As the world gapes in wonder at the extraordinary devotion Roy Moore seems to inspire in some people, the word du jour appears to be ‘tribalism’ — the stubborn, unreasoning, damn-the-torpedoes allegiance to a group that so often drives mean-spiritedness toward the … other.
High time. I was talking about the role of tribal identity a long time ago. Here, for instance:
Mohler and Moore are struggling to enforce a meaningless distinction, hewing to evangelicalism as a theological stance while sniffing piously at the doomed and dying culture in which it is embedded and from which it draws its strength — chiefly (though of course not exclusively) the racist, anti-intellectual, anti-modernity, misogynistic, south. I am not kidding y’all: That sweet old lady who hasn’t missed a Sunday since that glorious day she was saved 60-years ago once delivered picnic-baskets of sandwiches to the menfolk who stood at roadside and threw rocks at the civil rights marchers — and she doesn’t know bupkus about what’s in the Bible, or what ‘evangelical’ means theologically. What she knows is that the world is changing, that the culture of her community, even her church, is changing, and in a way that she doesn’t like — and that it’s all the fault of those uppity dark people who don’t even speak good American half the time, and those sluts who went to college, and those snooty smarty-pants perfessers, and those newspaper people, and those gay people who want to get married and adopt kids and be a family.
Soon afterward, Albert the Pious published on his Web site an essay including this astonishing passage:
Will Southern Baptists embrace an identity that is more theological than tribal? The older I get the more I recognize the value of the tribal inheritance I received as a young boy. This is why I phrased the question “more theological than tribal” rather than “theological instead of tribal.” In fact, I believe it is impossible to survive as a community of conviction without having a certain amount of tribal identity. But, as many young Southern Baptists now realize, tribal identity is not enough. Tribal identity alone will eventually give way to theological accommodation. Our identity must be more theological than tribal, and that requires a change in the logic of the Southern Baptist Convention, certainly a change from the logic employed during the middle and late decades of the twentieth century.
About which I said this:
I guarantee you: Southern Baptists are not going to get more theological. What is going to happen is that their hateful culture, their tribe, is going to grow more malice-eaten and subterranean.
Which is exactly what is happening in Alabama, and is happening all over the world, as the degradation that inheres in the Abrahamic faiths is rejected.