I love the wisdom and the theology that comes from rock and roll. Today I was listening to the Eagles in the car. One of the lyrics to one of their songs makes profound sense to me whenever I hear it:
“Take it easy…don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy”
Sometimes we let our intensity about certain positions and ideas drive us nearly crazy. I say that because I think there’s something to be said for the middle ground.
I don’t mean being indecisive, or intentionally non-committal. Not at all. I mean that I think there’s something to be said for finding the point of common ground to ensure that we understand each other. Because when we stay intensely focused on our set positions without considering the reasons behind others’ perspectives, I think the sound of our own wheels running on the proverbial pavement can drive us crazy. There’s almost always common ground.
Karen’s great at this. Whenever I have an episode of yelling at a Virginia driver (which occurs frequently), she pauses to hypothesize what might be going wrong with that driver’s day, what they might have been experiencing, and what may have led to their making a silly decision. She always makes me feel bad that I yelled in the first place, because I can almost always think of a situation in which I’ve done something similar. And, of course, I don’t want someone yelling at me.
The reason that this is on my mind is because I’ve noticed a lot over the last few years how we’re encouraged to avoid the middle ground. And I know that this isn’t new, that I’ve only become this sensitive to it in the last few years. I’ve noticed it profoundly in politics, and also in religion: a “if you’re not for us you’re against us” mentality that leads to divisive modalities of being at best, and inflammatory and antagonistic rhetoric at worst. It seems so easy to become so angry at someone who doesn’t and won’t come to our perspective on a particular issue that we just want to fight them. Only months ago did a friend say he felt like hitting me because I advocated a political view that would be considered liberal, and was very opposite of his own.
Because I’m a practicing Christian, I find this also very true in faith communities. The concept of denominationalism runs rampant as we wall ourselves off from each other, speaking poorly of, and acting as though we’re somehow in competition with, each other.
There’s a principal in the Christian Scriptures that holds true here, and I think that anyone would recognize it as wisdom regardless of their faith. That principal is that a house that is divided will fall.
I’m worried about our country. I’m worried because instead of working together to create a civil society from which we all benefit, we’re busy ranting about how much better we are than everyone else, and even how much better some of us are than our fellow citizens. I’m concerned because we’re so willing to resort to aggressive measures to solve differences that really don’t necessitate such action. We’re so willing to permit ourselves to be drawn into a crowd mentality, because we take powerful rhetoric at face value, without stopping to analyze what is being said, to consider whether or not it is a sound argument. Factions of my faith do the same thing, resulting in horrible decisions and actions being made on the part of certain fundamentalist groups that reflect poorly on all of us, and our faith as a whole…to say nothing of our God.
I wonder why we can’t see that, if we continue to exist as a divided “house,” we won’t be able to stand. We’ll collapse ourselves, because we’ll be too busy fighting each other to see the work that needs to be done to hold up the structure, as it were. We’ll be so busy being caught up with what we’re against, that we’ll stop being motivated by what we’re for.
Focusing on the negative pushes us away, but focusing on the positive (something that I myself need to work on) gives us all something to work toward, which helps us all to understand each other. Just as I begin to understand the driver in front of me, I begin to be less angry at them. That doesn’t mean I endorse the decision that they made, and, if I were pressed to do so, I would still identify it as a wrong choice. But that doesn’t mean that I feel anger or hatred toward the person who made that choice, because, in the same situation, I might well have done the same.
Since we accept the wisdom that a house divided will fall, then we recognize that we all have some responsibility to work to keep the house standing, regardless of our differences on other issues and choices. Because finding common ground usually isn’t that difficult.
See, we accepted a common wisdom, there. We’ve done it already. Its a good start.