Evangelical tribalism is not healthy for children and other living things

Evangelical tribalism is not healthy for children and other living things August 26, 2012

Jason Pitzl-Waters is a wise man. In his regular music round-up, he captures just why so-called contemporary Christian music is not something to be emulated:

The yearning to develop something akin to “Contemporary Christian” music within our own communities is, I believe, counter-productive to the impulses that actually move us into sacred territory.

When I construct A Darker Shade of Pagan each week I don’t think about the Pagan pedigrees, I think about what inspires and envelops me. When I think about music that makes the dead dance, I don’t think about whether that artist is “one of us,” I ask if that artist moves my Pagan soul.

Concern with “one of us” — and the totems, slogans and “stances” that arise to confirm such tribal membership — is at the core of why no one, anywhere, should want to develop anything akin to contemporary Christian music. Or to contemporary Christian politics. Or to the contemporary Christian theology reshaped by that music and politics.

Once “one of us” and it’s its more-important corollary “not one of us” become your concern, they quickly become your main concern, and then eventually your only concern.

And here is a perfect illustration of what that does to music, to religion, to politics, and to any capacity you once might have had for love:


For those who can’t watch video — or who recognize Carman there and thus prudently refuse to click “play” — let me try to describe this for you. It’s a song by Carman and 1980s Christian rock stalwarts Petra.

The lyrics begin by lamenting the 1962 Supreme Court decision ending state-sponsored establishment prayers in public schools. Carman, rapping like MC Neil Diamond, offers a litany of post-hoc argumentation, blaming everything he considers bad on the court’s ruling. He calls it “religious apartheid.”

“It’s our turn now” proclaims the chorus — a rallying cry for the tribal rule of sectarian religion. And everyone else, everything outside the tribe, is on the side of the “devil.”

It’s fairly similar to the rallying cry Mike Huckabee gave this week, when he chose to illustrate what religion-as-tribalism and politics-as-tribalism look like combined.

The former Arkansas governor and former Southern Baptist pastor spoke on a conference call to hundreds of Missouri clergy, drumming up their support for his man, Rep. Todd Akin. “This could be a Mt. Carmel moment,” Huckabee said:

You know, you bring your gods. We’ll bring ours. We’ll see whose God answers the prayers and brings fire from heaven. That’s kind of where I’m praying: that there will be fire from heaven, and we’ll see it clearly, and everyone else will, too.

Huckabee knows, and the right-wing pastors he was addressing all know, the ending of that biblical story:

Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; do not let one of them escape.” Then they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Wadi Kishon, and killed them there.

Nice guy, that Huckabee. Avuncular. Affable. And oh-so-very civil, don’t you think?

For the Carman video above, you can blame Ericka M. Johnson at the Friendly Atheist. Ericka describes how Carman’s music, and especially this song, played a key role in her faith journey as a teenager. “I was a big fan of it and played it over and over for a long time. I even had ideas for creating my own video to go along with it,” she writes.

Today, she’s a board member with Seattle Atheists. Religion-as-tribalism had it’s its turn. It’s her turn now.

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