What I mean by evangelical ‘tribalism’

In a recent guest-post at Jon Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like blog, Paul Angone wrote about the evangelical subculture’s enthusiasm for “Claiming Musicians as One of Us.”

If you’ve ever been a part of this subculture, then you know exactly what Angone is talking about. If not, just think of the fervent evangelical fandom that’s sprung up around Tim Tebow and imagine he were a musician instead of a football player. (Think of it this way, Tim Tebow : football :: Scott Stapp : music.)

Angone ably describes this claiming-as-one-of-us phenomenon, then asks:

But why? Why is it so tempting for us to throw the Christian label on musicians who have purposely tried to avoid it?

He offers three reasons, but I don’t think any of them is really the cause of what he describes. They’re all, rather, just related symptoms of the same disease.

That disease, once again, is what I’ve been calling evangelical “tribalism.” This is what’s at the root of many of the worst aspects of American evangelicalism. It’s the idea that evangelical Christians constitute “Our Team,” and that Our Team is in a constant competition with Their Team. This tribal framework shapes how evangelicals approach nearly every subject or area of life — functioning like the old binary view during the Cold War in which any event was perceived somehow as a “victory” for either the U.S. or for the Soviets and thus as a “defeat” for the other team.

This tribalism is why Evangelical Christians like Claiming Musicians as One of Us. Just look at that phrase: “One of Us.” As opposed to “One of Them.” Every musician claimed as “one of us” is a victory for Our Team and a defeat for Their Team. This never-ending competition between the teams or tribes is a zero-sum game. Every musician claimed as “one of us” is a win for “us” and a defeat for “them.”

This zero-sum view, I think, accounts for part of the backlash against Tebow. No one would mind evangelicals celebrating the accomplishments of an evangelical athlete any more than they would begrudge, say, Japanese fans’ celebration of Ichiro’s amazing career. But because of evangelicals’ zero-sum tribalism, their cheers for Our Team are usually inseparable from trash-talking directed at Their Team. It gives every “Hurray for Our Team!” an implicit, unspoken (usually) echo of “Suck it, Their Team!”

The tribal dynamic also explains the odd flip-side of what Angone describes. To paraphrase a line from The Blues Brothers, American evangelicals listen to “both kinds of music” — both “Christian” and “secular.” Those are the tribal categories evangelicals apply to every musician. The distinction usually depends not on the quality of the artist, the style of music played, or even the lyrical content. It depends on the record label. A musician on the Myrrh or Word or Sparrow labels is, by definition, a “Christian” musician. A musician who isn’t on such a “Christian” label is, by definition, a “secular” musician. (Thus, for example, John Rutter’s Requiem would be a “secular” work of music.) It’s the same idea as a “Christian novel” being one that is from a “Christian” publisher and sold in a “Christian book store.” Thus Left Behind is a Christian novel, but The Brothers Karamazov is “secular.”

But as much as evangelicals like “Claiming [Secular] Musicians as One of Us” — eagerly anointing Mumford and Sons or Justin Bieber as part of “Our Team” — they also despise as “sell-outs” any established Christian-label artist who crosses over to “secular” success. When Miley Cyrus had the No. 2 song on the charts with “Party in the USA,” evangelicals were eager to claim her as “one of us.” When Amy Grant had the No. 1 song on the charts with “Baby Baby,” evangelicals vilified her for supposedly no longer being “one of us.” This is because Cyrus is somebody that they thought was on Their Team, but who really turns out — once “claimed as one of us” — to be part of Our Team. Yay, Our Team! Grant was somebody that we thought was on Our Team, but who we came to fear was really part of Their Team. Boo, Their Team!

And it’s not just musicians and athletes — evangelicals can do this with everything. Everyone can either be claimed as “ours” or condemned as “theirs.” Every event can either be claimed as a victory for Our Team or mourned as a defeat.

This causes problems.

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  • ReverendRef

    Now there’s some serendipity for you.  I just posted a brief bit sort of along these lines.

    At my physical therapy yesterday I had a conversation with one of the staff.  I mentioned that our parish has a potluck and movie night once a month.  She wanted to know if we had shown Courageous, The Grace Card, or Like Dandelion Dust.

    I replied, “Nope . . . but we have shown UP, Michael, Toy Story, and The Matrix, among others.  In May we’re showing The Shawshank Redemption.”

    She was less than impressed.

  • Tricksterson

    So evangelicals are eager to claim Miley Cyrus, a woman who has strongly come out in favor of gay marriage, not to mention being photographed chowing down on a cake shaped like a chocolate penis, as one of theirs?  Progress of a sort I suppose.

