Stephen Lynch Speaks About Terrorism

Stephen Lynch Around the Province

HARTFORD, Conn. – Stephen Lynch gave a Lenten Twilight retreat here last night at St. Patrick-St. Anthony’s Church that was part of the parish’s Adult  Faith Program.

Some excerpts from Stephen’s presentation titled Linkage Between Terrorism and Tribalism are below.

The tribal world of the Old Testament was ruled by the Law of the Talon, a harsh form of justice that demanded an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Jesus Christ offered a new ethic called the Golden Rule, whereby people treat others as they wish to be treated themselves.

These days we hear a lot about terrorism, but not much about tribalism. I think we need to examine the role tribalism plays in fomenting terrorism and violence.  Human differences can be both our forte, but also our Achilles heel.  In many ways we are all prone to tribalism. It is deeply rooted in our evolutionary history and biological heritage. It stems from the “kin selection” that evolved in response to the ever-present dangers to self and family in primitive times. Tribalism consists of an ingrained human habit of identifying oneself in terms of the group. Ethnocentrism produces the feeling that one’s group has a mode of living, values, and patterns of adaptation that are superior to those of other groups. It discourages social intercourse with members of the ‘out-group’. This has resulted in a “we-they” response to surrounding clans. All too often the Other (or Stranger) was recognized as dangerous and threatening  — to be either avoided or destroyed — and one’s own clan had to be ever-ready to attack and repel any such strangers in their territory.

Present-day availability of sophisticated technical, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction makes this surging tide of tribalism appallingly dangerous and terrorizing.  Tribalism stands as a critical component of the fabric of Middle Eastern society. To these tribes, honor and the honor code are critical. For many tribes, the first law of the honor code is revenge.

We are seeing in Iraq that the irresponsible use of freedom can lead to anarchy, chaos and perhaps later to tyranny.  If we want to teach the Iraqi people to live in freedom, we must first teach them to live by the rule of law. They also need to understand that freedom demands responsibility. Democracy relies on an educated electorate, so we need to make education a priority in rebuilding Iraq.

Our survival, our success, and our progress are very much related to others’ well being. Mutual inter-dependence is a reality in today’s world. With the demise of the Cold War, the world is resuming its long-simmering ethnic rivalries. Technological advance has thrust us all into a planetary proximity calling for a vastly different set of responses from the tribal ones so deeply embedded in our genes.