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From the October 2006 issue of The Christian Science Journal

BACK IN THE EARLY '90S, some family members and I trekked north from California to Oregon. We stopped for a little rest and recreation at a coastal hotel known for its focus on books. After we nestled in, I selected from the hotel library a book by Alice Walker with an inviting title: Possessing the Secret of Joy. Totally ignorant regarding the subject of female circumcision that this book discusses, I became deeply involved in the characters, so I read on through the night. The next morning, I needed a long solitary walk on the beach to think about what I'd read and the implications of this heinous practice for the lives of many women throughout the world.

I realized that subjecting girls to such practices stems from a culture's beliefs regarding God or gods and, in this case, identification with a tribe. This led me to observe how important our view of God is—it actually determines our experience. In fact, this plays out not only at the individual level, but also at tribal, community, and national levels.

While tribal societies are largely missing from the Western world, tribalism, or group loyalty, endures in the form of fervent devotion to a sports team, nationalism, sectarian or political alliances, racism, ageism, and gang allegiance—even employees of one company competing with those of other companies.

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