It’s tempting, because it’s so easy.
We live in a culture where everything is reduced to sound bytes. A writer has one sentence to hook a reader or listener; going “in-depth” on the nightly news takes two minutes; each movie shot lasts two seconds, tops.
In a sound byte, there is no time for detail, no room for nuance. Pollsters ask us to offer our opinions: Yes or no? Democrat or Republican? For or against health care reform? “It depends” is not one of the choices. We are forced, by lack of options, to pigeonhole ourselves, when reality is that our opinion lies in the middle, and that we probably never had the information to form a proper opinion at all. Yet the resulting numbers are broadcast as inconvertible truth, shaping the universe we live in.
Once, during a heated debate, a man I know raked some of us over the coals for sitting on the fence—for taking the easy way out, trying to play both sides. Someone much more eloquent than I pointed out that those who sit in the middle are the ones caught in the crossfire. Holding the middle ground hardly constitutes “taking the easy way out.”
I live my life in the middle of two groups of people. On the one hand, I am a teacher of Natural Family Planning, which plants me among deeply conservative Catholics. On the other, I am a liturgist and writer, whose ranks run the gamut of political philosophy, but who, as a group, tend to lean to the left. Many of the people I know on both ends of the spectrum, in both the secular and the sacred political spheres, come across angry, bitter, and blind to the inconsistencies in their convictions. I want to jump in and try to moderate the rhetoric. But I’m afraid of damaging relationships, and I’m also well aware of the limitations of my own understanding. So except among my closest friends, I keep most of my opinions to myself.
But how can I make the world a better place if I don’t say what is given to me to say? I firmly believe that God—and thus truth—is in the middle on almost every issue, both in politics and in the Church. (Almost.) Our world is painted in black and white—in “red” and “blue”— and maybe it is easier to give in. To choose a pigeonhole based on one issue, maybe two, and hitch a ride on the bandwagon. But God is not a Republican. And God is not a Democrat. I reject all attempts to classify the world—political, religious, or everyday—in either/or terms. I reclaim the middle ground. And beginning today, I’m going to take the risk, and say it out loud.