Jun 292016
 

caught in the middleSometimes it sucks to be in the middle.  I only have one sibling and so it never could have been the case in my household growing up, but you often hear the stories of the “forgotten” middle child.  Middle management is often stuck between the gripes of their employees and the demands to carry out initiatives by top management. 

Middle school can be the most awkward of times as one transitions from the simplicity and innocence of their elementary years into the complexity and travails of being a teenager and all that business called puberty.

When it comes to religion and politics, it seems much easier to join one side or the other.  It’s much simpler to identify who your group is and conversely, who the “enemy” is.  Life can seemingly go much smoother when you are safely entrenched with your family group and you know for the most part that everyone is going to think and act the same way.

But sometimes when you are with a family for a while, you start to notice some things that just don’t seem quite right.  Maybe not the core ideals that attracted you to the group in the first place, but some of the other stuff.  Matters that should be more peripheral and not nearly as important but are treated like they are essential, or all but.  Issues that the more you look at them, the more you realize that we aren’t thinking or acting right.  Things that appear to be unhealthy excesses and extremes.  Maybe even some items at which you think the “enemy” is doing a better job.

And so you say something.  But it doesn’t go over too well with the family.  Because that is not how you do things in the family.  You are to stay loyal and united and questioning the way things are done is definitely not appropriate.

And so that leaves you stuck in the middle.  The “other side” still doesn’t like you much because you’re still part of the enemy and you will still question or speak out against some of their sacred cows.  Therefore, you are still hated and continue to be identified with all the worst of your family group.  And now your own side isn’t very fond of you either for not falling in line and being a good soldier.

I have shocked church friends and family members with comments I have made on theological subjects.  Remarks I have made showing that I may not be fully on board and question some elements.  No, not words questioning items like the reliability of the Bible or the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice.  But rather comments showing that I may not be fully convinced of the pre-trib, pre-mill position and that I am open to the possibility of other eschatological positions.  Or remarks like I think there are true believers who are Catholic or Orthodox.  And of course one that we have covered here before, that I think it’s okay for Christians to drink, even for pastors to do so.

I have angered and frustrated friends and family members that I am not on board with Donald Trump now that he is the presumptive Republican nominee.  Because, I am told, we must now band together and the most important thing is defeating the enemy.  And besides, many of our Christian leaders are now getting to know Trump and telling us he’s really not that bad and there’s actually lots of good things about the man.  Wait, what is that, I hear?  You dare question our Christian leaders?

I’m sure I could offend many more people many more times, but I often keep many of my thoughts to myself.  I express myself better in writing than I do in spontaneous verbal conversation and so this blog and Facebook have given me avenues to express my thoughts more so than I have before.  But even at that, there are many circumstances where I keep my mouth closed or limit what I have to say.  Yet the things I have managed to say over the years have pushed me more and more into the abyss of the “middle”.

I still identify with my families.  But for some in my families, I am the ugly red-headed step child.  (No offense to red heads, just using a common expression to make a point.)  I am the one who is too “open” to all those other dangerous ways and thought systems.  I am the who is angrily accused of playing the devil’s advocate, because darn it, we know that we’re right and you shouldn’t be challenging us like that.  And I’m not even very talkative or confrontational by nature.  What it must be like for those who are so.

Part of the problem is certainly with me for not always communicating in the clearest or most understanding fashion.  But part of the problem is also a perceived disloyalty for questioning those within the family or the way things are supposed to be done within the family.  And yet another part of the problem may be a blindness of family members from being able to see the bigger picture and faults within, because if this is the way we do it and our leaders advocate for it, then it invariably must be right.  To quote from a recent Russell Moore article, “Forgetting who we are and forgetting our mission can leave us particularly vulnerable to false teaching that doesn’t sound false because it comes from “our side.”

I try to follow my conscience and speak for what I believe to be right and that sometimes gets me stuck in the middle.  And you know what?  I’m probably wrong on some issues and the righteousness actually lays more on one side or the other.  But if I think the truth of an issue lays more towards the middle or even the other side I am going to try to stick with what I believe to be right.

