Recently, we were deeply pained to see the image of a young woman reporter, from the Christian Science Monitor, threatened with execution if all Iraqi women prisoners were not released. We were puzzled as well. How could these terrorists threaten an innocent woman? Possibly this woman was even against the U. S. led invasion and occupation of Iraq. Amazingly, anti-war Amazingly, anti-war Americans have been executed by Muslim Arab terrorists. "These are innocent individuals," we cry. We are shocked by terrorist behavior.

The Cartoon Protests and Riots

We have also seen riots in many Muslim countries over the publication in Denmark and then in other European countries, of cartoons depicting Mohammed and Islam in what were perceived to be an unflattering light. Most probably the cartoons were not slandering Mohammed, but were slamming the perception of Islam created by terrorist Muslims. A humorous but very sad cartoon appeared in the International Herald Tribune. Angry crowds of Muslims gathered and shouted, "Kill infidels! Death to Danes! Off with their hands! Off with their heads! Off with their hands and heads!" Finally, one man in the crowd said to a friend, "Watch, some cartoonist will twist this around to make us look bad." They indeed look very bad to most in the West, to most who are not Muslims, and even to some who are Muslims. Many have indeed died over this controversy. It is not the one who published the cartoon who is guilty, but all Danes, or all Europeans or all Christians (as in Nigeria). Freedom of the press means nothing.

Primitive Tribalism

How do we explain this mentality? It is the mentality of primitive tribalism. This mindset is so far from Western individualism, that we struggle to comprehend it. In primitive tribalism, the individual is not significant. The tribe is all that is matters. It is perceived as one corporate personality. The honor and shame of one's own tribe is the ultimate value issue. The individual is easily sacrificed for the tribe. The opposing tribe is the enemy and is rightly slaughtered.

The idea of an innocent individual in the other tribe is not possible in primitive tribalism. He or she is guilty as part of the tribe, even if he or she professes to reject their own tribe's directions! There is no innocent individual. All Israelis are guilty! All Americans are guilty! So, the reporter from the paper is not innocent. She must die.

Even inter-Muslim battles are very tribal. Some Sunnis think Shiites are not worthy to live. One stated that to kill children in a bombing attack is acceptable because such children will grow up to be adult Shiite heretics. What utter nonsense when Hamas accuses the Israelis of collective punishment for the gullible Western press.

Islamic Pan Tribalism

Islam conquered many tribes and has now created an amazing joint pan tribalism. There exists today a mega tribal mentality among Muslims. This is especially the case with radical Arab Muslims, but this is not exclusive to Arabs. Even within one's own tribal group the life of individuals are expendable. In Iran, a non Arab society, a leading Ayatollah and former high government official said, "If we get nuclear bombs, we should bomb Israel." He was told that this could kill millions of Arab Muslims. His response was that this was a price worth paying to get rid of Israel and restore Muslim rule to the land (a land that no one could live in due to radioactive fallout)! He elaborated. There are tens of millions of Arab Muslims, and losing a few million is not so terrible. Furthermore, those Muslims who died in the nuclear bombing would be martyrs who would receive great reward in heaven. The suffering from radiation poisoning, the loss of family members, and the devastating pain is inconsequential.

Honor and Shame as Driving Motives

The concepts of honor and shame drive tribal societies. Islam knows shame for several historic events, and they must redeem themselves from this shame. The first ocurrence was when the French leader, Charles Martin, stopped the advancing Muslim hordes in the 8th century. The second was the expulsion of the Muslims from Spain in the 15th century. The third was the failure to conquer Vienna in the 16th century. However, the fourth and greatest shame was the loss of Islamic rule over the land of Israel. The loss of land that was once under Islamic rule is a terrible shame that must be redeemed.

Jewish Tribalism

Tribalism can also be perceived in milder ways in the Jewish world. When an individual is constrained from searching for the truth about Yeshua and the New Covenant in an appeal to Jewish loyalty, we have an assertion of tribal loyalty above a commitment to truth. The funeral given for Jewish followers of Yeshua is an assertion of tribal loyalty as superceding the importance of individual conscience.

