It's been another hellish week. More people dead. The temperature of the country is elevated. People on both sides, #BlackLivesMatter vs. #BlueLivesMatter, have brandished their rhetorical swords. The intensity of the debate seems always threatening to burst into something more violent, even apocalyptic given the right frame.
It's difficult to witness so much raw emotion competing for the moral high ground. The discourse itself strikes many as frightening.
But you know, I’m growing a little weary of a particular brand of centrist who feel themselves to be so above the partisanship that afflicts the rest of us. Not all centrists, of course. I'm talking about the folks who are always sniffing around the edges of debate, arguing that the problem is as much to be found in the format and tone of the debate as in the issue in dispute.
From their standpoint — so conspicuously removed from the theological and political sty in which the rest of us wallow — the “left” and the “right” are merely dupes of liberal and conservative overlords. Whereas these kinds of moderates and centrists see through all the parochial agendas the rest of us are just too simple to perceive.
This heroic cast of self-justifiers glide through life unburdened by a need to take a stand on anything — except on what they believe is the meritoriously self-evident issue of not taking stands. Their orthodoxy can be summed up simply: There is no issue so nuanced that it can’t be cleaved down the middle, leaving two halves that correspondingly (and by definition) miss the truth, which can always be found at some point equidistant from both poles.
Consequently, the only cause over which it is worth getting exercised is getting exercised over causes. Any conviction, on this account, must take a back seat to the primary conviction, which is that no one should hold any conviction more strongly than the conviction that no conviction is worth holding strongly. The tone police brook no opposition on this.
And it is somewhat understandable. Staying so decidedly in the center is the most convenient place because it often requires no real action; it often requires doing not much more than staying in the middle, passing casual judgment on those convinced that some action or another is necessary—that the most important virtue is saying nothing that might be perceived as offensive. And it has the added virtue of looking wise, since by its own definition, it possesses the only real wisdom, which is that the truth of any issue cannot wholly exist on either the left or the right.
But even a casual reading of the Gospels suggests that Jesus worried more about doing the right thing than about being perceived to be doing the right thing. He cared more about speaking the truth as it regards loving one's neighbor than about maintaining a studied neutrality in the face of religious or political partisanship.
Let's be honest, sometimes the truth can be found hovering in the middle. Centrism isn't wrong by definition any more than setting up shop on the left or the right.
But here’s the thing: While those on the left or the right are obviously beholden to narrative structures that offer views of the world from particular perspectives, those in the center are too.The difference, however, is that those committed to life in the center as an end in itself are often the least likely to recognize the debt they owe and the masters they serve.
And when it comes to masters, Jesus repeatedly expressed a few strongly held opinions about that too.