In our increasingly divided and vociferous culture (including the church) that cries for battle, being in the middle is often like being an enemy…. to both sides.  I know there are others who get stuck in the middle with me.  Let’s hang in there as we absorb the blows.  

May God give us the wisdom and strength to do and say what is right.    

  50 Responses to “Kevin’s Conversations: Stuck In the Middle With You”

  1. Great article, Kevin!

    This year I find that I am stuck in the middle with a large group of thoughtful people so it could be much worse in my case.

  2. Xenia,

    I’m glad the group of people you’re stuck with are thoughtful. Certainly I’m stuck in the middle with some thoughtful people, too. It’s when you run into the either you’re for us or against us crowd that it can get especially tough.

  3. Excellent article Kevin!

    “I’m sure I could offend many more people many more times, but I often keep many of my thoughts to myself.”

    I find it very ironic, and I notice the same thing, that even though a church family should be a safe place to share alternative thoughts on matters where Christians are free to differ, I find churches can be the stuffiest, least safe place to share such thoughts. Then everyone starts minding their “manners” and low and behold: people resort to gossip; or just come and leave without investing in each other; or become hypocrites.

    But somehow, we want to welcome outsiders into the fold?

  4. I think this is one of his best …great piece.

  5. Thanks all for the kind words.

  6. Thanks… I have always felt like this, especially in church… and at work too, for that matter. I am always the weird one. The one who is questioning too much or too far out there. I have never towed the line and was taught to think for myself…. So I just go with it. Never feeling part of the group, always on the fringe. But I have a partner in life who gets me and that is enough. I have a hard time making friends because of it and most of the time, truth be told, I feel awkward and uncomfortable around most any groups. But I like myself, for the most part and am trying to cultivate some friendships and that is good for me.

    Thanks for validating that it is ok to be in the middle.

  7. For years I’ve been told that if I want to grow my “platform” (to sell more books,etc.) that I need to pick one political side and one expression of the faith and ride them hard and rail against the other political side and other faith traditions.

    That would be dishonest for me, but the need to do so has always troubled me more than a little…

  8. OK I am just going to post this now to get it out of the way….:)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DohRa9lsx0Q

  9. “That would be dishonest for me, but the need to do so has always troubled me more than a little…”

    You’ve probably heard that slogan which goes something like: Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. A lot of people who are “comfortable” in their beliefs really don’t like to be afflicted, even with inconvenient truths. They don’t even like to examine the beliefs which make them comfortable. What they really want is to be affirmed in their beliefs.

    Of course, nowadays many of us don’t even agree on what the “truth” is on so many things. We saw that the other day on this blog on the question of deportations during the last 6 years. In the current election cycle, candidates are taking the self-definition of truth to entirely new levels of creativity.

  10. “Thanks for validating that it is ok to be in the middle.”

    gg, I think Kevin validated a bunch of quiet people…and that means we had a great day here.

  11. Jean,

    That inability to even agree on a common set of facts is huge…

  12. “For years I’ve been told that if I want to grow my “platform” (to sell more books,etc.) that I need to pick one political side and one expression of the faith and ride them hard and rail against the other political side and other faith traditions.”

    This is disconcerting to whomever gives that advice out….cause that advice seems to be followed by the masses.

    The Middle seems to be a lonely place to be…

  13. Kevin gives me hope for the future… i pray that his ability to think things through with temperance and honesty spreads like an epidemic…

    forbearance is a lovely word… i wonder why people are afraid (or are they lazy?) to stop and think for themselves? we all seem to want respect, but that carries some responsibility on our part, too, does it not?

    lately, i have been concerned about the quality of thinking in our academic community – reading Proverbs 4 this morning makes me realize that having a learner’s heart includes some discernment, too

  14. Jean, it just popped in my head that the joining a church link from yesterday was pretty much saying that it is the job of the church to shut down those alternate thoughts… it’s certainly been my experience.

