The Tribal Instinct

The sacred desire for people and place.

Before there were nations or countries, empires or dynasties, there were tribes. Groups of people who shared nearly everything in common—their location, their language, their ethnicity, their faith. Their knowledge. Even their hardships. During times of plenty, they celebrated together for their fortune or hard work. During times of suffering, they worked together for the common good. They took care of each other’s children. Women fed those outside her family. Men sacrificed themselves in battle to protect or defend. No matter the situation, the tribe was the most important unit of belonging for humans. No tribe meant death.

For many nations, particularly prosperous ones, tribes are nearly extinct. The Modern Age has provided us with many benefits tribes once provided. Most of us can sleep peacefully at night with the assurance our house and family are unlikely to be attacked by marauders. We seldom worry about food scarcity or medical care. Through technological and cultural change, we have very few concerns about our physical safety or well-being. Tribes have recently, in large part, felt unnecessary.

But there’s a problem. A big problem. We don’t depend on each other anymore. And we aren’t depended on by others, either. This has created a strange situation where we live our lives, nearly constantly surrounded by others and yet, we often feel completely, totally alone. Our state of mental health is extremely poor. Suicides are off the chart. Most people want, more than anything, to feel needed. We love to be loved, yes. But even more, we need to be needed.

Tribes help create a life where people you know and love need you. Today, if we run out of eggs, most people will get in their car, drive five miles to a grocery store and use their credit card to purchase the food they need. The exchange works not only because we get the eggs we want, but because a couple of other parties along the way make a bit of money—the cashier, the manager of the store, the owner of the store, the distributor who sells the eggs to the store, the truck driver who delivers them, and the farmer who takes care of the chickens.

Nowhere along that entire chain of responsibility does anyone really need to know each other. They are nearly completely unconnected to each other except for the exchange of money. This has its benefits, of course. We can get eggs anytime we want, and they are probably fairly inexpensive. We have many types of eggs to choose from. At first, the negatives may not be so obvious, but when this impersonal exchange is multiplied hundreds of times, every day over the course of a lifetime, the true cost begins to surface.

Tribes create networks of sharing and barter where this exchange might not involve money at all. Perhaps someone gave you eggs not only because they had more than they needed, but because you mowed their father’s field months ago, a favor they had been looking to return. Some people experience a bit of this joy through charity work—building houses or volunteering at food banks—but these activities rarely foster the two-way attachment of tribe.

The instinct for tribe often arises after natural disasters. With electricity out, roads blocked, and normal life at a standstill, neighbors—people who’ve lived beside each other for years and don’t even know their names—come together to help. Even after war, civilians and soldiers alike often express a nostalgia for what they had experienced, some even going so far as to insist they were the happiest they ever remembered. Despite all of war’s horrors and hardships—or perhaps, because of them—they were made to depend on each other in ways that created the profound bonds of tribe, something most had never experienced.

Tribes create an environment where people are forced to show their dedication to the common good, something sorely lacking in modern society, particularly multicultural nations with a weak identity. For men, this often comes through acts of courage. For women, through acts of nurture or caregiving. With neither of these outlets available, it is no wonder so many people feel their lives devoid of meaning or purpose.

Demonstrations of loyalty to the tribe are important symbols of allegiance and dedication significant in other ways. Boys become men through acts of courage. Girls become women through acts of nurture and caregiving. In today’s safety-focused society, with helmets required for walking down the street, with danger treated as repulsive, boys rarely have any opportunity to display—never mind develop—their bravery or courage. With a constant focus on egalitarian mindsets, girls are pushed into things like computer programming or law enforcement. At the same time, their maternal instincts are demonized and treated as signs of inferiority or weakness.

The lack of tribe has helped create a generation of adult children, senior citizens who, despite their age, never grew up. With few men, we are governed by fear and the perpetual avoidance of conflict. With few women, we occupy a hideous world devoid of beauty and life. Children have nothing to model their growth after but other children—their role models, parents and grandparents stuck in perpetual adolescence.

The creep of modernity has led to the demise of tribe in another important way—the progressive insistence that to prefer to be among people who resemble you and your family is racist. For whatever reason, Caucasians, Europeans, or White people—however you want to call them—have an altruistic tendency that supposes all races and ethnicities should get along with each other perfectly and if for some reason there is tension, it’s the fault of Caucasians, Europeans, or White people.

This isn’t a significant feature of other races or ethnicities. Black churches rarely have Asian or Hispanic outreach ministries. Hispanic businesses rarely feature anyone in their advertisements other than what appear to be clearly Hispanic people. The innocence of the natural instinct to live among people who talk and look and think like you do is literally a non-issue amongst nearly everyone in the world. The likelihood multiple races or ethnicities living in close proximity together will cause conflict is readily accepted and accounted for—without the need for flowery sermons on reconciliation or reparations.

In a smoothly functioning society, where law and order are maintained, where food is plentiful, and where the economy is robust, the need for tribe is minimal. As stability breaks down, this natural instinct for belonging increases. In a multicultural society that praises diversity above unity, the desire for sameness goes up. In a nation that turns its back on the very faith it was founded upon, that ridicules the people whose ancestors fought to preserve it, that mocks the God they credit for their home—the drive to reestablish a people and place will become overwhelming.

Many Christians attempt to create a tribe within their church, a replacement which rarely works. Sometimes members are fortunate enough to gain some sense of belonging or place, but this isn’t a church’s natural function. Instead, it should be a natural outpouring of worship from tribe. The members of churches rarely have anything in common other than doctrinal alignment and similar socioeconomic status. They often can’t even agree on a single musical style and are forced to hold multiple services to accommodate their differences.

Tribes may currently be the most important element for a stable society. Families will always exist. God will be worshiped, willingly or otherwise. Churches are a natural extension of tribe, which are a natural extension of family. When all of this is working properly, we may receive the blessing of a strong nation. But as the world exists today, tribes require human effort, a purposeful intent to “find your people” and live amongst them.

Because of that, it is the Protarian belief Christians need to start forming tribes now. We are likely to be excluded from many things soon. Our beliefs will put us directly at odds with those who control digital currencies and banking systems. If this happens, we will be unable to participate in commerce. Our children may be unable to attend universities. We may not be allowed to run for political office or hold regular jobs. We should begin to prepare to function as tribes completely apart from the modern world. The joy of belonging and social stability tribes bring would be worth the effort, even if such clouds were not visible in the distance.

How do Protarians define tribes? Tribes are groups of people—large or small—bound together by having as many things in common as possible. They live close enough to each other they can bear each other’s burdens. They don’t rely on the internet to communicate with each other. This was the standard way of living for much of human history. Every person belonged to a tribe in some way. This identity has been stripped from us and people are lost as a result.

Tribes are likely made up of the same ethnicity or race. This is not a requirement but a recommendation to increase social cohesion and reduce the likelihood of racial tension. It doesn’t matter which ethnicity or race, but the entire point of tribe is unity in all things, not just alignment on some doctrinal statement or political ideology. Various tribes, no matter their ethnic composition, should occasionally come together and worship God in a way that reflects and celebrates the diversity of his Creation. Consider it like the Olympic opening ceremonies, but for church.

Tribes may have specific beliefs that go beyond or differ in some way from what this book describes. In fact, it is our hope other Christian denominations form their own tribes, something for which Protarians encourage and consider a ministry. In defense of Christendom, we encourage men to begin thinking of planting tribes, rather than churches. In that same way, we encourage all Christians to focus less on finding the perfect church and more on finding your tribe. The worship and kinship that emerges will benefit the Christian faith in a much more profound way, no matter the specifics of your belief.

Interested in Tribes?

While other denominations might send missionaries to Africa or Asia to start churches, Protarians consider helping people find their tribe—or starting a new tribe—to be our primary mission work. If you’re a Christian (of any denomination) and interested in the Biblical model for tribes, you can read “The Tribal Instinct,” available in print here or through Amazon in print, digital, and audiobook versions.

Feel free to get in touch if you’re looking to find a people and place for your family to call home—we may be able to help.

An image of the front of 'The Tribal Instinct' book. It is an off-white color with three large words (THE TRIBAL INSTINCT) in an uppercase serif font, centered and stacked on top of each other. The type is black with the exception of the word, Tribal, which is red and italicized. Underneath is the subtitle in smaller type, 'The Sacred Desire for People and Place.' On top of the title is a small primitive illustration, like a cave painting, of a man throwing a spear followed by a visibly pregnant woman.

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