Stuck In The Middle With You

Well. That was fun.

Unless you’ve been in a coma for the last couple of days, you know about the World Vision hiring/not hiring the gays thing and the emotional wasteland that remains in its wake. Progressives and conservatives alike lost their ever lovin’ minds. Conservatives were filled with absolute rage – while progressives were doling out rallying cries and e-high fives. Fast forward 24 hours and those feelings reversed.

It was quite a thing.

God knows it’s not the first time an emotionally charged issue has inspired such a clash of ideology and it certainly won’t be the last. There are powerful voices on both sides who know how to get to heard.

But what about the rest of us? Those of us who fall much closer to the middle. Where’s our loud voice? Where’s our super blogger? If ever there was a silent majority, the not-a-conservative, not-yet-a-liberal is it.

Why is that?

I’m thinking it has a lot to do with fear.

Fear of being called lukewarm.

Fear of disappointing family, friends, pastors.

Fear of letting go of decades of theology that you’ve realized isn’t what God intended at all.

Fear of the world not being flat.

Fear of losing business connections in the Christian music industry that sometimes pay a lot of bills.

Was that last one too specific? Oops.

Let me take care of at least one of those for you right now. Fear of being called lukewarm. In a word, bullshit. Those of us in the middle are not lukewarm. We are peacemakers. We are observers. We admit we do not have all the answers. We live in the struggle. We love hard. And we do our best to see people. There is a lot of humanity in the middle.

We may not be first to the front lines, but we sure as hell aren’t lukewarm.

Still, we are quiet. It could be fear. It could be sheer exhaustion from constantly playing emotional and theological ping pong.

It could be because we feel alone.

We are always wondering what we can or should say and who we can or should say it to. But I think I have an idea.

Everyone likes to be asked what they think, so let’s start asking. Let’s begin conversations. Let’s attempt to find others in the middle while still listening to and learning from those on the ends.

My parents are conservatives. Pretty straight forward evangelical Christians and they are full of wisdom. I’m old enough to stop telling people how old I am and I still learn from them. My brother-in-law is a raging liberal atheist and I adore him. I do not get to where they are going when I explore the same questions they are considering, but I’m glad to have them along as part of my journey. Even though our faiths, or lack thereof, look very different, there is enough grace and respect for everyone.

Being in the middle isn’t so bad. There is a very nice view of perspective from here. We are less concerned about being right and more focused on being content. But do not mistake that for complacency. There is passion in the in-between. We just don’t feel driven to be the squeaky wheel. We’re more like the oil.

Maybe someday we’ll find our super blogger. Maybe we will quietly build bridges that lead us all back to the Family table. Maybe we’ll get bolder. Maybe we should make peace with our desire to not draw battle lines.

Maybe we should stop being afraid.

What say you? What causes you to hold your tongue or rethink that tweet?

 

Yeah. You didn’t think I’d post a title like that and not leave you with some Stealers Wheel, did you?

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54 comments on “Stuck In The Middle With You

  1. Abby says:

    I don’t know you, but I love you for this. Amen and amen.

  2. This! “Those of us in the middle are not lukewarm. We are peacemakers. We are observers. We admit we do not have all the answers. We live in the struggle. We love hard. And we do our best see people. There is a lot of humanity in the middle.”

    Thank you.

  3. I can’t really be in the middle on this one. My take on it is that a person can certainly be a Christian and yet be engaged in homosexual acts, just like Christians can still commit adultery or lie or steal. We’re human, we sin, and whether one is a Christian or not is solely based on having accepted Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross for us. But homosexual activity is explicitly sin Biblically (both in the Old Testament and in Paul’s writings), just as the others are, so a person in a homosexual marriage is openly engaged in sexual sin and rightly belongs with the other sexual sin hiring policies of the organization.

    The question for those of us who’ve been World Vision supporters is whether the board truly understands the error they made or simply backtracked to avoid the fallout. And that’s a tricky question to answer without being able to inquire of them directly.

    • I get that. But I think sometimes people forget that there are real people being hurt. Many in the LGBT+ community were devastated by the response of those on the far right. They were left feeling abandoned, displaced and dehumanized. I think we can do better. I think Jesus would want us to do better.

      • J.Mill says:

        Not to mention the “real people being hurt” – like the kids whose sponsorships got lost in the inclusion and then again in the reversal. WV is losing tons of funding and kids are the ones who lose out. For political gain. For.The.Love.

