the eradication of the middle

Two years ago, I did the unthinkable. As a currents events observer and an encourager of respectful dialogue, I typically tune into significant cultural events, including watching returns, for example, from even the most random elections.

But on Election Night 2016, I did the unthinkable. I never turned on the laptop nor TV; I turned off the lights, said my prayers, and went to bed exceptionally early. I did not watch a single return. While elections are important, my faith is not in an election nor in any of the elect. I thus slept very well that night.

I guess that’s it. I don’t see government as our moral authority. In fact, I don’t find it even capable of such; we are no one’s convictor of truth. In fact, when we started this blog 10 years ago (Happy Birthday, Intramuralist), our first post shared the top ten things learned from the election cycle. These included:

  • Jesus would not be a Democrat OR a Republican.
  • And most people don’t know how to respect those with whom they disagree.

10 years later, I would reiterate those same words.

We continue to find persons — in God’s name or in intentional omission of him — who attempt to morph government into the moral authority of the land… acting as if there’s only one right perspective… dismissing entire people groups… no longer seeing the wisdom in another point of view. Note these words from an editorial in Time Magazine last week:

“… We are in a political moment where we find ourselves on opposite sides of what feels like an unbreachable gulf. I find myself annoyed by the hand-wringing about how we need to find common ground. People ask how might we ‘meet in the middle,’ as though this represents a safe, neutral and civilized space. This American fetishization of the moral middle is a misguided and dangerous cultural impulse… What is halfway between moral and immoral?”

And just like that we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s ok — maybe even good — to wholly describe an entire other people group as immoral, elevating our perspective as the only moral approach. With all due respect, when we claim that our political position is the only moral perspective possible, we have usurped the role that only the divine is capable of assuming.

This is bothersome — and much of why my faith remains not in a person or party. There is a lack of integrity/morality/ethics hailing from both political parties… 

… like the conservative supporter who shamed one of my friends in the LGBTQ community last week… like the liberal protestor my friend watched mock the veteran… or like the Kavanaugh accuser who only now admits that she lied…

Friends, no party is completely moral.

Last week two highly respected friends of mine attended the same partisan function. Both are emotionally healthy, intelligent and sincere in their desire to live and love well. And yet, one walked away impressed — the other, disturbed. How is it possible that two wise people would walk away with polarized perspectives?

I wish there was an uncomplicated answer; it’d be easier. It’d be easier to label all of one party or one party’s leaders or loyalists as all bad, evil, immoral, etc. Then we’d never have to wrestle as to why a person thinks differently than “we.” But there is no easy answer; different perspectives exist from healthy, intelligent, compassionate people. So allow me to humbly offer what I believe to be true…

To conclude that the entire political perspective of the other party is immoral is a limited conclusion.

Friends, as an entire party, conservatives aren’t bigots; liberals aren’t liars. But when we take our individual experience and interactions —  with the bigots and liars in both parties — and project them onto all others as their character, we fall prey to limited, judgmental conclusions.

Rep. Ryan Costello, a Pennsylvania moderate, said it well recently:

“I think the far left and the far right look at people like me, and they say we’re the problem. And I actually think, No, we’re the answer. But what you hear and what you get is just ugliness toward you…

If you’re in the hot 10% on the left or the hot 10% on the right, you have a national audience. If you’re in the middle and can see both sides, you know what? You used to get called thoughtful — now you get called weak. And that’s messed up, man.” 

It’s messed up when we look down upon the different or attempt to eradicate the middle. It’s messed up when we thrust limited, judgmental conclusions upon entire parties or people groups. There truly are good people on all sides. Wisdom calls us to get to know them… interact with them… and be humble enough to listen as to why they think differently than “we.”

Respectfully…

AR

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