As this issue is being released, the first presidential debate will have just taken place. As I write, President Trump and Presidential Candidate Joe Biden have landed in Cleveland Ohio, both eager (I am assuming) to promote their respective campaigns, and undoubtedly, lay stumbling blocks for the other.
Regardless of what you or I think of either candidate, we can agree on the immense tribalism which has infiltrated the deepest functions of our modern experience in America. From the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, to mask-wearing ordinances on the state and local level, every move feels to further divide a country which is already straining from continued lockdowns in California to protests and riots in Kenosha Wisconsin to further unrest in nearly every major city in the nation. With violence and destruction following in the wake of calls for reform, reconciliation seems to come to us with a hand of embrace and fist of dissent. Under these temperatures, pain becomes politicized, sorrow sows division among communities, and hope for restoration is deferred.
All this might lead us to react in two distinct ways. Firstly, this might lead us to dig in our heels and double-down on the narrative of our respective tribe. It’s tempting and natural for our social in-group and out-group markers to draw a line in the sand. In fact, it’s wired deep in our biology to have suspicion and aversion to the other. That doesn’t make it right or beneficial. Secondly, our reaction may be to recoil, to fly below the radar. It is certainly my own proclivity to avoid difficult conversations concerning politics. We live with the fear that a culture of tribalism encourages. I’m afraid to be labeled as tone-deaf, uncaring, or a bigot, and I know instinctively that if I remain silent I can survive. Tribalism draws me into the stunned space between, the space of fight-or-flight.
But what if Christ calls me to more than either tribalism or silence? What if the call of Christ in the social sphere bears with it the cross of the Gospel as I seek to grow in my understanding of chaos, order, and the Christian imagination?
Hardened into the clay of our politics is a tribalism which promotes and progresses the fear of the other. As believers, we must transcend the polarizing tribes which are themselves sustained by repulsion of the other. To enter into any tribe is to become polarized, no doubt, but what does the transcendent and primary Tribe of Christ have to offer that these secondary contemporary movements fail to produce? What chaos can Christ call to order? These are the questions which the following articles seek to answer—how we might 1) navigate and transcend the war around us which is sustained by the chaos of conflict with the “other,” and 2) join with Christ’s Body in a unifying proclamation of the Gospel, as a counterculture ever-transformative presence. It is by no means an easy conversation, but one that we must undertake if we are to follow our Messiah and live as those who will usher in the Kingdom of God. It is only by grace and confession that we might blunder and repent our way toward the consummation of redemptive history. It is to this end that we both write and pray.
To God be the glory.
-Editor-in-Chief of WTM