    • Do you believe that the prohibitions enumerated in Leviticus apply to Christians today? Or do you believe that some continue to apply and some do not? And if the latter, how do you determine which is which?

  4. To ad, and to boot, waiting to hear everything; understand as much as we can (no matter how ludicrous one might feel) and gain the best grasp of the context/situation is ultimately crucial IMO to moving forwards – rather than left or right. Props! Awesome post!

  5. AndrewF says:

    Problem is, when the proverbial hits the fan like this, the loudest on either side see no middle ground. It seems a modern malady of turning everything into a zero-sum game.

  6. […] this from @Sharideth. Go ahead. Ken Wilson, a Vineyard pastor in Michigan, wrote a book in which he […]

  7. Maddee says:

    Thank you. Thank you so much. I think maybe the virtue of the middle is that we try to operate primarily from seeing those on polarized sides of a debate as humans. People created in God’s image. People we ought to see as *people*, not issues on one side of an argument.

  8. RIP Gerry Rafferty

    That’s the only reason I came here.

  9. I love this. From the middle we can take time to listen. We can take time to relate to other humans as HUMANS, not as agendas or moral hills to die on. Like you said, we do our best to SEE people.

  10. Bekka says:

    Yes! I’ve been feeling lately that the middle is where things get done. Where my heart changes, where people are helped, where I feel at most peace.

    I’ll gladly listen to those on either side, and make space for growth on all sides. But yeah, I’m not lukewarm. Thank you.

  11. Agreed. Some of our reticence may be fear. Some of it is so desperately wanting to love and not leave others outside the circle of love that we’re quiet. I’d rather be quiet and love fiercely than to speak and scrape others’ souls. I speak when I need to, but it’s generally only after a great deal of love. I’m not lukewarm.

  12. Makeda says:

    Some of us stay silent because we are only just beginning to realize that we are in the middle because for so long we were at one end of spectrum and now there are questions with answers that no longer feel right. *deep sigh*

  13. beckycastlemiller says:

    Definitely fear. It was a lose-lose for me…to speak up either way would have cost me relationships.

  14. You said, “Everyone likes to be asked what they think, so let’s start asking. Let’s begin conversations. Let’s attempt to find others in the middle while still listening to and learning from those on the ends.”

    No. Those who would keep us down have had years – decades – to begin a conversation. They have refused to budge from hate and discrimination. There is nothing to “learn” from them. Their refusal to accept us as fully equal people does not carry anywhere near the same weight as our simple human worth. Just because there are two sides doesn’t mean that what they say is equally valid.

    Tellingly, you also said, “We are less concerned about being right and more focused on being content.”

    That’s it in a nutshell, isn’t it? Your “contentment” is more important than knowing and saying what’s right and what’s wrong. Sorry, but that is not the moral high ground; it’s the coward’s way out.

    Desmond Tutu put a fine point on it: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have taken the side of the oppressor.”

    • I think you are absolutely right that there is no reason to engage some. But I do believe there is hope for others. Hearts and minds can be changed. I think those of us who land closer to the middle might be capable of facilitating that. Maybe engage the conversation when we encounter or even create “teachable moments” – to get all cliché up in here.

      And I think you read too much into my “content” comment. I was speaking in generalities there. Or at least I meant to. But frankly I don’t blame you for filtering that through your justified hurt over the WV fiasco. I never claimed the moral high ground, but I won’t defend myself against being called a coward. In some ways, I am. But not for the reasons you might think.

      Thank you for your comment. I think people need to hear from those who are hurting over this.

      • Well, perhaps it’s not cowardice. With a little reflection, I think it’s more likely that you don’t see this as a justice issue. In that case, I can understand your desire to be content with seeking the middle ground.

        • I actually do see it as a justice issue, believe it or not. And it is not something I have found any contentment in what-so-ever. When I talked about living in the struggle in my post, that came from a real place I linger in everyday. It’s something I talk about with my LGBT+ friends. I can only promise to do whatever I can to smooth the way for you and others as best I can. What you’re facing does matter and I hate that my fellow Christians have caused you needless pain.

          • Just to be clear — I don’t see it as Christians versus LGBTQ people. The majority of my gay, bi, and trans friends are Christians, as am I. It bothers me that so many Christians utterly reject the idea that we can be both, as it bothers me that so many LGBTQ people utterly reject the idea as well. I look forward to the day when, as you put it, “there is enough grace and respect for everyone.”