  • Randall M

     Well, Fred said they were eager to claim her during the #1 period of “Party in the USA”.  According to Wikipaedia, that was the summer of 2009.  They might have a different opinion now.

  • Turcano

    My mother recently claimed that The Fray was a Christian band.  My response was, “Just because they suck doesn’t mean they’re Christian.”

  • Baby_Raptor

    Hey, now…How To Save A Life is okay… >.>

  • Turcano

     Yeah, you keep telling yourself that.

  • Beroli

     This Stapp person is responsible for How To Save A Life?

    If the other things he’s done are worse, I swear he’s an undocumented Horseman of the Apocalypse.

  • Lori

     

      This Stapp person is responsible for How To Save A Life? 

    The Fray is responsible for How To Save A Life. Scott Stapp* is responsible for the band Creed.

    *Faux Native American Name: Poses Like Jesus

  • Beroli

    *googles*

    I don’t believe I’ve ever heard anything by Creed.

  • http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/ Storiteller

     Creed was really popular about 10 years ago and were always terrible.  They took the faux-uber-sincerity of Christian rock and just made it really loud and “rock-ish.”  Feel happy that you’ve never heard anything by them.  “How to Save a Life” is a classic song in comparison (and one I sort of enjoy guiltily).

  • Guest

    So jealous. Can I be you?

  • Beroli

     Sorry, I’m kind of attached to being me.

  • Tricksterson

    No, he’s not part of Fray.  he was the lead singer of Creed, probably best known for “With Arms Wide Open”, which I’m not ashamed to say I like.

  • LoneWolf343

     BURN!

  • The_L1985

    “Can’t you see you’re not making rock and roll better, you’re just making Christianity worse?”
    –Hank Hill

  • Magic_Cracker

    Nick Cave is Christian, but something tells me he ain’t their kind.

  • Tricksterson

    ow, watching this video has me pondering that whatever else Nick Cave is, he might just be Tom Wait’s biological son.

  • Chris L.

    Being a lapsed Evangelical/Charismatic myself, I remember well growing up with this dichotomy, and how hard the power structures at home, church and, eventually, college worked to enforce it. I played this game myself, though at least part of the time it was a defensive action; I was looking for loopholes to “read in” bands like U2 and Springsteen (the day they were both featured – positively! – on The 700 Club was one of the happiest of my young life, and I brandished the “spiritual” content of Peter Gabriel’s ” In Your Eyes” like an amulet to my skeptical mother. Not that young kids are using Tebow to convince their devout parents to let them watch football,

  • The_L1985

     I still keep a mental tally of “uplifting musical message” and “not-uplifting musical message” among the bands I listen to.  It’s always been a more meaningful measure to me than “swearing vs. no-swearing” or “Christian label vs. other label.”

  • VMink

    Some time ago, the band “King’s X,” (could be pronounced as “King’s Cross,” I guess) was seen as a Christian band.  One song in particular, “King is Coming,” was seen as particularly Christian.  You found this fairly hard rock band in Christian music aisles.

    Except they weren’t.  In fact when they found out, they were rather aghast.  They explicitly said they were not Christian.  While a lot of their songs have spiritual influences, they have repeatedly said that its from individual members of the band, not any spirituality that could be identified as Christian.  “King is Coming” is a song about racial segregation.  The “King” is Martin Luther King, Jr.  The video starts with a sherriff’s deputy bringing a colored kid into a completely white classroom.

    Naturally, this did not endear them to Christian rock afficionados.  I suppose the lead singer coming out in ’98 didn’t help.

    As for me, I like ’em. =) They have a great blend of rock and funk with some prog influence.  I played “King is Coming” when I heard Santorum stopped his campaign.

    (That being said, considering what his daughter is going through, I think that him devoting himself to her for all the time she has left is probably the most compassionate thing this heartless man has ever done for anyone, and the best thing he could do for her and their family.  It draws a great deal of schadenfreude out of seeing him leave the campaign.)

  • Tonio

    One of my relatives plays in a band whose repertoire includes two or three Kings X covers, and a few of their gigs have been at Christian-run establishments, even though the band is secular. I picked up on the MLK theme in “King is Coming,” but in fairness, Kings X should have expected to be mistaken for a Christian band. Not only because of its name but because of the name of its first album, taken from C.S. Lewis.

  • arcseconds

    Everybody was persecuting him. Colonel Cathcart lived by his wits in an unstable, arithmetical world of black eyes and feathers in his cap, of overwhelming imaginary triumphs and catastrophic imaginary defeats. He oscillated hourly between anguish and exhilaration, multiplying fantastically the grandeur of his victories and exaggerating tragically the seriousness of his defeats.

