Universalism vs Tribalism

“The story of the covenantal people begins with two journeys: Abraham and Sarah’s from Mesopotamia, and Moses and the Israelites’ from Egypt. Mesopotamia in the days of Abraham and Egypt in the age of Moses were the supreme economic and political powers of their time. Judaism has historically been a living alternative to empires, because imperialism and its latter-day successors, totalitarianism and fundamentalism, are attempts to impose a single regime on a plural world, to reduce men to Man, cultures to a single culture, to eliminate diversity in the name of a single socio-political order.”

“The faith of Israel declares the oneness of God despite the plurality of humankind. It moves beyond both tribalism and its antithesis, universalism. Tribalism and its modern counterpart, nationalism, assumes there is one god (or ‘spirit’ or ‘race’ or ‘character’) for each nation. Universalism contends that there is one God – and therefore one truth, one way, one creed – for all humanity. Neither does justice to the human other, the stranger who is not in my image but is nevertheless in God’s image. Tribalism denies rights to the outsider. Universalism grants rights if and only if the outsider converts, conforms, assimilates, and thus ceases to be an outsider. Tribalism turns the concept of a chosen people into that of a master race. Universalism turns the truth of a single culture into the measure of humanity. The results are often tragic and always an affront to human dignity.”

The Dignity of Difference, p. 52