  15. Mike Turner says:

    Agree, Sharideth! Reposting! :)

  16. ro elliott says:

    I heard I quote yesterday… It’s where I am landing….and maybe this describes what the middle looks like…”spiritual maturity moves from being confident arrogance to thoughtful uncertainty”

    • Are you saying that you’re uncertain whether gay and trans people should be treated as “less than” under the law? That you’re uncertain about whether we should have equal access to public accommodations?

      And do I understand correctly that you consider your uncertainty more spiritually mature, than anyone’s certainty that we should be treated equally?

  17. […] Stuck In The Middle With You | Sharideth […]

  18. Sandy Rogers says:

    “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
    ― Desmond Tutu

    • I don’t see the middle as being at all neutral. Neutral infers a certain indifference. I can only speak for myself, but for me, being in the middle is never neutral. It is searching and seeking to facilitate a conversation of understanding and peace for me and those I love and have influence with.

      • What does the conversation between the elephant and the mouse look like? How long should the mouse wait patiently until the elephant is ready to talk?

        • I don’t think the elephant and the mouse analogy works here. Ten years ago? Absolutely. But the elephant is shrinking and the mouse is getting bigger. In fact I believe they are beginning to look like completely different animals. Is it equal footing yet? No. There is a long way to go. But it is getting better. Hearts are changing. Though I know it could not come fast enough for many of you who are hurting now.

      • Sandy Rogers says:

        What you seemed to argue, however, is that being in the middle is seeing both sides as morally equal and refusing to say that one side is right and one side is wrong. That is neutrality. That is accepting that the oppressor or bully is as right as the oppressed or bullied. That is taking it seriously when the elephant claims that the mouse has hurt him or her as well.

        As a lesbian, I don’t have a middle choice. I can’t say “I still need time to think and reflect about whether or not God can love me as I am or I have to conform to a particular interpretation of scripture in order to still experience the fullness of Grace and participation in the church” (not to scripture themselves).

        When you argue that I need you to facilitate that conversation for me, you are silencing my voice. You are telling me that I cry too loud in pain. You are denying the reality of having my own parents force me to resign my ordination or my sister accusing me of causing her miscarriage simply by being gay. You are denying the work I do every day, despite that, to remain in loving, albeit painful, relationships with them and with others who have hurt me because I’m a lesbian, because obviously, I am not capable of doing it myself.

        You are nodding with my parents when they tell me that I have hurt them too, that if I could have just committed to a life of a celibacy everything would be fine. You are laughing with them when they joke about sex, despite the pain it causes me to know that I’m not included. When they tell me that if they were to attend my re-ordination that they would have to resign their own ministry, not because the Board would make them but because of their own personal convictions. You are sitting with them as they force me to try to talk things through while I’m still recovering from my only panic attack and ignoring that I’m still trying to get my breathing under control.

        And you are ignoring the fact that I am sitting in that room, trying to calmly and lovingly talk things through despite the fact that I am still struggling to get my breathing under control. You ignore the fact that the only time I ever lost my temper in their presence (as opposed to when I’m alone and safe) was when they compared the mass rape attempt of Genesis 19 to consensual sex. You ignore the fact that I hug my sister despite the fact she has never apologized to me for her accusation, that I was present at the birth of her son.

        You’re ignoring the fact that after my church decided not to take up my ordination at a particular time (to allow it in the future) because they did not want to deal with “second controversial ordination”, I preached two Sundays later and did not make it about myself or my pain. Or that that is still my church and that I love them very much. That we are working through this without the use of a neutral mediator.

        We don’t need mediators. We need people who will hold us when we feel exhausted from trying to be loving and patient with those who hurt us. We need people who will allow us to rail and rant so that we can have a vent. We need people who will stand beside us and tell us it’s ok to cry, and it’s ok to be hurt. We need people who will squeeze our hand when we choose to ignore the little hurts, who acknowledges that it’s ok that it hurt.

        I don’t need a mediator. I do, sometimes, need arms that will hold me, shoulders to cry on, and ears that will allow to vent and express my hurt without trying to justify the ones who hurt me.