    With the businesslike air of a man who knows how to get things done, he found a large white pad, drew a straight line down the middle and crossed it near the top, dividing the page into two blank columns of equal width. He rested a moment in critical rumination. Then he huddled over his desk, and at the head of the left column, in a cramped and finicky hand, he wrote, ‘Black Eyes!!!’ At the top of the right column he wrote, ‘Feathers in My Cap!!!!!’ He leaned back once more to inspect his chart admiringly from an objective perspective. After a few seconds of solemn deliberation, he licked the tip of his pencil carefully and wrote under ‘Black Eyes!!!,’ after intent intervals: Ferrara Bologna (bomb line moved on map during) Skeet range Naked man information (after Avignon) Then he added: Food poisoning (during Bologna) and Moaning (epidemic of during Avignon briefing) Then he added: Chaplain (hanging around officers’ club every night) He decided to be charitable about the chaplain, even though he did not like him, and under ‘Feathers in My Cap!!!!!’ he wrote: Chaplain (hanging around officers’ club every night) The two chaplain entries, therefore, neutralized each other. Alongside ‘Ferrara’ and ‘Naked man in formation (after Avignon)’ he then wrote: Yossarian! Alongside ‘ Bologna (bomb line moved on map during)’, ‘Food poisoning (during Bologna)’ and ‘Moaning (epidemic of during Avignon briefing)’ he wrote in a bold, decisive hand:? Those entries labeled ‘?’ were the ones he wanted to investigate immediately to determine if Yossarian had played any part in them.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    So, I read the post and had what I thought were perfectly rational responses to it.  (None worth sharing.)  Then some time passed, I came back to see if there were any new comments, and all of a sudden my response to the post was to think of this:

    FOOT WARRIOR: Friend or foe? 
    ARTHUR: Who me? 
    FOOT WARRIOR: Friend or foe! 
    ARTHUR: Do I know you? 
    FOOT WARRIOR: Answer! Friend or foe! 
    ARTHUR: Well, without knowing you it’s hard to tell. I mean I quite like some people, others, not so much. 
    FOOT WARRIOR: Answer! 
    ARTHUR: Well it has to be said that on balance very few of the people I count, or rather counted, as friends, most of them have been disintegrated you see, very few of them have piercing red eyes, black armour, and laser rifles. So I think the answer is probably veering towards – 
    FOOT WARRIOR: Answer or I fire! 
    ARTHUR: Ah! Well that clinches it I’m afraid – I don’t think we’re going to be friends. 

  • Julian Elson

    I’m trying to figure out whether “tribalism” is the right word for this.

    Tribe: A group of people sharing some common culture, possibly bound through marriages. E.g. The Levites, Lakota Oglala, Claudii, Mpondo, Angles, etc. Could be extended toward “tribes of affiliation” like Evangelical Christians, presumably?

    Tribal: Of or pertaining to a tribe or tribes. E.g., tribal law.

    Tribalism: Okay, is this a doctrine of tribal superiority and notion of tribes being in intrinsic conflict? That would fit in with “racism,” or “sexism,” but then… hm… it seems like it really should be “tribism.” We (hopefully) don’t say “racialism” or “sexualism.” Well, maybe “tribism” is too awkward a word to use now, so I suppose tribalism is okay.

    So, if I regard my tribe as being innately superior, I’m a tribalist, just like if I regard my sex as innately superior I’m a sexist.

    I’m not sure, though, that a zero-sum competitive worldview is really necessary or sufficient for that, though. I could be a racist, for instance, without regarding everything good for other races as being bad for my race, or vice versa. Alternatively, I could have a view of the world as zero-sum competition without being a racist, tribalist, etc.

    I don’t know. Maybe I’m just being too nitpicky about this. So long as “tribalism” get the idea across, I guess.

  • The_L1985

     Tribalism is essentially the idea that the world is divided into “Us” and “Them,” and that in some way “Them” is trying to destroy or discredit “Us.”  Therefore, any attack against “Them” is a good thing for “Us,” attacks against “Us” were done to strengthen “Them,” and any good thing that happens to one side must be viewed as a Bad Thing by the other.

    “Us” can be identified by certain symbols.  In the case of tribalistic forms of Christianity, you have the ichthus, cross, and cheesy Christian T-shirts.  “Them” is simpler, because it’s simply anything that’s not-Us.

    This is also why yin-yangs, Goddess symbols, and other symbols of non-Christian religions are viewed by this bizarre subset of Christianity as Satanic–you’re either “Us” or “Them,” and since we side with God, that means everybody else must side with Satan.

