God, Sex, Goliath, and Other Scary Things..

What’s wrong? Here’s the answer:

(These thoughts are complicatedly interrelated as most of the thoughts in all of our minds are. I admire deeply, though, those persons that are able to simplify in ways that I can’t. Bear with me. I promise some new ideas here that will affect the way some of you see the world from this point on. Really!)

Families, Bands, and Tribes

Our species evolved and spent most its communal history in bands of families and tribes of bands. Families bonded together for security and diversification of the gene pool, and crossed the difficult barriers of geography and suspicion to become bands. The people who lived on that side of the mountain needed to get at animals on the other side of the mountain and- “oh, by the way, while we’re over there hunting can we procreate with your people?”

(Trying my best to simplify- I trust you understand. This is cultural anthropology in the smallest nutshell it’s ever been crammed into.)

The bands became tribes. Not overnight and not automatically, but as populations increased and as climate changes (like ice melt), geographical episodes (like volcanoes), and animal migrations or extinctions occurred, the advantages of cooperation over competition were hard to ignore! Now, Americans, think Ojibway, Dakotah, Chipppewa, or Apache. Those are tribes– they lived in districts, many lived in smaller bands, they spread out over a geography, and sometimes at peace and sometimes at struggle with adjacent tribes. What united them was the geography, the resources they learned to share (Apaches and the earliest horses, for instance), language, and shared DNA. A member of a tribe knew they could move from valley to valley without harm, because that was tribal land. They also knew they might have problems on the other side of the valley, over the mountain, because that was the land of another tribe.


Stories evolve among any group of people over time and every tribe on earth was abundant with them. Stories informed those who heard them how to think, how to act, and what the tribe determined was important to know. The shared knowledge of tribes through the telling of stories is why we as humans are still vital (too vital from other species’ viewpoints!). The Dakotah had stories about the Cold and Buffalo, the Aleutians had stories about shifting ice and Walruses (is more than one Walrus, Walri?), the Aztec had stories Warm Seas and Fish, etc, etc, etc.

These stories were how children learned. They weren’t “made up” stories. They were truths that had been observed, or thought about; conclusions about the world around them were made, and those thoughts and conclusions were made memorable and interesting through stories. The stories contained the most current truths available.

Now, here’s the part that has everything to do with today: One way to make sure children in a tribe knew their place, understood their role, and knew to never go over that mountain was through fear. Fear works. Has, does, and will. It’s no accident that the purveyor of bad tidings in the Garden of Eden was a Serpent (hissss!) rather than a cow or a chicken (yum!). Nor, continuing with the familiar stories of the Hebrew tribe, was it surprising that the awful, horrible, sneaky Philistines had a secret weapon (Goliath) or that the loose-living, oft-married Samaritans were trash. Both were good reasons to keep the kids who were feeling their wild oats blooming, at home, where having no other gods before YHWH was much more manageable.

More To Come

OK, I’m going to continue with this tomorrow, and I will deal with these two ideas:

1. Humans lived in tribes a long, long, long time- longer than any of us have the ability to imagine. Ideas and concepts are as deeply a part of us as our physical structure or repertoire of emotions are, and as our abilities to stand erect and run evolved, so did our need for stories and the structure with which they were told. Stories are in us. We need them.

2. We live in a time, however, when we do not need to be afraid, out of ignorance, of the people who live on the other side of the mountain. Our tribe is global now. The separations no longer keep us alive by insuring our safety. The separations now, exacerbated by fools, are going to kill us. Our stories must be re-written.

3 thoughts on “God, Sex, Goliath, and Other Scary Things..

  1. How are we to react to this? Should we hate America because of what WE are doing to THEM? Should we offer Pearl Harbor or the World Trade Center buildings as a rebuttal, showing the damage that THEY have done to US? Do we consider the conflict in the video to be yet one more example of man’s need (need?) for war and consider what THEY do to each other (pick an example: Tutsis and Hutus, Shia and Sunnis versus Kurds, Nazis and Jews, Trojans and Spartans)? And what about the times that God really is on their side, as when God promised Canaan to Abraham? Which god was protecting the Canaanites?

  2. It is WE and THEY which will end our species. None of this will change anytime soon, but all of us who can, must enable the alternative ideas, the possibilities of respect for other belief systems, and the dishonoring of dangerous texts which do not reflect God, but reflect the tribal thoughts of God- we must enable those ideas, those seeds, to be spread and take root where they may.

    We (pick a nation, pick a religion) continue to try jam God into Bronze Age models which we hammer from our own egos.
    Whether God’s name is being profaned by bin Laden, GW Bush, or me in order to justify blood to be shed by anyone..is wrong. Jesus said so, and he said so emphatically, overturning the weapons which the words in the Torah had been shaped into.

    If it is the video of the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza which is referred to here, I think what should happen is what IS happening. For the first time, millions of supporters of Israel, including many Jewish people, are re-thinking their knee jerk support of Israel’s unlawful, bullying, and now very violent occupation of Gaza and the other occupied areas taken in 1967 which were not a part of the 1948 agreement. They are wrong, and Jesus won’t let them or us hide behind “eye for eye” texts any longer.

  3. The older I get, the harder it is to distinguish between the destruction caused by the good guys and the destruction caused by the bad guys. Zealots destroy because they believe that God is with them; gang members destroy because they perceive a lack of respect; high-ranking leaders destroy because they have cool new toys-of-mass-destruction and ache to use them. And some very sincerely believe that destruction is the path to peace. Whatever the reason, there are many who are more than willing, eager even, to shed blood.
    How am I to react? When I was 19, I thought we should all just hold hands and get along. Decades later, I know I can’t change the world.

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