This new settlement of government makes a lot of people uneasy. Not least the media who are either incredulous that a coalition arrangement can be made to work or scathing about its democratic mandate. One of the strongest tensions seems to be between the general voters of the nation (who rather like the idea of politicians actually working together, for a change) and the political classes, activists and media obsessives who cannot accept it. Their continual cry is of ‘compromise’ ‘sell out’ ‘desperation for power’ etc. I have plenty to say about the media but let’s leave them to one side for a moment- the tribalism of some within all the political parties is laid bare for all to see just now. The argument goes ‘If you were a true Conservative, you wouldn’t settle for this watered down deal’ ‘If you were a true Lib Dem, you wouldn’t compromise some of your policies just to get into government’  ‘If you are true Labour you should prepare for a battle that says vote yellow get blue next time’. Strangely enough, many of the most ardent supporters of all three parties would have preferred the same outcome- a Tory minority government- simply because that would have positioned each of them best for fighting another election pretty soon (or so the logic goes- they can’t all be right!). However, all of this reduces politics to little more than a high-stakes game where tactics and strategy become the be all and end all. The party purists absolutely love this, it is in their DNA, they fight from by-election to by-election with escalating demands to outflank their opponents with (sometimes dubious) tactics. Pure party dogma is all and compromise is unthinkable and unnecessary.

Meanwhile, we have a country to be run facing huge challenges.

Tribalism in our churches also runs deep. We often have a sneaking worry that another stream/denomination/network is doing better then ours, Or a sneaking sense of self-importance that ours is doing rather nicely, thank you (‘Our stream is still planting new churches…’) We capitalise on the latest way forward hoping to gain comparative advantage, I once heard it said ‘Of course, we evangelists are a competitive lot’. We all need to do some soul-searching from time to time and reassess our motivation. We would do well to spend a little more time with those outside our networks, asking questions, encouraging the good and sharing our most cherished ideas. The alternative is small-minded tribalism that ‘wins’ lots of local skirmishes but gives the lie to John 17:21. Our own pure theology is all and wider engagement is unthinkable and unnecessary.

Meanwhile, we have a kingdom to proclaim facing huge challenges.


One thought on “tribalism

  1. Clearly we are living in a time when support for the usual political process is very low, just as many (apart from Dawkins and Hitchen) are searching for a spiritual answer outside the church. This development may revitalise political fortunes (in my view only if the Government demonstrates that consience matters more than party discipline) and at the same time I think it does give us in the church a much needed reminder of the importance of unity. The benefit of 5 year maximum terms (fixed or not) is that you do have to just get on with it. When your context has a 2000 year history and an eternal future, the sense of urgency is not what it could be (some that do feel that urgency is part of the Gospel mandate, are often able to find pragmatic responses to John 17 that they would never allow to be applied to other passages of Scripture)

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