    I was raised by this sort of “Christian.”*  I can verify without a shadow of a doubt that this particular version of zero-sum tribalism is alive and well within certain churches and church-run schools/homeschool collectives.  This is the exact form it takes.

    *They aren’t really acting like Jesus said to.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ZU7REH7OUUN6WGWDSL6ZFC3TMY Jen

    I was raised by this sort of “Christian.”*  I can verify without a
    shadow of a doubt that this particular version of zero-sum tribalism is
    alive and well within certain churches and church-run schools/homeschool
    collectives.  This is the exact form it takes.

    Oh, yeah.  There’s “Us”, which in my church meant members of my specific denomination (with the understanding that when the Time of Troubles came, some of “Us” would fall from the path), and then there’s *everyone* else.  No matter how good they seem to be, no matter how good they think they are – if they’re not “Us”, they follow the Devil.  They may not realize it.  The Devil may well leave them mostly alone, letting them think they are walking the right path, so that they can unwittingly lead others astray…

    There were specific things we were warned against – places where the Devil’s minions clustered thick (movie theaters, bowling alleys, bars – essentially, places where you might find smoking, drinking, etc.). 

    But mostly you had to fear than anyone who wasn’t one of “Us” was doing the work of the Devil, knowingly or not, and you had to make sure you weren’t led astray by any contact with them.

    Even as a kid, I thought that was just crazy.  It didn’t square with the idea of of a loving deity.  He’s a deity of love, and He’s in control of everything, but the vast majority of people everywhere, many of whom never even heard of Him, are all going to burn in H*ll for eternity? 

  • Kiba

    …when the Time of Troubles came…

    I read this and all I could think of was the Forgotten Realms. 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon
    …when the Time of Troubles came…

    I read this and all I could think of was the Forgotten Realms.

    … a chaotic period when the gods were made flesh and forced to walk the earth. 

  • Ken

    It depends on the record label.

    But doesn’t that mean their tribalism is really economic, based on corporate and brand loyalty? That’s a few rungs further the ladder from religious tribalism, at least on my ladder.

  • SisterCoyote

    But doesn’t that mean their tribalism is really economic, based on corporate and brand loyalty?

    Well… yes. Entirely.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Alan-Alexander/502988241 Alan Alexander

     Depends on your religion. If you assume that a significant percentage of self-identified Christians actually worship Mammon but insist on pretending that Mammon is Christ for branding and PR purposes, a lot of the inconsistencies inherent in modern “Christianity” suddenly resolve themselves.

  • The_L1985

     It’s the reason behind one of my favorite digs at Family Christian:  “It’s easy to find a Family Christian bookstore.  It’s in every Southern town, right on the corner of God and Mammon.”

  • The_L1985

    It’s complicated.  They don’t view it as economic tribalism–the stuff sold in Christian stores is identified as Christian merchandise, after all.  It’s not so much that they think “I must buy Christian stuff!!” as “I must avoid buying stuff from secular companies because they’re Them instead of Us, and thus I shouldn’t associate with them!!”

    This is also the primary reason that those obnoxiously out-of-context fish and “John 3:16” on some auto-repair, auto-towing, plumbing, etc. vehicles EXIST.  A person with a tribalistic mindset is generally reassured by the prominence of tribal symbols, whether or not the positioning or context of those symbols makes any sense at all.

  • Marciepooh

    My pastor has mentioned a few times, from the pulpit even, that he’d never put a fish on his car – he doesn’t want anyone thinking he represents all Christian drivers. Have you hear d the joke about the woman who gets pulled over and the cop’s checking to see if the car is stolen because her behavior doesn’t mesh with all the Christian bumper stickers?

    The fish, etc. on work vehicles is a way of saying “hey, we’re one of you, so hire us!” and I hate them. I figure the times knowing one’s tow-truck guy (handy man, plumber…) is Christian makes a difference, it’d be because he was an ass/incompetent/crooked and now the customer thinks all Christians will be like that. The chances the service will be so spectacular that it’ll actually be a ‘witness’ and bring someone into the fold are astronomical.

  • VMink

     Yes; the Christianist symbols on a variety of workplaces is not to witness; it is to indicate in ways both subtle and not-so-subtle that this is (supposedly) a person you can trust, and more importantly, someone who is Christian(ist) so you can feel comfortable about giving them your hard-earned, God-given money without worrying about it going to one of THEM.

    I’ve yet to see an integrated workplace, or a person of color running a business, who uses those symbols.

