“Do you know what’s in the middle of the road? Roadkill”
Often, I have heard this little saying from people taking a strong position regarding something in life. Usually, they are trying to convey the idea that you cannot take a middle stance on an issue because those in the extremes will ‘run over you’. What they most often want is for you to capitulate and see their way as the ‘right’ way, giving them a ‘win’ for their team. From my perspective, I see that as a faulty expression of logic often predicated on anecdotal arguments, expressions of personal incredulity, or an appeal to a biased understanding of authority. It is the concept that there has to be ann absolute right and an absolute wrong. For those who are into Star Wars, only the Sith (the ‘bad guys’) deal in absolutes.
From my perspective, the idea of absolute thinking is a form of intellectual and theological imprisonment. When you define something as an absolute, you are in essence saying the idea you espouse to is so airtight, so concrete, so infallible, that it is a form of scientific, provable evidence (a by product of modernist, enlightenment thinking). Absolutes should be reserved for things like 2+2=4, Planck’s constant, and E=mc2. To try to define something like faith, which is built purely on subjective, relational ideas and ideals is in my opinion; a fool’s errand, something akin to chasing your tail. You will most likely never mature in your in your thinking, political or theological, due to the refusal to see yourself as growing.
Jim Harnish writes, “If we Methodists can find a way to be in ministry together while honoring the diversity of our convictions, we may have a critically important witness for our deeply divided nation.”[i] I think there is a great deal of truth to this. Rev. Harnish, I believe, is alluding to being able to have a perspective, yet allow others to do so, not necessarily ‘live and let live’ but ‘live along side one another’. It is an invitation to diverse community, an ideological stew, where the ingredients do not melt into one another but mix to bring out the flavors that each has.
I hold no illusions that the world will sort this combative, philosophical milleau anytime soon, but my prayer is that we can at least begin to have enough of an honest dialogue to see past our own absolutism in order to hear one another. A wise man once said, “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have?”[ii] I believe it time to reach beyond those we love to those we might not feel so much kinship with or feeling for and begin to accept that absolutism will only lead to political and religious despotism and create an environment none of us want to be a part of.
[ii] Matthew 5:46