we’re number one

us_and_them1.jpgone revelation of psychology and neuroscience has been that our minds aren’t so much computers as they are complex and interrelated subsystems.  the first place this came up was with language acquisition.   we apparently have something like a language module.  we aren’t born knowing a language, but we are born knowing how to learn a language.  during the first few years of life a child effortlessly learns to speak and understand in a way that can’t yet be duplicated in hundreds of thousands of hours of computer programming by very smart people.

i’m reading david berreby’s book us and them – understanding your tribal mind.  he goes to some length to say that grouping people is another of these mind subsystems.  i hadn’t thought of it before but it now seems obvious that he’s right. 

think of all the ways we divide ourselves.  certainly by race (whatever that is), ethnicity (another vague term) and religion, but also by the brands we buy, the sports teams we follow, and all of our interest groups.  i remember distinctly sitting in mandatory high school pep rallies with the cheerleaders shouting “we’re number one”.  all the time i was wondering how many high schools around the country were yelling the same words at exactly the same moment.  how many “number ones” were possible?

and that’s the bottom line, isn’t it?  my race is number one.  my country is number one.  the sport i follow and team i favor and car i drive and drink i drink and people i hang out with and clothes i wear and – basically everything about me – is number one.

like so many things i learn, all this opened my eyes up to something in the kingdom of god.  it’s no surprise that god programmed language into us.  i mean, this is the god who created all the world with a word.  this is the god who is so into communication that he nicknamed his son “the word”.

that we’re pre-programmed to think tribally – to distinguish between people groups – is a little less obvious but makes perfect sense.  god has a family.  he describes himself as a father and us as his children.  he clearly makes the distinction between those who are his and those who are not.  he wants us to recognize our brothers and sisters in his tribe.  jesus stressed the fact by saying if we recognize our natural family above our spiritual family doesn’t have a place with him.

probably we have some room for improvement here.

all the nations will be gathered before him; and he will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats (matthew 25:32)

him who overcomes … i will also write on him my new name [i.e.; a new family name] (revelation 3:12)

anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (matthew 10:37)

by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (john 13:35)


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One Response to “we’re number one”

  1. identity « fierybones Says:

    […] me that how i view a person, in relationship to my self, determines my behavior toward them (see: we’re number one, drawing the wrong lines, and inclusion / exclusion).  and how i view that person is determined by […]

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