By David Hegg
If you’ve been playing with an open mind and open ears, you’ve been astounded at the way identity has become the only thing that matters in debate or discussion. Simply put: How you are identified has become the box in which your views, opinions and convictions are considered viable. If you step outside the box, you can no longer be considered useful, let alone correct.
An example: In the abortion debate, a pro-life male can never be allowed into the discussion because his identity as a man constitutes a de facto disqualification. His “man” tribe is prohibited from being useful because the subject matter lays outside the identity ascribed to them. If a man dares speak to “non-male” issues, that is, if he steps out of the “male box,” nothing he says will be considered viable. When you step out of your tribal box, you’re no longer interesting, viable, or relevant. You’re a fool.
Here’s another: A Hispanic congressman can never truly represent a Caucasian constituency because his Hispanic identity can never understand what it is like to be white, and vice versa.
I am trusting that you, my educated, informed and rational reader can see the absurdity of both examples. But this is the tidal wave of incredulity that is taking our society under and threatening to drown all semblance of reasonable, rational and critically necessary thinking.
My point: I don’t have to commit adultery to understand the horror of that act by which marital trust is shattered, couples plunged into deep pain, and children devastated and bruised, often for life. The color of my skin won’t make a scintilla of difference in my ability to recognize taxes that drive out small businesses are bad, a trained, effective police force is necessary for an ordered society, an internal ethical system of honesty, integrity and hard work is better than government compulsion, or that picking up your socks, making your bed and brushing your teeth are good habits.
As you readers know, I am a clergyman who believes, preaches and attempts to align my life with the Bible. However, I also believe an atheist can speak truth and be a source of useful information in areas where I am not as well-informed. I also believe he or she and I can be friends and learn from one another in certain ways if we’ll agree to be courteous, kind and honest. Our “identities” don’t circumscribe our intellectual capacity. Our religious convictions or lack thereof don’t limit our ability to bring value to discussions on all kinds of issues that confront us. While we may have different reasons for our beliefs about marriage, we can agree that cheating is wrong.
As true as all this may be, we are being tyrannized by tribal “group-think” and it is sickening. If you’re in a particular tribe, you’re not allowed to agree with someone from the opposing tribe. If you’re Black and you hold to conservative ideals, the official Black tribe will say you’re not really Black. If you’re a Republican and you vote your conscience and constituency instead of the tribe’s mandate, they’ll call you a RINO. And if you’re a Democrat and dare break with tribal dogma, they’ll call you Manchin or Sinema or worse.
Friends, where are we going? We once marched to protest the idea that the color of one’s skin didn’t determine the content of his or her character. What happened? How have we fallen back into “tribal tyranny” where how I label you determines how much value I place on you, your views, your arguments and your convictions?
The problem is great but the solution is simple: Quit equating identity with convictions. Stop assuming someone’s position based on his or her tribe. Refuse to see the world as made up of various homogeneous tribes and, instead, start granting others the privilege of personal conviction regardless of how easy it would be to turn your prejudice and bias loose and lump them into a category so you can more easily denigrate and dismiss them and their arguments.
We’ve become a society that would rather dismiss people than dialogue with them. As a result, we’re losing what every business, family and team eventually come to understand: We need each other and victory is almost always secured not through destructive internal competition but through relational chemistry, that “stuff” that breeds mutual respect and the ability to do together what we could never do alone. When we get along, we end up going forward a long way, together. Now that really would be building back better, and the only cost would be humility, intentionality and courtesy. I’ll vote for that!
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.