  • rrhersh

    I live in an area where ads in the local paper or yellow pages for contractors and the like often include the fish symbol.  I actively avoid hiring them.  It is inconsistent with my understanding of Christianity to use Christianity as a marketing tool.  I also note that there is a long and discreditable tradition of hucksters using professions of Christianity to gull the faithful.  I would be willing to overlook the fish and hire a tradesman if I had some affirmative reason to believe him to be reliable, but if I am just going from the ad, I take the fish to be fair warning.

  • http://leftcheek.blogspot.com Jas-nDye

    Tim Tebow : football :: Scott Stapp : music.

    OMG. LOL!

    Is Tebow really that bad? He can’t POSSIBLY be that horrible!

  • Trixie_Belden

    Think of it this way, Tim Tebow : football :: Scott Stapp: music.

    Wait..am I missing something here?  I thought Tim Tebow was actually supposed to be good at football.

  • ReverendRef

     Wait..am I missing something here?  I thought Tim Tebow was actually supposed to be good at football.

    Well, as is so often said here, it’s more complicated than that.  From what I’ve seen, Tim is . . . confounding.  I mean, how do you explain the fact that led the Denver Broncos into the playoffs, and led them to a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round, while owning the worst QB rating in the league?  You can’t. 

    But this is where the confounding part comes in.  He is certainly a good football player; he’s just not a good QB.  He has a bunch of intangibles — leadership and desire, as well as a bunch of tangibles — he’s got a great body.  But nobody really knows where to put him or how to defend him.

    I personally think he should play at tight end or linebacker.  I also think the next two years in New York are going to be a train wreck.

    And now I’m sure that this thread has reached it’s Tebow limit.  Time to focus on tribalism.

  • LoneWolf343

     “I mean, how do you explain the fact that led the Denver Broncos into the
    playoffs, and led them to a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in the
    first round, while owning the worst QB rating in the league?  You
    can’t. ”

    Simple: The rest of his team was good. There have been teams that won Super Bowls without having a solid offensive team, much less an average quarterback.

  • MSB326

    I have nothing to add to the conversation except to state that the John Rutter Requiem is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever helped to perform. 

  • http://www.nightphoenix.com Amaranth

    This reminds me of when Evanescence’s first album came out. They hit the Christian charts big time, a lot of Christian bookstores were carrying their album, and a lot of people thought they were a Christian band. I guess maybe because a lot of their songs have religious symbolism in them.

    Then the band got interviewed on it, and they basically said they weren’t a Christian band and had no idea why they were even in that market (complete with a few choice swear words). And hooo boy, did all the Christian bookstores dump that album real fast.

    It kinda made me sad, because compared to what sometimes passes as Christian music these days, Evanescence was a much-needed breath of fresh air. And it wasn’t even the content of the music that a lot of the “Christians” had issues with…it was things like “the lead singer wears too much eyeliner” and “the guitarist used the word “fuck” in an interview”.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    This zero-sum view, I think, accounts for part of the backlash against Tebow.

    That, and things like Pat Robertson saying it would “serve [Denver] right” if Peyton Manning (Tebow’s replacement) got hurt. The hypothetical Japanese fans don’t equate a lack of enthusiasm for Ichiro with a dislike of all things Japanese, but Tebow’s evangelical fanbase gave a strong impression of equating a dislike of Tebow for a dislike of Christianity.

    Though I remember the glory days of the Dallas Cowboys when coach Tom Landry was famously friends with Billy Graham, and I don’t recall the same sort of fuss being made.

  • Lori

    But as much as evangelicals like “Claiming [Secular] Musicians as One of Us” — eagerly anointing Mumford and Sons or Justin Bieber as part of “Our Team”

    Just for the record, They can have the Bieb.

    I personally think he should play at tight end or linebacker.  I also
    think the next two years in New York are going to be a train wreck.

    Yup. I could be wrong, but I don’t think the guy is destined for a long career as an NFL QB, which is too bad because I think he could be really good in another position.

    And Tebow and tribalism are not separate topics at all. I have yet to meet an RTC who will tolerate the slightest hint of any suggestion that Tebow is not a great QB. You can’t have any sort of rational discussion with them about the fact that, his skill level aside, even when he’s having one of his good weeks his style is an invitation to early career-ending injury. The QB is the star and they want a star to call their own*.  Because suck it Team Babykillers, that’s why.

    Worse, they assume that people who are not on Team Tebow hate him because he’s Christian and a supposed walking, talking witness to the evils of abortion. I absolutely don’t agree with his anti-choice stance (and have some serious questions about his mother’s story), but my assessment of Tebow the football player is based on the fact that he’s obnoxious and that my honest opinion is that he’s not cut out for the job he has. There is no convincing them of that though, so I don’t try.

