In Bible studies and casual conversations, we have people asking how to better understand the Bible without falling into the trap of a tribally dogmatic and deeply religious mindset. How do we avoid romanticizing or mysticizing and over-spiritualizing the passages? The answer to this is in the form of another question. Is the way we are learning or being exposed to the Bible encourage openness, investigation of literary strategies, critical-mindedness, and cross-referential and evidence-based reading?

These questions are real questions and curiosity that connect to achieving real unity. Connect— in the deepest sense of belongingness. The questions require a multilayer and also specific approaches. So allow me to tackle this by offering practical and direct suggestions.

First, look at your book and material library. Honestly, calculate if you have a well-balanced catalog of diverse books. If you aren’t into reading, check your media (TV viewing and online visits). If 50% or more of your reading list is comprised of faith-based authorship, chances are you are already indoctrinated. And indoctrination is not education. Education encourages critical thinking whereas indoctrination closes the mind.

People who are indoctrinated are also highly predisposed to a tribal mindset whether these individual admits it or not. In matters of highly-charged topics, they are unlikely to be open to a position they don’t follow even when an argument is strong and objective. They can argue this, but the truth is, there’s no arguing with biases or unbending hardlines.

On the same token, you may argue from a moral standpoint and say that at least what you are reading is faith-based or that you are generally a good person compared to those who overtly offend others. But how is this mindset working out in today’s environment? Most conversations we have, even polite ones are marred with biases, both implicit and explicit.

Next, see the company we choose to hang with. Aren’t most of our chosen groups and associations look or sound just like us? Do we eat the same type of cuisines every time and are reluctant to venture outside comfort zones? The thing is, a great number of us devour the same informational materials and stay within comfortable familiar zones even though we subscribe to a variety of platforms. The diversity talk is just that —talk. And then we wonder why we are so disintegrated, tribal. By tribal (and tribalism), I refer to an extreme sense of loyalty to one’s own group and belief system to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. Anything outside the person’s tribe is perceived as a potential threat or enemy.

Bear with me, a little. You can unfollow me later if that’s how you feel, but in the meantime, give the following the benefit of the doubt.

In this digital age of information, my advice: 1. Consume less. 2. Acquire new learning skills and tools that work. 3. Contribute to the promotion of a joint journey of learning together.

By the above I say, strategically limit your subscription of podcasts, Scriptural commentaries, sermons, and books. Consuming more and more opinions and interpretive information is just counterintuitive. You don’t have to devour every bible-inspired material in the market to understand the Bible and to get closer to God. Because really, when you read the Bible side by side with countless commentaries, analyses, and multiple sermons, what you’re basically doing is endorsing a highly subjective process of elimination. The criterion used here is always based on what resonates more to you, what preaching-style or prose you liked the best.

In order to break tribalism, we have to get rid of our own deeply ingrained biases and confront our tribal thoughts and ways. Then and only then are we able to commit to a joint journey of learning —learning together as a joint community that is committed to the truth even when that means finding out your long-held belief is wrong.

And so what I am strongly proposing is for us to get back to the basics of reading comprehension and learning together. Focus instead on reading and learning about literary techniques, acquiring reading comprehension skills, checking out historical and ethnographic data for adjunct learning. And READ. Really, read and learn together the Bible’s text sans bias-magnet commentaries. This may not outright solve the problem of tribalism, but it’s a foundational start to a long-term and sustainable goal of loving everyone everywhere. ❤️

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