Purpose-Driven Centrist: Yes He Can!

Like many around the country, I took time out of my business day last week to watch the inauguration. In fact, I was one of the hosts of a conference for a research project for which I work. Attendees came from all over the country, and even Australia and Canada, and we stopped our work, had lunch brought in, and watched together. Some of us commented minute-by-minute reactions on Facebooks; others just took it all in. I did a little of both, but neither action could stop the sense of sadness I got from watching the ceremony.

As a centrist, I am often, but not always, planted in the middle of the issues. More importantly, I believe that the best position to have is in the middle and not at either pole. But just like anyone else, I am persuaded from one side of the centrist-line to another from time to time. And during the inauguration telecast, my feelings of support and empathy swung back at forth to and from both Presidents Bush and Obama. President Obama has certainly been able to rally a call of hope and change, and to many it is inspiring. Some of his call has definitely inspired me. Much of his address included things I could support. But much of the audience response made me sad to wonder if people are really listening.

I try to stay abreast with the issues of the day, the problems, the possible solutions, and look at things from the big picture. I read books by controversial authors on controversial topics. I read about faith, politics, and people's opinions. I try to get the big picture. But I wondered if the big picture about the future of our nation was really as evident as the voices of the people in the crowds or even around me.

What I heard louder than the prayer of Rick Warren or the flubbing of the oath of office by both Chief Justice Roberts and President Obama, were chants of boos against President Bush and "thank god" praises of the people around me when he boarding Executive One (that was the codename of the helicopter, right?). I have been just as critical of many of the decisions of the last 8 years, but the polar expressions at the closure of one administration and the beginning of another is still dissonance to the centrist's ears. It reaks of evidence that the unity message that President Obama preached in his campaigns, as well as the realistic "this will be hard work" message of his inauguration fell on deaf ears. I hope that isn't true, but the hopefulness I thought I might have after the inauguration was not to be found.

But inside of all problems is an opportunity, and it belongs to those of us who live in the Kingdom of God. This time now, above all others, is our chance as followers of Jesus to truly be subversive. The culture of polarized politics has reigned for too long now. Its reign has included both major political parties, and through a generation that is beginning to move into the background of life. It seems so clear that it is our chance to show the love of Jesus without the stain of a political party or a single-voter issue. We can cast off the hindering chains of the 700 clubs and the Focus action groups, and begin now, through our actions, to say "Yes He can!" Let's not shout it from the Capitol or Lincoln Memorial; let's shout it with our hands, feet, hearts, and even our wallets. Let's hold the example of the Good Samaritan just as high in our memories as the woman with only two copper coins. Let's show our communities, our churches, our families, our friends, and our world that no world leader will solve any of these problems. No, only the love of Jesus. He can! That is the Center position I have my hope.


  1. isn't the presupposition that either party presents a "pole" false? and doesn't this indicate the position of this author is a reaction?

  2. Yeah, i don't see any reason why aiming for the center purposefully is any more logical than aiming for the left or right. Centrism is just a subtle form of ideological bias.

    That said, i don't like that we can understandably use the phrase "either party" when speaking of American politics. This polar system is seriously lame and unsatisfying.

    Oh, and yeah, the hero-worship some people show about Obama is really foul to me. At least most of my friends/family that would never question Bush policies never idolized him. And the "intense relief" many other's feel at Obama's election is a show of superficiality. Real change would have been Ron Paul, Ralph Nader or Dennis Kucinich. Looking past character to policy and personnel, i do see plenty of improvement in Obama over Bush, but not nearly enough to warrant such extreme relief.

  3. Don,

    That presupposition isn't inevitable, but it is an old habit. N.T. Wright, in his book "Following Jesus" (I think) considers our polarized two party system to be an import from French Revolution.

    We seem to have replaced guillotines, pitchforks, and bayonets with talk radio, political Cable shows, and culture wars.

    So, sure, you are right.

    But what cultural changes need to occur to for all to let go of a bi-polar political system?

  4. Thank you for sparking conversation, Don. It wasn't my intent to represent each party as equal and opposite poles, and looking at the examinations of voter demographics, it doesn't appear that the poles were represented at the, um, polls. Plenty of voters crossed sides, and, surprising as it might be, I saw more "Democrat for McCain" signs in my area that I ever expected.

    The one pole that I thought was most noticeable on that Tuesday morning was the anti-Bush pole, which didn't seem to jive with the unity (and I am interpreting that as centric) message that Obama gave in his inaugural address and speeches before.

    Indeed this particular column was a reaction, and quite frankly, not a reaction I expected to have from that morning. But in many ways, I'm glad because it steered me back from looking at the President's ideas for change to Jesus's.

    I also agree with Nathan that aiming for the center is ideological, and in our political system it happens to be the most productive. Maybe you could also call it the 80/20 rule, I don't know. But since I've been voting, and not-ashamedly since I first read BLJ, I've started to connect the dots to see that the left and the right leave out a lot more people than the center, which still leaves out a lot more people than the love of Jesus does.

    I think the culture change question that Larry asks hits the sub-plot of my post. And honestly, I think it needs to start as a refined counter-cultural movement within the Kingdom of God. Peter Gomes gets at some of this in The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, which I still need to finish reading. Despite the claims to the contrary, elements of Christianity are so much a part of the culture that a) we don't realize it and b) we lose the gospel. Being counter-cultural, then, is to re-invest ourselves in the gospel through our lives in our communities. And through that there are is room for "guillotines, pitchforks, bayonets, talk radio, political Cable shows, and culture wars."