, between two Uniting Church theologians as they respectfully disagree with one another about theology, the state and politics, and in particular the issue of how to respond to the global refugee crisis.

I add the link below, not to advocate for either side of this debate, but as an example of robust respectful dialogue that transcends the lure of easy tribalism.  We need more of this kind of compassionate communication.

Thank you Geoff and Ben.



Rev Dr Sally Douglas