Living in the Tension of the Middle: Part III

I am nearing the completion of re-reading the North and South Trilogy by Author John Jakes. It is historical fiction based in the United States just before, during, and just after the Civil War. This was a time – like most times, unfortunately – when the radicals had the loudest voices and ruled the day. This was a time when the vast majority were living in the tension of the middle, caught up in a war that most hoped would be short but soon became a drawn-out hell on earth affair.

This is part three of a series in which I am addressing issues where radical views on both ends are making it difficult for us to live in peace with each other. There is tension in the middle, but it is in the middle (in my opinion) where truth, rational thinking, and peace almost always reside.

The Civil War in America was not just about one issue, but slavery was the flash point. In its aftermath, racial tension between whites and blacks has persisted. But this wasn’t the first racial tension in our country; it existed from the beginning. Settlers vs. American Indians, everyone vs. the Irish immigrant, the Chinese labor force, Japanese internment camps during WWII, and on and on it goes. Globally the examples of racial tension and the resulting atrocities are countless.

Now, I hope you are already starting to ask yourself the question, “how can there be a ‘middle’ on the issue of racial tension?” Surely the discrimination that results from racial tension is a right or wrong, clear-cut issue, right? Not necessarily. Hear me out. We have seen radical views on both ends of various racial issues: white supremacy, guerilla warfare, entitlement, sloth, profiteering, etc. On most of these kinds of issues, I believe we must seek the middle ground by looking at them through two different lenses: one is a matter of personal responsibility and the other is a matter of public policy.

Personally, it is imperative that I see every other human being as being made in the image of God. One radical view, of course, is to believe that somehow humans that look like me are superior to those who do not. The other radical view, though, is to proclaim, “I do not see color”. On the one hand, we are claiming superiority and on the other we are imagining that everyone else looks like us, which ignores the reality of tension – and both are unhealthy. Neither one sets us up to live in the tension of the middle. The view that brings us together & gives us a chance at the inward and outward peace we desire is to see everyone for exactly who they are. AND that they are made in the image of God, just like you.

If every individual lived in that middle space, the matter of public policy would be rendered somewhat mute, except that it does not erase history. I am grateful that others are assigned the task of governing, and I do not begrudge them the opportunity to do so considering their own conscience and the responsibility they carry. Public policy that attempts to correct the consequences of past irresponsibility (personal or public policy related) I will view as well-intentioned. I will tend to my personal responsibility to render new public policy unnecessary. I hold to the tenet that most government intervention exists only because the people collectively have failed to do the right thing in the first place.

In closing, I must say in distress that I have seen rhetoric recently (over many of the issues I will be writing about in this series) that a civil war is coming. And some relish the idea. May it never be! Radical views carried the day and failed to avoid the first one. Let the tension of the middle prevail.

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