        • Your response assumes a lot about me that isn’t true. Which I really can’t blame you for since you don’t know me and only have your experience to filter my words through. Sometimes opposites ends of a issue have something to offer to the conversation and sometimes they just…don’t. Or worse, cause more harm. I am well aware of that. I, however unfortunately, worked in politics for several years. Ugh.

          I am closer to the pain you are experiencing than I am willing to express to total strangers on the internet. Criticize me for that if you want to. I won’t stop you. But I would never be guilty of silencing you. The whole point of my post is to encourage those of us in the middle to act. To listen. To hear you. The Church is guilty of forgetting the humanity of the LGBT+ community. It is a failing I will openly condemn.

          I have held my gay friends. I have cried with them for the pain they constantly and needlessly experience. I can tell them Jesus loves them and mean it.

          I can do that while being a mediator between them and those who are struggling to let go of decades of teaching that have hurt you and so many others like you.

          The two need not be mutually exclusive. I can spend time with my gay friends, listening and hugging or whatever they need in that moment, while letting others know that their rants about “the gays” over breakfast is not acceptable and won’t be tolerated in my presence.

          All I can do is ask that you not assume to know the hearts and minds of those of us in the middle. There are going to people at different stages of their journey who are willing to hear you, but it will harder for them if all they hear is that they’re doing it wrong instead of how to do it better. You want grace and understanding from them. I believe you’ll get it if you offer a little in return.

          • Sandy Rogers says:

            Then I second CassandraToday’s question, because this post made it sound like the middle was between those who believe that homosexuality and other expressions of LGBTQ+ identity are inherently sinful and those who say that not only is not sinful but should have the same legal privileges and protections as the heterosexual norm and full participation in the church (for those of us in a Christian context).

            Yes, I’m only responding to what you said in this particular post. I did not go back and read other posts.

            So, yes I second CassandraToday’s question.

  19. […] Stuck in the Middle with You: Sharideth Smith […]

  20. Sharideth, maybe I would better understand what you’re trying to say if I knew more about where you’re coming from. As a starting point, I would ask you this question: If two people of the same sex are married, and express their love to one another in all the ways that are part of the marriage relationship, is that sin?

  21. Dr. Diana says:

    Hello Smith,

    Very heart touching article indeed :)

    So kind words I have found here. Thanks a lot for sharing this article. Because of it I fall in love with your blog.

    ~Diana

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  23. Jennifer says:

    Agree with much of what you shared, and thank you for it. It’s always reassuring to know you’re not alone, that others out there feel similarly. At the same time, being alone and true to your own ideology holds appeal.

    Nothing kept me more from Christ than Christians judging and pointing fingers. Love that old colloquialism that states: “When you point your finger at someone else, three fingers point back toward you”! A sandwich-board street corner “Evangelist” that I had to pass on my way to work downtown five days a week? He set me back from wanting to know who Jesus was. Jesus came to “seek and save the lost”. He showed love to those that society shunned. Love thy neighbor as thyself? Don’t recall reading “Love thy neighbor as thyself only if they do/don’t do ______”.

    There’s a man named Chris, who hangs out at the bottle return at our local market, waiting for people who will let him have their return cans and bottles for the deposit. I know his name is Chris because one Winter it was bitter cold and I saw him huddled out there. I don’t hand out cash to people. I did, however go into the Market and bought a pair of warm gloves and socks, a warm meal from the deli, and some coffee. When I gave it to him, I extended my hand to him, just as I would do to anyone, and introduced myself. Still tugs at my heart, as he grabbed my hand in both of his and looked at me with tears in his eyes. He said thank you for what I had purchased, but what had touched him was…well, touch. Being willing to grasp his dirty and freezing cold hand meant more to him. He said he didn’t remember the last time anyone had touched him. Touch. It’s an elemental human need. Chris looked at me the way I felt when I accepted Christ and His love into my heart. Seeing one another for who we are, not what we do. Isn’t that Love? Imperfect at it myself, but continually trying to improve.

    When younger I didn’t speak out, afraid I would offend someone and risk their opinion of me, or come across as uninformed. Now I listen to other’s points of view with respect, and try to hear them as well (or is that vica versa? Lol). I expect the same in return.

    Being in the middle provides a wonderful vantage point, indeed. For myself I bounce back and forth over that middle line. I’m not hanging out in the middle to be content though….I’d say more from a desire to love people where they are.

    Hmmm…that’s how Jesus loves me. Maybe he was onto something? ; )

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