Friday, June 20, 2014

The Hard Middle Way

Being a peacemaker ain't easy.

There's a temptation, in it, to try to be all things to all people.  You want to bring peace, to keep things graceful, and in doing so, you try to connect with everyone as if your position was their own.

"I believe exactly as you do," you say, to folks who are in conflict with one another.  "You and I are the same!"  You cozy up to one, and you cozy up to the other, and eventually, they realize your interest is simply in your own comfort.

That's the point of a favorite ancient story, told by an enslaved storyteller.  It's the story of the bat.  "The Bat," Aesop called it.  There was once a war between the animals and the birds, Aesop said.

The bat, seeking its own good, flitted first to one side, then to another.  On each, the bat insisted it was whatever they were.  Look at my wings, it said to the birds.  I'm one of you!  I'm on your side!

Look at my legs and my fur, it said to the animals.  I'm one of you!  I'm on your side!

They got wise, and saw the duplicity, and cast it out into the night.

Standing in the balance, though, requires that we be in the harder place in a relationship, that liminal place between competing claims.  It's both/and.  It's fire and chaos and conflict, the shimmering, living complexity of relationship between persons.  It's difficult footing, and lacks the shiny clarity of all-or-nothing polarity.

We don't take up the sword of either side.  We refuse, in fact, to take up the sword at all.  We are firm, but we don't seek the destruction of any.

That is the place where justice dwells.

To those who seek the middle way, a word of encouragement, in the hardness of that place.  Know that there, you're not Aesop's Bat.

You're Batman.

And Batman is awesome.

1 comment:

  1. A search for middle ground and compromise is hard wired into all fair-minded people, which is why those who call for moderation need to be sure they are not suffering from a variation of what is called the "Middle Ground Fallacy."

    The variation I'm thinking of defines extremes for the sole purpose of positioning one's own preferred choice in the middle of them, thus manufacturing a spectrum in order to make one's preferred choice or outcome seem appealing.

    For example, while one can find Marxists who call for state ownership of all property and Libertarians who want taxes eliminated entirely, that doesn't necessarily mean the appropriate middle-ground position is a tax rate of 50%. Rather, a sincere middle ground argument would find *reasonable* "extremes" to position oneself between.

    With regard to the present discussion, if one interpreted the Middle East as 21 Arab countries denying self determination to a Jewish one vs. one Jewish state denying such self determination to a Palestinian one, then where your middle ground falls would be quite different. In other words, accepting you claim to represent the middle ground would require accepting PCUSA's interpretation of the entire Middle East conflict, which many fair-minded people don't accept.

    I understand how much you and other thoughtful Presbyterians believe (and want others to believe) that your choices represent that safe and honest middle we all strive for, but I suspect you'll have a hard time convincing those who have followed PCUSA behavior over the last decade (including many Presbyterians who have rejected returning to the dark days of 2004) that your position is the least bit moderate.