  15. Excellent article, Kevin. I believe you are speaking for many!

    I’m a lot older than you and sometimes I just don’t have the energy for “those” conversations, with some church family members. Although I love theological discussions and am an outgoing person, I find myself just staying quiet in some settings, rather than watch people’s brains explode. 😉

  16. Papias,

    If you go to the blogs that are bigger than ours they pick a side and fight for that side endlessly.

    I have had more than one very sharp person tell me all I’m doing in the middle is losing both sides of the readers…

  17. “i wonder why people are afraid (or are they lazy?) to stop and think for themselves? we all seem to want respect, but that carries some responsibility on our part, too, does it not?”

    Preach it, Em!

  18. Kevin nails it again in a good article. I have not had the experience of being in a family where there was pressure to follow the status quo, I can plainly see that is not true for everyone. I also have a group of friends I made over 30 years ago from an AOG church who are free-thinkers. None of us are still in an AOG church, but have wondered around and landed different places. Being like Jesus means loving the Truth, whatever it is and wherever it falls on the political spectrum. It is not about being lemmings and following the leader mindlessly over the cliff. This election has the worst people running who made it through the primaries in my lifetime. I expect a very bad result for this country no matter which Narcissist we pick to screw us this time.

  19. (slow, deliberate clapping at Kevin…)

    Thank you , thank you Kevin, SO well said!

    I’ll keep this comment short and simple – many times, we are in the middle mainly because we have had the courage to make up our own darn mind. And that’s something I have come to appreciate about this group frequenting this blog – there seems to be a good number of free thinkers.

    ( I was raised the middle child, between two sisters. Ugh. When two girls get together to pick on a boy, it’s not fun…. 😉 )

  20. Kevin – very good article – I am the middle child of 2 middle children.

    I have a question about politics in general and this election in particular. Just how important is this stuff in your regular life? Is this something you dwell on throughout the day or is it just something you react to when it gets brought up?

    I am always amazed that people who focus on the presidential elections can’t even tell me who is running for their congressional seat.

  21. ” I expect a very bad result for this country no matter which Narcissist we pick to screw us this time.”

    I agree with Mr. J as long as it is said in the line that we have never had a non narcissist run for any political office – ever.

  22. MLD,

    I think you have a great point @ 20.
    As I go through what passes for a “normal” day for me this stuff is relatively unimportant.

    You’ve had some wisdom for a while on these matters…and until “16 looks like ’68, I’m not going to engage much.

    I can see dire prospects ahead…I can also see life going on as it always has.
    It’s God’s show either way.

  23. Michael,
    ’16 will look like ’64 when the GOP ran from Goldwater he took a drubbing

  24. That would be better than ’68 🙂

    I do think you underestimate the anger out there, though.

  25. Thanks again everyone for the kind words.

    Just for clarification purposes, I have never been in an all-encompassing environment that demanded loyalty and uniformity. But I have had plenty of conversations with various individuals where people have been shocked/disturbed/angered/concerned/etc. to find that I didn’t conform with expected norms. All the more so sometimes when I have said that I don’t think some of our “leaders” are right on an issue or in the way they are carrying themselves in regards to an issue.

  26. #20 – i suspect that the answer to the question is very situation dependent… if you are in your most productive wage earning years, in the process of building and counting on a retirement account of some sort to take care of your post employment years, i suspect you are feeling pretty shaky, an uneasy lack of confidence right now…
    i am old now and the prospect of starving to death is not as impactful as it would have been years ago 🙂
    i have to take the mindset of Michael’s “I can see dire prospects ahead…I can also see life going on as it always has.
    “It’s God’s show either way.” amen to that

    it is going to be an interesting summer and it really feels like the world is taking a dynamic shift to a whole new game plan… or maybe just a condensing of the old powers that be? dunno

  27. Michael,
    “I do think you underestimate the anger out there, though.”

    I do not underestimate the anger among the angry out there – however, I think you overestimate the number of the angry … I would venture that 80 – 90% are bored and apathetic.

  28. KevinH,

    I’ve lived it for a long time now.
    When I wrote a piece about the Central American child refugees, people who had supported and read here for years walked out on me.
    One issue defined the relationship.

