The Context of Mission
How to share faith when one is among clans and tribes - and not mere 'individuals?'
It is vital to think deeply about these realities as we seek to assess missionally the implications for Gospel witness. It is necessary to do Christology - to think through the reasons for which Jesus came, in fulfilment of the Missio Dei (the Mission of God) and how He will ultimately overcome (made possible by His Person and Work - His life, death and resurrection). It is essential too, to do Ecclessiology - to see how the Church, the Body of Christ-followers are part of God’s plan, the answer (cf. Ephesians 1) for how all of this is going to get done.
The following is true of rural communities, in the West still, for reflecting on tribalism in the recent political chaos and mess of Kenya, or in the upheaval and division that Lebanon reflects (as mirror for internal Arab conflict - with each other, with Israel, and with the West).
Can thinking about mission context(s) such as the following not help us understand our mission challenges and responsibilities in the West and in the whole world (?) - mandated as we are to preach the gospel to every creature under heaven and to make disciples throughout the whole of the cosmos.
As with most of our own fore-bearers in various times and places, with their own unique challenges, locales and hurtles to overcome for survival and establishment, “the overwhelming need for security led the Bedouin of centuries ago to gather in patrilineal families locked in steadfast fidelity and absolute obligation to one another.
In the brutal, open desert (one could put cold, Canadian winters in our context) where survival depended on numbers and cohesion, each tent represented a family, each encampment constituted a clan, and several clans linked together through descent from a common ancestor became a tribe. Within these protective walls of kinships, father and son, brother and brother, cousin and cousin searched for pasture, camped together, married first cousins to first cousins, and defended each other and their collective honour.
Within the group, cohesion held because overpowering cultural and social pressures instilled within each individual the supreme and unquestioned value of life - the commitment to family solidarity and the assumption of mutual responsibility. In these family in which every person knew every other person, in which all were related by blood, or at least by a fiction of common descent, the imperative of the collective good of the family passed from generation to generation. Near-absolute necessity guaranteed enforcement . . .
Each individual, in both emotional and practical terms, surrendered his or her identity to the family. And like the rest of the family, these individuals distrusted and largely disliked those outside the boundaries of kinship.
The definition of family in Arab culture is not nuclear or even extended. . . A first cousin is like a brother and a distant cousin is an integral part of the total family, regardless of gaps in wealth, education, and social status. This potent sense of family has cast societies into an amalgam of primordial allegiances governed by the most Arab of all utterances: “My brother and I against my cousin, and my cousin and I against the alien.” (cf. Sharon Mackey, "Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict")