What’s wrong with tolerance?

The purpose of religious tolerance has always been, and remains, to maintain the power and purity of the dominant religion in a given state. Most dominant religions in most states today profess tolerance, but they also seem to feel especially threatened. Religious nationalist movements in the United States, Europe, India, Turkey and Israel all want to strengthen the relationship between state identity and the dominant religion. In each case, democratic elections have reinforced the significance of the majority’s religion to the meaning of state and nation, elevating the power of that religion. We can see a rising chauvinism in the mix of Catholicism and politics in eastern Europe today that portrays liberals and communists (often a code for ‘Jews’) as enemies. We can see a similar dynamic in the Turkish celebration of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453. And we can also see it in the reemerging influence of Evangelicals in the US, as defenders of ‘religious liberty’ in their associations and businesses, and against ‘Sharia’ – as they imagine it – in the public sphere.

Even as religious nationalism gains strength, claims to membership in the ‘West’ rest in large part on a political avowal of religious tolerance. When religious nationalists claim the mantle of tolerance based on the legal protections that exist for religious minorities in their states, they are not wrong. Tolerance has indeed historically been a framework for people fundamentally different from one another to live peacefully together. Which is precisely why it is time to dispense once and for all with tolerance as a model for relations between groups.

Tolerance skepticism has a long history, stretching back to the German author J W Goethe, who said ‘to tolerate is to insult’. It faced a sustained critique after the Second World War from philosophers and political theorists such as Karl Popper, Herbert Marcuse and many others who saw liberal tolerance as guilty of passively acquiescing to the rise of fascism in the first half of the 20th century. Where Popper saw that a liberal society required repression of some intolerant views for self-preservation, Marcuse saw liberalism’s tolerance of injustice as the problem itself.

Following Marcuse, in the 1960s the New Left asked if the idea of tolerance – especially of speech and political diversity – served only to shield governments, corporations and the elite in continuing policies of economic and racial oppression. More recently, a school of international-relations scholarship has emerged emphasising how the foreign policy guiding Western governments now divides the world between the tolerant and the intolerant in much the same way that it has always distinguished between the civilised (whites) and the barbaric (everyone else). Even so, the question of how tolerance – religious tolerance in particular – could be a tool of domination strikes many people as counterintuitive or perverse. Tolerance is deeply rooted in the canon of apparent modern ideals: as an inherent good, a necessary individual ethic, a pillar of Western civilisation and proof of its superiority.

Yet tolerance, as an idea and an ethic, obscures the interaction between individuals and groups on both a daily basis and over the longue durée; the mutually reinforcing exchange of culture and ideas between groups in a society is missing in the idea of tolerance. Groups do not interact in isolation, they share reciprocally, sometimes intentionally and sometimes inadvertently. If it is true that a global society exists, what its best parts embody today is not tolerance, but reciprocity, the vital and dynamic relationship of mutual exchange that occurs every day between individuals and groups within a society. For teachers, journalists and politicians to begin to speak in terms of reciprocity instead of tolerance will not do away with intolerance or prejudice. But words are important and, as much as they reflect our thoughts, they also shape how we think. Idealising tolerance embeds dominance. Speaking in terms of reciprocity instead of tolerance would both better reflect what peaceful societies look like, and also tune people’s minds to the societal benefits of cultural exchange.

The full article can be read here

Values in a divided Korea

Chairman of Relational Peacebuilding Initiatives Michael Schluter recently visited a centre where traditional Korean values of filial piety are taught to elementary school children.

Michael is currently undertaking a peace initiative in the Korean peninsula through Relational Peacebuilding Initiatives (RPI), which frequently takes him to Seoul and Washington DC in pursuit of a “track two” solution to the peace process.

As part of this initiative, he and part of the Cambridge team are writing a booklet which includes a discussion of the various sources of values operating in society in both North and South Korea. The visit to the school was undertaken to better understand traditional Korean values and how they relate to both socialist and capitalist ideas.

They will produce a booklet in the next few months exploring an approach to strengthening relationships across the Korean peninsula.

What does sovereign debt actually consist of?

S. M. Ali Abbas, Laura Blattner, Mark De Broeck, Asmaa El-Ganainy, Malin Hu

There has been renewed interest in sovereign debt since the Global Crisis, but relatively little attention has been paid to its composition. Sovereign debt can differ in terms of the currency it is denominated in, its maturity, its marketability, and who holds it – and these characteristics matter for debt sustainability. This column presents evidence from a new dataset on the composition of sovereign debt over the past century in 13 advanced economies.

Academic, policy, and market interest in sovereign debt has spiked since the 2008 Global Crisis. Researchers have sought to place the post-Crisis synchronised build-up in sovereign debt ratios in advanced economies within a longer-term/historical context, drawing comparisons with debt surges during the Great Depression, debt consolidations in the aftermath of World War II, and more.A bird’s eye view of key debt composition ratios over time offers some intuitive patterns.

Around 90% of advanced economies’ debt is and was denominated in local currency. Still, six of the 13 countries saw the foreign currency debt share rise above 50% at some point – post-WWI France and Italy are notable cases in point.

The share of local currency medium-to-long-term debt in total debt has averaged 68% over the sample (or three-fourths of local currency debt) and exhibits an intuitive pattern – governments issued longer-dated paper in good times and compensated for the higher riskiness of their debts during bad times by shortening issuance maturities. Cross-country variation in the maturity structure of debt mirrors differences in, inter alia, a country’s vulnerability to fiscal/military crises, reserve currency status, and debt management preferences.

Before WWI, almost all central government debt was issued in the form of marketable securities. The share of such securities declined during post-WWI consolidations, before falling precipitously (to as low as around 55%) during and after WWII – an era characterised by financial repression and captive financial markets. The share recovered starting in the mid-1970s and now stands at about 80%.

The holder profile data reveals an average share in debt for national central banks of about 10%,3 and almost double that for domestic commercial banks. Moreover, the two shares appear to be substitutes for much of the 1920–1970 period – central banks were clearly picking up the tab from commercial banks (and other holders) around/after WWII. Both shares fell in tandem after the 1970s, as just non-resident participation in sovereign debt markets soared. The non-residents’ share of debt increased from 5% to 35% over 1970–2011, and reflected a number of underlying factors: financial innovation and globalisation; stronger sovereign debt management; independent central banks committed to low inflation; the introduction of the euro, which led to the de facto elimination of currency risk within the Eurozone; and the accumulation of ‘safe’ foreign sovereign securities by emerging Asian economies, especially China.

For the full article, go here.

Gun ownership – a right or a responsibility?

In the U.S., every discussion of gun ownership leads to the Second Amendment and a guaranteed constitutional right. In Israel, the ubiquity of guns distorts a deeper sensibility that carrying a weapon is not a right — it is a responsibility and a tragic necessity.

Most Israelis who carry guns are permitted to have them because they live in dangerous areas, were officers in the army or are currently serving in the armed forces. Thus, almost all Israelis who carry guns had their first encounter with weapons in the army. A longstanding tradition in the Israel Defense Forces is the concept of “tohar ha-neshek,” or the “purity of arms.” Recruits, from a largely secular society, are taught that the use of weapons must be “pure” — a term distinctly taken from the Bible.

As the conflict with the Palestinians has muddied the waters of who is and is not a combatant, Israelis tend to use the phrase less. But in a country where almost everyone serves in the army — in which guns are associated with the country’s endless battle to stay alive — a culture of weapons responsibility, rather than rights, has emerged.

Along with that sense of responsibility — and the knowledge that Israel’s enemies, who live not far from us, are constantly looking for weapons to steal — comes intense caution. When our children were in the army, we got used to them coming home with weapons, disassembling them, hiding the parts separately and locking the doors to their rooms whenever they weren’t in them. There was no swagger or bravado about walking around with a gun; the sense was that it was sadly necessary — and dangerous. Young people in Israel are taught to take both the necessity and the danger seriously. They take their army- issued weapons with them wherever they go — even to weddings, even to the beach.

Israel, of course, has had horrific cases of gun violence. Baruch Goldstein killed 29 people and wounded 125 in an attack on Muslim worshipers at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994. Yigal Amir assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. Mentally ill soldiers such as Eden Natan-Zada(who was technically a deserter) have attacked innocent people. Israel has an underworld, and occasionally intended “hits” go wrong, killing bystanders. Israel is hardly immune to gun-related violence and death.

But as Obama noted: Despite the hundreds of thousands of guns legally and illegally owned in Israel, and despite the stresses on society, Israelis kill one another with firearms at a small fraction of the rate of Americans. Just like the U.S., Israel is a society predicated on citizens’ rights. Unlike the U.S., however, those rights do not extend to gun ownership. So far, that has seemed to make all the difference.

Daniel Gordis is senior vice president and Koret distinguished fellow at Shalem College in Jersualem.

For the full article, go here.

Connected but disconnected

Millennials are the most connected generation to have ever lived but a significant proportion of them are plagued by loneliness, an expert has warned.

The charity Relate said that under-25s are “increasingly likely” to experience loneliness.

But they are by no means the only generation tormented by the loneliness epidemic that is sweeping Britain.

Around a million elderly people are afflicted, with one woman describing how she felt as though she had “forgotten how to speak” after going so long without social contact.

And children as young as six are reaching out for help to combat feeling lonely.

It paints a depressing picture of the problem spanning all aspects of British society.

How loneliness affects different age groups© PA How loneliness affects different age groupsThe Government has said that loneliness is a complex issue but one it is “determined to tackle”.

But there appears to be a mammoth task ahead – figures show that the UK has a higher than average proportion of adults who have “no one to ask for help”, when compared with other European countries.

See the full article on MSN.

The culture of contempt

Robert Hall, 

Somehow the royal wedding of Harry and Meghan at St. George’s Chapel – testimony to the power of love and inclusion – seemed positively surreal. The latest school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas – testimony to rage and contempt – seemed negatively real and culturally the new normal. Church and school. How do they link to a culture of contempt that seems to be overpowering our relationships – our greatest source of joy, often our most hurtful pain and usually the path to healing?

It is not our differences that are undermining our society but our growing contempt that cuts us to the bone. Think about it. What most agitates and animates you in your differences with others over politics, religions, or social policy? Is it that someone has a different view point? Usually not. It is this awful dance of contemptuous arrogance where one or both parties – take on an elitist tone, acting like they are more “learned” or morally superior to their dance-partner, who knows nothing – is nothing.

Contempt is the deadliest form of relationship cancer. So says John Gottman – the famous marriage guru (chronicled by Malcom Gladwell) who with just 15 minutes of observation predicted with 90 percent accuracy whether married couples would be together 15 years later. Gottman defines contempt as trying to speak from a higher level while attempting to push another down to a lower level. Contempt – closely related to disgust – is all about hierarchy and wielding elitist power to hatefully exclude another from the community.

Contempt cannot be trusted. All of us have experienced decent, credible people corrupted by its deadly poison. It has been disturbing to watch people or whole news organizations become deranged over President Trump and before him Hillary Clinton or President Obama – clearly there is market-demand for contempt. Or, closer to home, to see a couple of executives or board members become the very thing they hate in a turf battle.

Hate distorts reality, prioritizes confirmation over truth, occupies and traps us in negative emotions, hollows-out, makes awful judgments, weaponizes power to destroy others. Hate is selfish, self-serving and destroys our conscience. Haters become what they hate. Extreme hate actually winds up empowering and aiding the other side. Off-the-rails hate has probably helped prop up Trump – by contrast making him look nearer normal. Hate can be trusted – to be absolutely untrustworthy. No one damages us the way we damage ourselves with hate-based contempt.

When Contempt Becomes a Cultural Riot

Our growing contempt feels like a cultural movement that is causing us to exaggerate our differences, join tribes and go-to-war with each other. We are not just angry at the other side, we wish to disassociate. Fifty percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats say they would be unhappy if their child married someone from the other party – up from five percent in 1960. Segregation is the historic word used to describe the shameful practice of separating oneself from an “inferior,” unworthy other group.

This tribal segregation, fed by growing partisanship and a narrowing of beliefs, is further fracturing our institutions: marriage, political parties, universities, church denominations and even brands we purchase – CNN vs. Fox on news.  No surprise that 42 percent of Americans now describe themselves as political independents or “none-of-the-above” (versus 29 percent Democrats, 27 percent Republicans) up from 32 percent in 2004. No surprise, that the percentage of religiously unaffiliated or “nones” has doubled in the last 18 years and is the fastest growing religious category. We increasingly define ourselves by the relationships we do not have – not married, not engaged at work, not Democrat or Republican, not religiously affiliated.  Communities are a basic building block for a society and yet in becoming so toxic and hate-filled these groups leave people with two dysfunctional choices – unconstructively alone or destructively together.

Colleges and Churches: When Institutions Become Instruments of Contempt

Where is this rising contempt coming from? Clearly, today’s internet and social media provide a way to weaponize, communalize and scale-up contempt like never before – immediately, emotionally, globally and anonymously.   Technology surely helps explain low-cost, efficient delivery of contempt. But what about the manufacturing side – what have we learned and what values have we absorbed that makes us want to impose our views so powerfully, self-righteously and destructively on others? There is a term for forcing other to conform to our views: fascism.

When I was in graduate school back in the 70s, I thought that education was our great hope. I thought that once we as a society became more educated, we would have more aligned views and more civil discourse on controversial issues.

Unfortunately, the result has been just the opposite. Research shows that as our levels of education rise – so does our intolerance for those with whom we disagree.  For example, new research indicates that a college education may make people more tolerant of demographic diversity like race, but LESS tolerant of political diversity. It helps explain why 58 percent of Republicans say colleges have a negative effect on the way things are going in the U.S. – up from 32 percent in 2010. A recent study of the political registration of full-time Ph.D.-holding professors in top-tier liberal arts colleges found that 39 percent are “Republican-free” – having zero Republicans. Remember the famous line by then-candidate Ronald Reagan: “I did not leave the Democratic Party, it left me.” Many Republicans believe academia has left them.

A similar case could be made about the loss of progressives from certain faith-based communities. Today 73 percent of the Republican Party is white-Christian but just 29 percent of the Democratic Party identifies this way. Progressives often feel the harsh, narrow tone of faith has “left-them” – or at least is not relevant for them in a post-modern world.

College and church*: Two key institutions that educate and shape our values and hold such promise for tolerance and acceptance – have too often narrowed their base, their beliefs, and headed in the opposite direction. Many have become more contemptuous, excluding of “other” and even engaging in militant cultural warfare. Ironically, so many of our great, traditional universities and most of the Ivy League schools have origins tied to churches: Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia, Oxford, to name a few. Universities that felt stifled by the narrowness of founding church sponsors – have become more like them – often excluding and condemning those who do not adhere to their prescribed beliefs.

We worry about concentration of wealth, but we should also worry about highly concentrated and partisan sources of learning and values. What happens when we get our news and views from highly one-sided sources: like Fox or MSNBC for news, academic research from politically segregated universities, movies and comedy from a Hollywood that leans heavily left, and faith that leans heavily right. We become a culture of contempt – rioting with dimly lit torches, weaponizing rusty pedagogical pitchforks.

Relational Learning – That Sustains vs. Destroys 

Learning at its best and highest is relational. We learn from others, with others and for others. Relational learning is designed to impact others positively – especially those who are apart, different or not inclined to hear.

Constructive relational learning seeks a scalable, sustainable approach that honors what we have learned but also stimulates us with humility and curiosity to expand our awareness of what we do not know. It seeks to grow the learning pie – and the community of learners by inviting those who share our views and especially those who do not. It acknowledges how susceptible we are to dogma and zealotry. As Richard Rohr puts it: Poetry doesn’t claim to be a perfect description as dogma foolishly does.

The old model is teacher/learner and answer. The better model is learner/learner and mystery. The credentialed one who “knows the answer” is dependent on the “unlearn-ed” one to teach her to make learning clear, relevant and to understand how the ignorance of the “unlearned” actually informs “learn-edness.” It is why teachers usually learn the most in interactions with students.

Destructive learning by comparison, sees knowledge as finite and exclusive, accessible by the few – the tribe. It values certitude over curiosity, seeks to silence dissenters and seeks an answer that ends the discussion. It sees other points of view as threats that warrant being suppressed. In sum, it destroys the very diverse relational community that offers hope for more learning. Too often our institutions of learning have become elitist sanctuaries whose culture and brand has become contempt – where power is used to exclude “others.”

It is time to revisit how these two key institutions address their mission of learning and advancement. It seems they have fallen in love with having and being the answer; and have lost the mission of enabling a learning community that seeks the answer. Relational learning is a process with no finish line, that welcomes strangers and engages “other.”

Relational learning is a key source of hope and opportunity in countering a culture of contempt.

Being Christian in Western Europe

 A newly-published survey by Pew Forum indicates that the majority of Europe’s Christians are non-practicing, but they differ from religiously unaffiliated people in their views on God, attitudes toward Muslims and immigrants, and opinions about religion’s role in society

Western Europe, where Protestant Christianity originated and Catholicism has been based for most of its history, has become one of the world’s most secular regions. Although the vast majority of adults say they were baptized, today many do not describe themselves as Christians. Some say they gradually drifted away from religion, stopped believing in religious teachings, or were alienated by scandals or church positions on social issues, according to a major new Pew Research Center survey of religious beliefs and practices in Western Europe.

Yet most adults surveyed still do consider themselves Christians, even if they seldom go to church. Indeed, the survey shows that non-practicing Christians (defined, for the purposes of this report, as people who identify as Christians, but attend church services no more than a few times per year) make up the biggest share of the population across the region. In every country except Italy, they are more numerous than church-attending Christians (those who go to religious services at least once a month). In the United Kingdom, for example, there are roughly three times as many non-practicing Christians (55%) as there are church-attending Christians (18%) defined this way.

For the full report, go here.

The rocky road of EU reform

Open Europe has published a new briefing, ‘The rocky road ahead for the Franco-German reform drive.

The briefing argues that it is increasingly unlikely that Franco-German cooperation on EU reform will live up to the high expectations that have developed since Macron’s election in June last year. Part of this is due to the lack of a coherent German response to the proposals delivered by France. But  smaller states have also grouped together in opposition to a new integrationist push led by the Franco-German duo – the so called Franco-German motor. Continued political instability in other parts of the EU, such as Italy, signals further stumbling blocks .

While there are few easy wins up for grabs, progress on a couple of key reforms remains likely. This briefing maps them out in detail. Where have Paris and Berlin found common positions, which proposals are backed by a majority of member states, and what reforms are off the table already?

Open Europe’s Policy Analyst, Leopold Traugott, said:

“Despite the pro-European rhetoric struck by Germany’s new government, its traditional EU reform red lines on key issues such as debt mutualisation haven’t moved much. Berlin wants and needs to work with Paris to get reforms going, but so far seems unwilling to commit to the compromises necessary to achieve  much of this.”

“Many of Macron’s most colourful ideas, such as installing a Eurozone finance minister or creating transnational lists for the European Parliament, are basically dead in the water. Berlin and other Nordic member states want to focus on bread-and-butter reforms instead, steps that are easy to implement and offer concrete benefits. At the same time,  Macron is now looking at European defence cooperation outside of the EU and its PESCO framework.”

“Macron has presented a coherent vision for Europe’s future, and laid bare the vacuum that currently exists in German political thinking. If Germany cannot reach a compromise with the most pro-European French President in decades, then with whom could it? If Macron fails, Euroscepticism in France and across Europe will only grow stronger.

To read the full briefing, click here.

Key conclusions

• It is increasingly unlikely that Franco-German cooperation will live up to the expectations that have developed since Macron’s election in June 2017. While some reforms are likely to materialise, there are few easy wins available.

• Some of Macron’s reform proposals were dead on arrival in Berlin, or ran against the core interests of too many member states. His plans for a Eurozone finance minister, transnational lists and a smaller Commission are de facto off the table.

• The idea of France and Germany moving ahead alone – for example by bilaterally harmonising their corporate tax rates – sounds promising but has pitfalls. Similar projects have been announced repeatedly in the past, yet rarely materialised. Still, if successful, this could deliver an important signal.

• The easiest progress may be achievable on securing the EU’s external borders and improving migration management. Both French and German governments see the need for a beefed up Frontex. Austria’s EU presidency beginning in July 2018 will provide further backing. The key challenge will be to find sensible flanking measures.

• Brexit is shifting the balance of power within the EU. The group of fiscally conservative, northern states traditionally led by the UK is left weakened, but is attempting to stand its ground against Franco-German hegemony.  This further limits the scope of action for Paris and Berlin

Time to Teach: Time to Reach

A new book released by Relational Schools focuses on what great teachers really do, and finds that great practice – and great learning – is driven by relationships

Time to Teach: Time to Reach – Expert Teachers Give Voice to the Power of Relational Teaching is authored by Nat Damon, a US-born educator living in London.

Nat, who has enjoyed a successful 25-year career as a teacher and school leader in a number of well-respected schools in the US, spent the past two years interviewing teachers in the United States, England, and further afield. Focusing his interviews on professionals with 10 or more years’ experience, he asked his contributors to set content aside and focus on the question, “what do you really do?”