Tribalism in Congregations that Claim to Follow Yeshua

Tribalism asserts itself whenever justice takes a back seat to favoritism for one's relatives and friends. This is seen even in congregational communities where the leader rules as a chief and cannot be corrected or disciplined for doing wrong.

The Bible and the Importance of the Individual

While the Bible has an important place for the reality of the corporate dimension, the biblical tradition asserts the sacred value of every individual as created in the image of God. In the Bible, the individual is called to make a decision for Yeshua, even though it may lead to family and tribal rejection! Hence, Yeshua says that the Gospel brings a sword of division. All are called to love him above our deepest family connection (Matthew 10:34-39). The search for truth and its claim upon our lives supersedes family, tribal and national loyalties.

This biblical emphasis, after a long period of development, led to the idea of the importance of religious liberty. If the conscience is so much a part of our sacred individual being, then the individual must be free to decide religious issues on the basis of the evidence as he weighs it. This was the same argument that Roger Williams used as he led Rhode Island to pass laws, which created the first modern land to establish full religious liberty. This liberty was not absolute, for all had to support a civil law system based on biblical values, and religions that would destroy liberty were not welcome. For Williams, true liberty had to include the freedom to debate and persuade. This would enable the truth to rise to prominence.

Today's idea that we must equally respect all religions is really to respect none. This leads to a new tribalism, but a relativistic tribalism where the rule is not to offend another tribe or religion. Asserting the truth of one's beliefs is itself said to be offensive. Yet this is itself a denial of the individual's ability to discover the truth. Next month, we will look at the Bible's teaching on the individual and the communal.

The Gospel Liberates from Tribalism

In Israel we need the power of the Spirit to break through the tribalism of Jews and much more so of Arabs. Supernatural breakthrough is necessary to give the individual an opportunity to break out of the bondage of tribalism to attain biblical liberation in the Kingdom of God ruled by Yeshua.

By Daniel Juster

Dan Juster leads the overall ministry Tikkun International. Donate to Tikkun International.

Let us know what you think - why not comment to this article. The authors of these articles are often involved in intense ministry and are thus unable to respond to most comments. As is normal with print and online magazines, Tikkun reserves the right to publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.
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13:15 06Apr06 Jeremy Johnson -
This article reminds me of the verse where Yeshua said that "unless you 'hate' mother, father and others (compared to your love for Me) you cannot be my talmidim". It just goes to show that we need to have a better love for our Messiah. Love enough to tell others about Him. After all we talk about ourselves, our family and the news- but when do we tell others about the One who is our hope? Shalom.

15:03 05Apr06 Sharon M Yount -
I never knew, I will pray for the freedoom of the Israeli people, that they will come to know Yeshua. That is war, some how Hashem will step in, my heart breaks to read what is going on, that I pray for unity.

18:23 06Apr06 LindaE -
Thanks for the insights on "tribal communities" -- this brings some clarity to the kinds of responses we see in the cited situations.

10:05 07Apr06 anonymous -
An excellent article. I believe that Dan Juster is very perceptive--he's made certain things clearer to me--and I join him in prayer for a Supernatural breakthrough for those who are in the bondage of tribalism--Jews, Arabs,and those in the bondage of relativistic tribalism!

07:31 08Apr06 Elizabeth Hiveley -
Excellent article... gives us much more understanding of the mindset of the Arabs. Thank you so much. Invaluable... helps us in intercession for the whole area. Shalom shalom

22:11 13Apr06 Donald Anamalai -
This is the time for Jews and Arabs to come to have faith in Yeshua. You are doing a great work. Keep it up. Will be praying for you!!

Also in this issue of the newsletter:

Eitan Shishkoff: Fields of Hope
Leora Mazurovsky: Single Moms, Treasured by God and Kehila
Asher Intrater: Discipleship Manual
David Shishkoff: Travel Log of Asia Trip