There’s a genuine and legitimate need to be part of a group. It’s called community and people need community. Thus we join model train clubs, drum and bugle corps, the Tea Party, whatever. It’s what we do. We’re social animals.
While the need is valid, the way we fulfill it is often warped. The problem isn’t that we want to be part of a community, family, clan, or other small society of like-minded individuals. It’s the way we do it.
I’m referring primarily to the exclusivity problem. For some folks, it’s not enough to be part of something, they want to exclude others. That’s when a community becomes a clique. That’s a Bad Thing.
One relatively benign sign of this exclusivity was exemplified on the bumper of a vehicle owned by a friend of mine. He’s a wonderful guy, but his bumper sticker bugged me big time. It looked like this:
Man, I feel really bad that I don’t understand the “Jeep Thing”, but then that’s the point, isn’t it? You’re in and I’m out. The latter is at least as important as the former. (BTW, I don’t understand the “Jeep thing”, yet feel strangely good about it.)
This unfortunately tendency extends even to that place where it should be anathema: the church. The us vs. them mentality fostered by what passes for the Christian church in America is all too real. I’m in the church, you’re out; I’m saved, you’re a sinner. It’s pervasive and it’s heresy. If I don’t consider my every thought, word, and deed, I will find myself, as I often have, in that cesspool.
We have our secret language Outsiders and Unbelievers (that’s a weird term; St. Paul calls demons “believers”) can’t comprehend. Some of us could carry on a conversation in Christianese that would be as inscrutable to an unchurched person as Cantonese.
We’re the ultimate clique, personal friends with God. The market for a bumper sticker that reads, “It’s a God thing, you wouldn’t understand!” is out there waiting to be tapped by someone even more cynical than me, if such a one exists.
God wants us to be His friends, yes, but He loves all humanity. He wants us all to be part of His family. That’s why He wants us looking outward, not inward admiring each other. (At this point a discussion of one of those “inside” words – predestination – would be interesting but a thorough distraction.)
So a good thing – community – becomes a bad thing – a clique. It’s the human tendency to twist God’s good things into their funhouse mirror images. The Bible calls it our “sinful nature”. We’re all part of that clique.
Having said all this, my next post will address the upside of an exclusive small community with which I am involved.
Who says you can’t have it both ways?
(The concept of wanting to be in an exclusive Inner Ring is the subject of a lecture by C. S. Lewis as well as references in other books of his. It won’t surprise you that he does a much better job with the subject than I do.)