Saturday, March 19, 2011

Causing Offense with New Age Jargon

If you want to win me over to your cause, do not use the word "tribe" to describe some non-tribal group. Using it in this way is a weasel word, a piece of jargon made to manipulate people while obfuscating the details of the actual truth.

Examples of this include calling Lutheranism the "Lutheran tribe" or calling the Jews in the New Testament the "Jewish tribe" (which is properly called a culture that happens to contain 12 actual tribes if you know anything at all about the subject) or the "Gentile tribe" (which is the biggest abuse of the word "tribe" thus far). None of these groups are tribes in the sense that the word tribe has ever been used in the history of the English language. Stop it. You might as well call a group of cats "a fleet", or a collection of books "a herd", or the whole human body "an organ", or two boats "an armada", or the State of Alabama "a county".

It makes you sound stupid and ignorant. It makes you sound like you are putting on heirs. It tells me that you are the kind of person who can't use words properly or is just not honest and precise enough to call something what it actually is. It tells me that you are a parrot who picks up things that sound interesting and repeats them without true understanding or analysis. Parrots are annoying.

Most of all this artistic use of the word "tribe" is very offensive to people who have actually interacted with real tribal groups and all the complex community-based interactions that go along with it. If you have lived with, worked along side, or known people who actually have true tribal ties you realize that Lutherans are not a tribe. The whole Jewish culture is not a single tribe. Everyone who is not Jewish is not a tribe. That's just silly and wrong.

1 comment:

Dan said...

It's a result of a marketing book ("Tribes") written by Seth Godin that many Christians and pastors have read.