Andrew Levison, Stanley’s only child, asserts to me that Stanley was an atheist with no specific interest in organized Judaism. Andrew wrote to me: “If someone had asked him if he was Jewish, he would have replied ‘Yes, and Apache and African and Chinese as well. I am the inhabitant of a planet, not the member of a tribe.’”¹
The above quote, taken from a soon to be released book about Stanley Levison’s relationship with Martin Luther King, Jr. should represent the position of all enlightened human beings. However, no such attitude prevails among most human beings and especially those who represent themselves as being staunchly religious.
The excuse many among the Christian faith use to perpetuate tribalism is Jesus’ statement that he came specifically to communicate redemption to the Jews. Without going into a lengthy historical narrative, most of you know that the ancient Jewish nation was originally composed of twelve tribes. These twelve tribes were briefly united into one powerful Jewish nation whose first king was Saul. It wasn’t long before this nation made of tribes was divided along tribal lines. In a manner no different from what we see today, there became a northern and southern kingdom composed of opposing Jewish tribes.
Since this isn’t a geopolitical blog, rather a blog about the Way, let me hurry on to the main point. Spiritually the Jewish nation has served as a microcosm of the human condition. If there is anything special at all about the Jews it is that they are typical of humanity. Jesus’ statement that he came to redeem the lost among the Jews should be taken in the spiritual context in which it was meant. That is that the divine desire to have humanity reunited with God the Father would be carried out through a representative sample of humanity provided by the Jewish people. The rebirth of the Jewish people was and is to be a spiritual rebirth, not a rebirth of a nation as often represented by Zionism.
This spiritual rebirth was and is to be replicated throughout all of humanity. It was the calling of the original disciples to spread this spiritual legacy to all nations, peoples and tongues. Churches were established by these disciples and their followers to serve as places where spiritually reborn individuals, newly reunited with God the Father, could come together and support one another’s spiritual growth. However, as we know these earlier churches were soon infiltrated by those who had not experienced a spiritual rebirth. The churches themselves became tribal in nature divided along various secular and doctrinal lines. The simple message of God’s love for humanity became corrupted by those who sought to use the churches to perpetuate earthly, secular power. The strong lure of tribalism corrupted the church to the point that now there is no distinction between what is good and what is evil, which is the definition of blasphemy.
Why the strong lure of tribalism? The answer is simple and ironic. All human beings seek purpose and meaning. Purpose and meaning are most easily obtained through a sense of belonging. First belonging to a family and then to an extended family, then a group of families that end up making up a tribe. A human being’s identity is defined by family and tribal relationships. Where’s the irony? The irony is that the real purpose and meaning come not only from an earthly family but the true family which is spiritual and can only be realized when the desires of one’s heart is for God the Father and ONENESS.
Sadly, even churches who proclaim to believe the spiritual message of Jesus, that you must be born again, at the same time divide themselves into various tribes of doctrinal differences all claiming to be the only “true” church. The most egregious representation of this state of affairs was the Catholic churches attempt to destroy the Eastern Orthodox Christians during the fourth crusade. And though the eastern and western churches have reconciled after more than 800 years of hostility, to their shame they remain two separate churches, each infected by tribalism. Known as the great schism it is no more than spiritually bereft leaders, separated from God, masquerading as representatives of Christ when they neither know Him nor love Him.
Let me be clear. God our Father is transcendent. God is not the universe, God is above and infinitely beyond the universe. God is not the God of a tribe, a people or a nation. God is ONE. You can not know God if you consider yourself a Jew, an African American, a patriotic this, that or the other, a white man or a red man, a loyal Democrat, Republican or Libertarian, or as Bob Dylan noted, “a spiritual preacher preaching spiritual pride or a city councilman taking bribes on the side”. It is what Jesus meant when he said, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Jesus even went so far as to warn that you must hate your own life, meaning your life separated from God. Put another way, there is no life apart from God. I think the pop culture’s fascination with zombies is directly related to a subconscious knowing that separate from God we are the living dead.
The very natural yearning for human beings to find meaning and purpose through a sense of belonging can only be satisfied through reuniting with the ONE from whom that yearning originates. As a result tribal tendencies fade and your eyes are opened to the reality of our common humanity. Then and only then will you be filled with Divine Love leading to a peace that truly surpasses understanding. And for that,
To God Be The Glory Forever and Ever,
1. A quote from, DANGEROUS FRIENDSHIP: Stanley Levison, Martin Luther King Jr., and The Kennedy Brothers.’ Used by permission from the author.
Categories: God and the Universe