     

    *Steve Young didn’t count because, you know, Mormon.

  • Tonio

    My opinion of Tebow wouldn’t change if he was of the caliber of Marino or Elway. I admit I feel some pity for him because of his mother using him as an anti-choice poster child over the years. Still, his Tebowing is simply inappropriate in a workplace setting. For his teammates and opponents, it’s the equivalent of a supervisor or co-worker leading a prayer before a meeting. And for the league itself, it should just as well charge him ad rates, because he’s hijacking the event to promote his religion. No one is stopping Tebow from praying privately away from the cameras, such as in the locker room before or after the game. Tebowing is the NFL equivalent of the fish ornament on cars.

    they assume that people who are not on Team Tebow hate him because he’s
    Christian and a supposed walking, talking witness to the evils of
    abortion.

    I hope that’s actually their debating tactic and not their honest belief. Reminds me of how Cal Thomas once accused Kathie Lee Gifford’s critics of hating goodness:

    http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/thomas010405.asp

  • Lujack

    I’m a little bit torn on exactly the stance to take on openly praying during a football game.  On the one hand, what you say about it being a workplace is true.  On the other hand, dropping to a knee and praying is something that has been a part of football forever; its such an emotional game that I’m not going to begrudge anyone their rituals (Troy Polamalu makes the sign of the cross before every play; Deion Sanders used to lay out his clothes like a body outline before each game).  Those sort of personal displays have always been accepted.

    On the third hand, though, there’s something that’s so…premeditated about Tebowing.  It doesn’t feel the same as Yancey Thigpen catching a touchdown pass and genuflecting because he’s so happy, or Troy Polamalu crossing himself because that’s what HE does.  It feels very much like an advertisement for evangelical Christianity, like you say, instead of a personal expression and display.

    Someone mentioned Tom Landry earlier; I don’t think he got the same backlash because he didn’t make it a part of his football identity.  He was friends with Billy Graham, but on the field he was all about the game.

  • Tonio

    My concern with the tradition of dropping to a knee and praying is that it implies that football has a Christian identity or should have one. That can easily create an atmosphere where non-Christian religions and their members aren’t tolerated.

    Polamalu crossing himself does go against the principle of a nonsectarian workplace. But the distinction between that and Tebowing is that Polamalu is not calling attention to it, as you noted.

    Since I’m not religious, it’s not my concern whether Tebow is conforming to Matthew 6:6, which Weskamp mentioned. I’m not some theological cop issuing citations to Christians who don’t conform to scripture. But I can express broad concerns about people like Tebow wanting everyone to know their religious affiliation. They’re taking something that is by default no one else’s business and making it everyone’s business.

  • Tricksterson

    Does it occur to them that most of the other QBs are also probably Christian, just not so…flamboyant about it?
    I also think some of this is that it’s impossible for the RTCs to see people with religious or spritual tendencies and not leap to the conclusion that they has to be one of them because they’re the only ones with real spirituality, everyone else has to be faking it.  And then when it turns out not to be so, they feel betrayed.

  • LoneWolf343

    What gets me about Tebow is that Xianity had a great–no, one of THE great universally-respected players in Reggie White, but you nary hear a peep about him, in life or in death. Why do even NEED Tebow?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Because Tim Tebow’s white and Reggie White was black. 

  • Lujack

    Yup…but also (and this is maybe my naivete, since I was a kid then) it was in some ways a different time.  The Christian Right didn’t seem to be spoiling for a fight as constantly as they are now.

  • Tricksterson

    I know nought about football (and am happy to remain so) but let me guess, Reggie White is black?

  • Jeff Weskamp

    Also, “Tebowing” conflicts with Jesus’s admonition to pray in private and not out on the streets, “that you may be seen of men.”  And calling the practice “Tebowing” directs the focus away from God and towards Tebow.

  • http://dumas1.livejournal.com/ Winter

    Just to remind people that there are non-religious tribes, I would like to say that, while I am an antheist, I don’t hate Tebow because he’s a Christian. I hate Tebow because he played for the Gators and I’m from northern Georgia.