Time to Teach: Time to Reach explores the answers to that question by presenting teacher voices and examples of practice that define why relationships lie at the heart of essential teaching, and how learning is cognitively, emotionally, and socially driven.

Time to Teach: Time to Reach is aimed at both new and experienced teachers, and supports the work that often gets unacknowledged in this age of data, performativity, and quantifiable measurement. Excellent teaching cannot be recognised through student assessment outcomes alone. Rather, excellent teachers are defined by the power of their student relationships.

Written primarily for the US market, though of relevance for teachers everywhere, Time to Teach: Time to Reach has been written with parents of school-aged children in mind too, particularly those who are looking to develop their understanding of what the very best teachers do, so that they can better align with the school during the course of the school year.

Time to Teach: Time to Reach will be available on Amazon UK and US on 7 May, 2018.

About Nat Damon

As the son of a teacher and having grown up in a family of educators, Mr. Nat Damon is a 25-year educator currently living in London, England as a writer and educational consultant.

Throughout his career, Nat worked as a teacher and administrator at K-12 schools in Boston, MA and Los Angeles, CA. He has worked at the foundational level of two new independent schools in Los Angeles. He has also served on the board of a series of successful charter schools in Los Angeles, CA.

Currently, Nat facilitates seminars on building and maintaining positive school culture, social-emotional learning, and technology integration in the US and UK. He is involved with Relational Schools Foundation in Cambridge, UK, as a consultant.

When not working with schools, Nat can likely be found in the mountains or on the water: skiing, sailing, hiking and always learning.

About the Relational Schools Foundation

Research shows that having a range of close relationships is beneficial to physical and mental health. For young people, experiencing better relationships between those around them, and also between themselves and others, results in better mental health and behaviour, lower rates of absence, bullying and disengagement, and improved progress and attainment. Schools themselves benefit as organisations from being more relational in their practice, seeing more engaged and motivated employees, better staff retention, and – critically – the achievement of aims that relate to student progress and achievement. Our vision is to improve society by strengthening the quality of relationships between people, starting in schools.

We work with schools and other organisations to better understand the impact of current practice on relationships, and to explore how to best drive change so that relationships flourish, and the benefits are realised.

We do this through a programme of relational research, using qualitative and quantitative tools to measure the quality of student-to-student, teacher-to-student, teacher-to-teacher, parent-to-teacher, and school-to-school relationships, and to identify how this correlates with other outcomes.

Through this work, we seek to:

  • FORM new knowledge and generate evidence about the positive impact of more relational schools for young people, their communities, and wider society, thereby promoting an understanding of the importance of relational health
  • INFORM and support positive and evidence-based change in the way schools are organised and how they conduct their practice with respect to teaching, learning, leadership and management, thereby improving the relational health of everyone in them
  • REFORM the way system-level organisations and authorities conduct their business of policy and regulation, changing practice for good by promoting influential evidence and building a ‘movement’ of relational change-makers.

Book events:

  • 20-28 May in Los Angeles
  • 30-3 June in Connecticut
  • 4-6 June in Boston
  • 15-30 June in London and Cambridge, UK

Needed: A Reformation for Our Tribes

by Robert E. Hall

The ability to see the good in others and the bad in ourselves is perfect vision. John Wooden

Maybe you have noticed how the mighty – and their prominent tribes – have fallen. Linked by shared social interests, these leaders and their tribes have many names, forms and recent crackups. Tribe Hollywood, as the cultural elite’s royalty, assumed the pose as society’s secular pope preaching economic and gender equality — has been deposed. It turns out that Harvey Weinstein was not just a person (noun) but a too common sexually abusive leadership behavior (verb Weinsteined).

Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly of tribe Fox, icons to many conservative Christians, have spent tens of millions of dollars silencing their sexual assault/harassment victims. Meanwhile, pastors like Dallas’ Robert Jeffress drop all hints of condemning sexual immorality in supporting President Trump – who has the gall to call-out Senator Al Franken.

Tribe Hillary, a long-standing champion of feminists, advanced to black-belt in victim-blaming and shaming Bill’s sexual targets. Those condemning religion for its hyper-judgment often joined tribes that serve up their own religious fervor in judging those they consider sinners on the wrong-side of political correctness, immigration and climate change. Former freedom of speech champions now engage in aggressive and violent tribal tactics to silence adversaries on college campuses.