    Recently I “admitted” in a Facebook comment that I voted for Bernie in the primary.
    Another exodus ensued.

    Years of relationship gone in seconds…without much discussion or care.

  29. MLD,

    To answer your question, politics in general and also this election in particular are not at the top of the list of things that are important in my life. Politics is not something I regularly think about or stew about. But I will react to disturbing things I read or heard said. Most times the reaction is restricted to thoughts in my own head. But sometimes I will let those thoughts out.

    Now if you want to ask me about the Phillies, you’ll get a different answer. 🙂

  30. MLD,

    Was there ever a time in history that people dropped the apathy and were engaged?
    ’68?

  31. Michael,

    I am sure I have not had nearly as many bad experiences as yourself. But they still are disturbing when they happen and I spoke to it because I knew I wasn’t alone.

  32. over my lifetime there has been a shift in something … not sure what …
    my nurse daughter was relating something that just occurred in a major hospital (they’re all under great pressure from the government to produce happy customers – to the extent that the patient is given a form to fill out to rate the service received) – this hospital took their whole nursing staff to boot camp (3 days?) and had them go thru “patient empathy training” – they literally had nurses put in beds, forced to drink a gallon of water and lay on a bed pan for a 24 hour period among other indignities … i don’t think that this could have taken place in my day.
    how did a whole staff of nurses submit to this? even with the threat of losing my job, i would have told them “nuts” to this nonsense… and i can’t imagine the women of my generation ever willingly going along with this… quite a few of my friends were nurses – i can’t think of a one of them who would have submitted
    something has happened to individuality and our sense of personal worth … or so it seems to me…

  33. “I would venture that 80 – 90% are bored and apathetic.”

    MLD,

    Here’s the thing, if you’re on the angry right, and you’re living day in and day out among other angry right people, watching and listening to nothing but angry right cable news and talk radio, and going to a church with an angry right pastor, then your’re totally taken for a loop when the current President wins two elections in a row. It doesn’t make sense because all you ever hear is what a terrible job he’s doing and that nobody likes him. But wait, he won the electoral college and the popular vote in two consecutive elections.

  34. i’m pretty certain MLD’s view that most of our citizens are bored and apathetic is wrong… my generation, maybe – more tired than bored…
    maybe, certain areas of the nation are bored, tho – dunno – certain strata of society?

  35. As you exacerbate the battle by claiming you’re stuck in the middle 😉

  36. Em, a lot has changed…but that is the way of the world.

    MLD has made this a point of study, so we’ll pick his brain while watching the mob form. 🙂

  37. On FB, I have my kids, many of their friends who they grew up with and then I see the friends of friends. My kids range in age 38 – 42. which seems like prime political age – I see absolutely no political chatter.

    I think they have probably made up their minds and are bored and apathetic with the whole thing …

  38. Jean,
    Your #33 is probably spot on and could be the reverse of what was happening during the Bush administration with the liberals wringing their hands in exasperation and unbelief that GW was elected twice.

  39. My FB feed has Brits talking about both sides of Brexit, Ukrainians talking about the war, American’s talking about politics, and most recently a Canadian speaking of her team that was hiding from by ISIS yesterday on their way to deliver aid in Iraq.

    Politics are all over my feed.

  40. I enjoyed the article, but I have to admit now I’m in the mood for Gummy Bears. Thanks Kevin. 😉

  41. #36 – yes, historically the way of the world is change or at least turbulence… but what is happening now seems to be a major shift – a political undertow of some sort – but mankind may even come out of its grasp more peaceful and prosperous … unless …?… dunno – 🙂

    i don’t follow facebook or any of the other internet social connections, but what i’m being told is that the whole stream is in a dust-up, from the religious to the academics … i hear the academic world thinks that it is outrageous folly to allow something as important to the world as EU membership to be decided by the voting masses – us of the hoi polloi persuasion aint got the smarts … hmmm … might be true … but those smart guys don’t either … IMHO

  42. I think 1929 – 1945 were pretty bad times in the world – including the US
    Economic Depression for 12 yrs followed by WWII (the big one)

    How about a plague like in the 6th century killing 25% of the population or the 14th century killing off 1/3rd of the population.