  • walden

    It’s interesting how people get read out of the “tribe” too.  After the Rob Bell “Love Wins” book came out (slacktivist had a good series on this about the time of the great migration to patheos), my church’s minister said he went to the suburban “Christian” bookstore looking for the book. He said that not only did they not have the book, but they had also removed from the shelves all of the other Rob Bell books that they had apparently been selling for years.  Apparently an evangelical celebrity pastor writing a book that suggested that a literal hell of everlasting pain was not the point of the Christian message was enough to get him banned from the tribe (and all of his writings retroactively banned).  As I think about it, it seems like the famed “Index” of heretical writings maintained by the Inquisition — although I’m not sure whether having one book on the Index meant all of your others were automatically there too.  What’s also kind of weird about this tribalism, is that most of the rest of us living outside the “tribe”  have no idea who is in, or out, or why it matters.  It’s just weird.
    As for Amy Grant, is she back in the tribe, out of it? or can you never get back in once you’ve gone secular? (I never liked her music or voice to begin with, but I don’t understand what she might have done or said to get herself evicted from the island.  It can’t just be being divorced can it?)

  • Lori

    As for Amy Grant, is she back in the tribe, out of it? or can you never get back in once you’ve gone secular? (I never liked her music or voice to begin with, but I don’t understand what she might have done or said to get herself evicted from the island.  It can’t just be being divorced
    can it?)

    I think she’s permanently out. IIRC correctly it started when she had a few mainstream hits. The Christian version of selling out is having too many heathens buy your records. Which is odd since supposedly Christian music is supposed to be a “witness”, but whatever.

    The divorce thing was the last straw because it wasn’t just a divorce. It was 2 divorces precipitated by adultery. The only way to get around that is to do the whole mea culpa dance and cry ostentatiously on the 700 Club or be seen to very publicly receive “counseling” from a famous pastor. Amy Grant didn’t do that. Worse, she had the unmitigated gaul to be publically happy in her new marriage without having done that. She is O.U.T.

  • Apostrophe Skye

     For some variants of Christianity, she was never in: an anti-rock-music presentation at my fundie Baptist elementary school made sure to mention that Amy Grant couldn’t possibly be a Christian because—everyone edge closer to the fainting couches, please—she admitted to occasionally having a beer at baseball games.

    This was around 1984, which was 4th grade for me. By the time I got to college, Christian rap existed. I can only imagine what their presentation on that would be like!

  • Monala

     I always thought it was because Amy Grant was raised Church of Christ. You know, the folks who believe in “works righteousness” because they believe baptism is a necessity for salvation.

  • Lori

    Being raised Church of Christ didn’t seem to hurt Grant much when she started her career. She was the Next Big Thing in Christian music for a while there.

  • rrhersh

    “Apparently an evangelical celebrity pastor writing a book that suggested
    that a literal hell of everlasting pain was not the point of the
    Christian message was enough to get him banned from the tribe (and all
    of his writings retroactively banned).”

    Well, sure.  Stalin used to do the same thing to people for less than that…

  • rrhersh

    “Apparently an evangelical celebrity pastor writing a book that suggested
    that a literal hell of everlasting pain was not the point of the
    Christian message was enough to get him banned from the tribe (and all
    of his writings retroactively banned).”

    Well, sure.  Stalin used to do the same thing to people for less than that…

  • LoneWolf343

     Shouldn’t be, since Newt did it twice.

  • Tricksterson

    There you go applying logic again.  That trick never works.

  • LouisDoench

    I have to admit to indulging in a bit of this kind of us vs them tribe building when it comes to celebrities and performers. Whenever a high profile actor or musician comes out as an Atheist or other form of secularist I definitely do a mental fist pump and chalk another tally up in the win column for “my side”. The most recent one for me was Daniel Radcliffe coming out (although as an Englishman I guess it’s not as big a deal for him). Of course the difference between my side and evangelicals is that atheists are one of the most despised minorities in the country, the least likely to become president, whilst the last two presidents have been “born again” Christians. Evangelicals are only a persecuted minority in their fevered imaginations.
    That’s one of the reasons I’m so conflicted about Tebow. As a football fan I find him fascinating, I want to toss him into the Tardis and take him back to the time of the single wing, or maybe into a future NFL thats not dominated by field general style QB’s and build a weird hybrid offense with 2 passers in the backfield. Thats fun. Plus he did us the immense favor of beating the Steelers last year. We raised a pint to him for that. But the “Tebowing” crap, the way he is free to fly his Jesus freak flag unfettered whilst a guy from my side…not so much. I’m pretty certain there’s not a single out atheist in football. I’m pretty sure the first guy who does will be putting his career (and considering the violence of football, perhaps his health) at risk. The same goes for a gay football player as well. And that’s a huge but quiet victory for “their” side.
    I’ll also admit that it bugs me a little (in a completely irrational fashion) when one of my favorite artists or performers turns out to be on “their” side. I’m one of the biggest Over the Rhine fans in the world (I have Sudsy Malones cred… For OTR fans that’s like seeing the Police at CBGB’s), but I’ll admit that I cringe a bit to find them playing at Cornerstone. Alton Brown is one of my hero’s, but it was a little disappointing to find out that he was a born again… I couldn’t help but wish that he of all people would be on our team. Now the big difference between me and the folks Fred is talking about is that I’m a frickin grown up. I can make the quite reasonable distinction between these tribal urges and real life. Just because Linford Detweiler is a Christian doesn’t stop “The Trumpet Child” from being one of the best albums ever put together, any more than AB’s faith doesn’t make his Texas chili recipe taste any less yummy. And from my limited interaction with these folks, the fact that I’m an Atheist holds no bearing on how they interact with me as a fan. Because they aren’t ASSHOLES. They aren’t emotional toddlers.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I’m amused by the language used in your comment cos around these parts you “come out” as religious, not atheist. Until you say otherwise it’s assumed that you’re atheist, or at least agnostic/don’t give religion much thought.