Conservatives predicting budget-deficit Armageddon have gone silent in light of big tax cuts that likely grow our deficit, while Democrats who never met a deficit they did not support, become deficit condemners . And, Washington D.C., the capital of telling others what to do, turns out to be the global center of doing it all wrong themselves. Life truly does make hypocrites of us – and our tribes.

Tribalism is also infecting business. Tech companies like Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google and Uber are seeing their brands erode right before their eyes: from being viewed as cool, progressive workplaces with innovative products to monopolistic conduits for election manipulation, pornography, and sex trafficking with toxic work environments — and aided by out-sized political influence and government subsidies. What was holier-than-thou has morphed into unholier-than-most – large, powerful tribes run amok.

When Tribes Act Like Gangs

In today’s world it seems we have tied more of our identity and emotional self-worth to our tribal relationships. Mary Eberstadt argues our growing and sometimes unhealthy emotional attachment to tribal groups is a Primal Scream in response to the loss of identity that we used to get from family and community relationships, now in decline. Certainly, the allure of gangs for father-absent boys reinforces that notion. Regardless, there is no arguing that social media greatly increases our ability to wound each other in the ensuing tribal combat.

As we have invested more of our identity into our tribes, our tribes have too often devolved into self-serving agents of hypocrisy with destructive tendencies. Gaggles become groups, groups become teams, teams become tribes, – and tribes and their leaders intoxicated by power and success grow blind, insular, self-protective and destructive. Tribes, this most valuable source for sanctuary, protection and our elusive need to belong – risk becoming destroyers of the very glue that holds our society together.

If politics is the new religion, it seems to be a carrier of the same sins of the old religion. Becoming more tribal in today’s hyper-social media environment often means becoming anti-relational – and acting more like gangs.
Relational Reform: Three Keys for Your Tribe

Many critics point out that attacks by ISIS and other radical Islamic groups are evidence of their need for religious reform. On the 500-year anniversary of the Christian Reformation, it is a good time to ask: What is our own tribe’s capacity for relational reform – to avoid going off the deep end? Relational Reform is the ability of groups to change, respond and govern in a way that avoids relational abuse and corruption. Whether your tribe is your work group, political affiliation, religious group, club, family, or neighborhood – can it reform to avoid relationally destructive behavior?

Tribal reform is complicated and excruciatingly demanding. The big truths come wrapped in paradox that must be weighed and balanced. Let me propose intentional examination of three areas that provide rich potential for reforming your tribes:

1. Pride that animates balanced with humility that invites self-evaluation and change: Pride in who we are, our purpose and our history is a source of esprit de corps and energy that reinforce aspiration, high standards and our sense of belonging. Think the Marines. However, with this pride we need humility that sees and admits faults, excesses and need for reform. Confession is not just some antiquated practice, it is the cornerstone to continuous improvement. Pride and humility are dance partners that keep us going, improving and changing. Only seeing the bad in others but not in ourselves eventually kills the dance. In your tribe where is pride/humility out-of-proportion, blocking needed reform?

2. Accountability that brings discipline balanced with grace that forgives and liberates. Accountability and grace are most meaningfully viewed not as two different things – but as two-sides of the same thing – dealing with our imperfections. Accountability faces imperfections by embracing discipline that enables correction and improvement. Grace wipes the slate clean to start over – removing the emotional baggage that drains energy and effort.

Accountability is a strength of high-functioning groups. Too often powerful leaders are tempted to avoid personal or tribal accountability to others, purpose, values and results. Separation – by isolating or rising above – diminishes accountability. However, accountability is only harsh judgment if it comes without grace that acknowledges imperfections, loves and offers second chances – giving permission to try, fail, learn and grow. In your tribe where is accountability/grace out of whack and an obstacle to needed reform?

3. Power that brings energy and control balanced with empowerment that unleashes and frees others. Power brings energy to get things done and glue to keeps us organized and together. But centralized, controlling power can inhibit energy and innovation. The key to scalability is to enable and empower others in a way that grows the power supply and brings new ideas. Un-enabled and out-of-control empowerment lead to chaos and unnecessary failure. In your tribe, where is controlling power/uncontrolled empowerment inhibiting reform?

There is nothing more crucial than our ability to see and address the bad in ourselves and in our tribes. As reformers say: reformed and always reforming.

First published in HUFFPOST, 11/20/2017 11:42 am ET