    The reason we think everything is worse today is 24 hr news. It’s all normal … not a good normal, but normal.

    Read Matt 24 – ” You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. ”

    Such things must happen and they happen in every generation – they aren’t a warning of the end – they are just a sign that an end is coming.

  43. Tim,

    You can thank Michael for the gummy bears. That was his doing. 🙂

  44. MLD #42.

    Agree. I like how you put it in the last sentence, with the “an end”, instead of “THE end”.

  45. it is valid to observe that these are not anywhere near the worst of times as far as privation and carnage go (there’s still plenty of both)…
    i suspect that what is driving people toward fear is uncertainty, both as to what is going on and as to the competence of our leadership – do we even know who is leading us? i don’t think we do
    we of the human race are casting off absolutes, scientific proof exists that lightening is due to weather patterns and not a sign that God is angry with you, etc. 🙂 – convincing ourselves that man is his own best hope (but deep inside we know that’s a lie)…

  46. I think we all think what is presently happening is the worst or most urgent — heck we lived and survived the other.

    I remember how scary the Cold War was – air raid sirens, bomb shelters in backyards, getting under your desk at school. In 1961 when I was 12 I lived in France as they built the Berlin Wall next door in Germany. We had Joseph McCarthy in the 50s on the news every night scaring out the communists in our government – Richard Nixon having the pumpkin patch on Whittaker Chambers farm torn up looking for microfilm (ya gotta read it.)

    Although the governments of this world thought they had it together, they were far from there. A must read – just on the confusing between Kennedy and Khrushchev

    https://www.amazon.com/Crisis-Years-Kennedy-Khrushchev-1960-1963/dp/0060164549?ie=UTF8&hvadid=3486224441&hvbmt=bb&hvdev=c&hvqmt=b&ref=pd_sl_8i5t8s1lqw_b&tag=mh0b-20

    And it it into these stories that man has always split themselves and I am sure many have felt ‘Stuck in the Middle’ with families and churches.

    It’s in our nature – the LCMS and the WELS split over Boy Scouts and Chaplains — that’s who we are. 🙂

  47. The Cold Wars.

    I grew up in the latter times of the Cold Wars (1970s and 1980s), and, being a military aviation buff, was frightened when I picked up a book and spotted a grainy black and white photo of a Russian Tu-22 (NATO codename “Blinder”) supersonic bomber, and thought to myself how scary it will be when this thing is flying over the U.S. skies soon.

    Turns out…

    The TU-22 was one of the worst military aircraft ever flown, and it was reported that some pilots hated..HATED..being in it and feared for their lives.

    More fear.

  48. http://tinyurl.com/htgj49l

    I really struggle with stories like this, in my volunteer work I help a bit with some issues like this. I try very hard not to be moved or emotional but I fail in that area. I was always told God gets glory out of this kind of stuff because it proves our depravity and fulfills what the bible says about all of us. and I should find peace in that, I have never understood that. I often pray God would stop such events, I wish I could. I do hope she gets better.

  49. There are more people in the middle than your picture suggests. It’s those not in the middle that are more vocal about any given issue.

  50. brian’s #48 – don’t you think that the perp was a member of our increasing drug population? when my mother was about 80 she was mugged walking in her quiet college neighborhood. the guy came up behind her, grabbed her purse and when she refused to let go, he shoved her to the ground, dislocating her shoulder and sending her to the hospital (he got the purse). somebody’s kid who’d “developed a drug habit,” the police said.
    i’m not sure that proves our depravity, but it does prove that the human race, as a whole, is vulnerable and stupid and isn’t the Greek word for witchcraft and drugs the same word? not sure on that…
    thank God that you no longer believe those distortions you were told about what the Bible says those long years ago… except for the mind blowing miracles, i think the Bible is permeated with grace and common sense… IMNSHO 🙂

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