    Cultural differences are fun and interesting.

  • LouisDoench

    Btw, all of the above applies to Fred as well… Definitely not an asshole. ;)

  • rrhersh

    How many Evangelicals have ever heard of John Rutter?  At a guess, not many.  So far as I can tell, he is Church of England, and his music is clearly of the “spiritually dead” variety, just like the music of Bach and Mozart and everyone before whichever praise chorus is popular nowadays. 

    For what it is worth, I think Rutter’s music is vastly overrated and not terribly interesting.  Does this mean I hate the Church of England?

  • rrhersh

    How many Evangelicals have ever heard of John Rutter?  At a guess, not many.  So far as I can tell, he is Church of England, and his music is clearly of the “spiritually dead” variety, just like the music of Bach and Mozart and everyone before whichever praise chorus is popular nowadays. 

    For what it is worth, I think Rutter’s music is vastly overrated and not terribly interesting.  Does this mean I hate the Church of England?

  • Mary Kaye

    I think there’s some kind of sideways relationship to this post to note that a local Unitarian-Universalist church does a public sing-along of Handel’s _Messiah_ every year on December 26, and for at least the last ten years there have been 3+ Pagans among the singers every year, sometimes more.   The music is brilliant.  There’s a reason people have been singing it for centuries.  The heck with tribalism.

    A Pagan conducted the Hallelujah Chorus a couple of years ago, having won the privilege at a church auction….  (He compared the experience to being the focal person in a large Pagan energy-raising ritual.  Serious positive crowd energy there.)

  • http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/ Storiteller

     I participated in a performance of the Hallelujah Chorus a couple of times at the arts dorm in college.  We were a bit of a mess – no practice, just fun, especially with transcribing for saxophone on the fly – but it was wonderful anyway.  The act of playing such sacred music that was sacred not just for being “Christian religious” but for being beautiful to everyone was really powerful.

  • Michael Pullmann

    I still like to call up “Baby Baby” on Youtube and mentally apply Cartman’s lyrical rule to it.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    An equivalent that comes immediately to my mind is geekdom, eg. “Vin Diesel got a tattoo inspired by one of D&D characters, OMG so adorkable!  He’s One of Us!”

    Key differences:  although some geeks do have an Us vs. Them mentality, I wouldn’t say it’s a signature belief.  Therefore it takes a lot more to cause cultural banishment — “I used to do that stuff, but then I got a life, haw haw” would do it, but thankfully that seems rare.

  • Pat68

    I think another reason for the disdain shown to Amy Grant was her divorce and remarriage, which is the problem with being made an icon of a subculture.  The minute you deviate from the accepted or expected norm, you may be vilified for it.  That’s why Tim Tebow and anyone else should beware.  Be your own person and don’t buy into the hype.  The minute he changes his routine, people will descend on him like white on rice for betraying his faith, caving to pressure, etc. ad nasuseum.  

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Alton Brown is one of my heroes, but it was a little disappointing to
    find out that he was a born again… I couldn’t help but wish that he of
    all people would be on our team.

    On a similar note, when the Saints went Super and suddenly all these publishers were wooing Drew Brees in hopes of being the house to print and sell his memoir, I winced hard when I read that he went with Tyndale because their sharing his faith was important to him.

    Drew Brees and LaJenkins have a publisher in common. Eesh. But he didn’t go on from there to start Tebowing all over the place, thank goodness.

    (I’m also amused by the opposite-day symmetry between Brees and Tebow. Tebow got shot into the limelight first by his mom’s anti-abortion Superbowl ad. Brees took his mother to court to stop her using his name in her political campaigns.)