We live in a time of huge political turmoil. The Brexit negotiations have divided our country and polarized opinion. But the trend towards polarization began long before any vote on leaving the EU. In the early 2000’s, the religious sociologist, Michel Maffesoli, commented in his thesis called ‘The Time of the Tribes’, on how society had begun to break down and that social existence was becoming fragmented through groupings organised around catchwords, soundbites, brand-names and entrenched ill-informed opinions. Many of his predictions appear to have come true, and with the Trump era of politics we see an increased inability for debate and rational argument across the world; with each side entrenched in their own opinions and increasingly aggressive towards those who hold a different view. The age of reasoning seems long since passed and with its demise society has suffered terrible losses.
Such tribalism is the enemy of community. It entrenches us into small groups of people who are just like us and we increasingly only associate with people of a similar age, social standing, or whose opinions shore up our own. But true community breaches all such barriers – it allows for people of differing views and demographics to come together and learn from one another. This is the way humanity is designed to live.
As people of truth, we Christians recognise the inability for any individual to hold all the answers. Our God is so big that we cannot force him into a box of our creating, hemmed in by our own narrow perspective. In nearly every argument, both sides hold some element of truth and only by reasoning and bringing all views together can we hope to move closer to the answer we seek.
As we approach Holy Week and Easter, we see the build up to the tragic events that led to Jesus’ murder on the Cross. Each character in the narrative holds a tiny element of the truth, but only God in Jesus holds truth in its entirety. As each person clings to their own perspective and refuses to see the bigger picture, we see followers flee, crowds turning to attack and rulers authorizing appalling cruelty just to hold on to their tiny regimes of earthly power. And all the time, it is the truth that is killed, as we see the holder of all truth slowly and painfully dying on a scaffold of wood.
But, of course, truth cannot be thwarted by human agency, no matter how corrupt or ill informed. In the end the truth will out. As Christ rises on Easter Day, his disciples are fortunate enough to see truth for what it really is – life giving, eternal, hopeful.
All things pass, and the political madness we see in our world today will also pass. Let us pray that ‘The Time of the Tribes’ will also pass soon. As Christ’s followers, we must work for the building of true community and not entrenched tribalism. As conveyors of truth, we must push for compromise amongst the political elite and pray for a return to open fair debate and reasoning in our world.
As Jesus’ disciples today, we hold on to a truth that is beyond political allegiance or human agency; a truth which existed before time began and offers eternity. If we can model what it is to be reasonable and to respect other people’s opinion, then we have it in our capabilities to begin changing the world for the better. It might mean us walking the path of Calvary to get there, but such a journey always leads to new life.
May Christ keep you faithful and give you strength this Holy Week, and may he lead you to resurrection joy come Easter.
With every blessing,