I recently saw a trailer for the new film ‘Mortal Engines’. The film is based upon a book with the same name by author Philip Reeve set in a post-apocalyptic world where only one rule applies: the survival of he fittest. This genre remains popular not only because it taps into our fear of an unknown future, but also because it picks up on contemporary trends in our society. These films critique current society.
In the story of ‘Mortal Engines’ there are no nation states anymore, only cities that are competing for the limited amount of natural resources on the planet. These cities are mobile, transporting themselves on very large wheels. Smaller cities are literally eaten up by larger ones.
Where do the similarities lie with our society today? I just want to make one point, namely that this film warns us of the dangers of tribalism. Every city is like a tribe. People belong and identify with a particular city or tribe. There is little contact between tribes except that of a negative sort, when larger tribes dominate smaller ones. Life essentially exists of a clash of clans (pun intended).
In our pluralistic society we see that tribalism is once again taking root. Certain groups and cultures are pulling themselves back from wider society and are coming into conflict with other groups. Perhaps more worrying is when people find their identity more and more by belonging to a certain group. By itself this is normal and healthy, but it becomes dangerous when we identify ourselves primarily negatively: ‘we are not like them’.
Unfortunately this kind of tribalism also exists within our Christian communities. We also define ourselves according to what we’re not: not Pentecostal, not evangelical, not Muslim, not liberal, not foreign etc.
As Christians we have a responsibility to function as a sort of antidote in society. Instead of seeking power by belonging to this or that tribe we should be vulnerable by building bridges to people of other cultures and groups. We need to purposefully form relationships with people that are different to us. This is the way of the kingdom of God, which itself is characterised by a different kind of logic, a spiritual logic that the world considers foolish. If we want to help build a healthy society that cherishes her cultural diversity and is not controlled by the law of the fittist, then we need to learn to trust people that are different to us.