We have to stop categorizing ideology in strict binary terms. Black and white, either-or thinking might effectively describe those on the extreme fringes of conservative and liberal thought, but many of us fall in the grey zone of “somewhere in-between”.
One of my first blog posts, written in January 2011, was titled the trad-lib scale.
I like to think of the ideological scale as a very long one, with lots of room between the extremes of both conservatism and liberalism. And, unless you purposely place yourself so far to the right or left that you fall off the scale, there is room in our catholic (universal) church for all.
While the article was focused on the conservative-liberal division in our church, the idea of an ideological scale also applies to the current political divisions in our world.
What if we stopped mentally placing others into two simple camps; liberal and conservative? What if we acknowledged that thoughts and beliefs can and do find a home in the middle? What if we understood that this “middle” is an awfully big space? It may be full of questions and uncertainty, but questions and uncertainty shouldn’t be feared. Truth is found not by avoiding difficult questions, but by bravely working through them. Together.
Questions help us to test truth. To clarify truth.
There is real danger in an unmoving insistence on absolute truths, whether on the right or left. Too often, the most extreme voices are also the loudest and most passionate. Passion is a good thing, but not if it morphs into militancy. It becomes dangerous when one begins to divide the world into “us” and “them” and the “them” are to be hated.
It is becoming harder to find intelligent, rational discourse. Today’s social media is simply a collection of echo chambers. From newspapers to television networks, we choose the ones that speak the words we want to hear.
I’m not on Facebook, but I have a Twitter account. It’s addictive. I log in, and spend far too much time scrolling down the list, and clicking on articles to read. I applaud those who think like me. I chuckle at witty comments. I find justification and affirmation for my liberal rightness. Lately, though, I’ve been feeling increasingly uncomfortable with the voices that are bouncing around this echo chamber.
We left-leaning folks can be just as nasty and judgmental as right-wing conservatives. Being a smart-ass myself, I know the joy of letting loose with a snide retort or a sarcastic remark. I also know the regret, wishing I had kept my mouth shut. It’s hard to take words back.
No, I don’t believe that we need to sit back quietly, or speak only in soft, sweet voices that won’t hurt or insult anyone. These times require loud, brave voices to resist the many evils and injustices that threaten the basic rights of all. These times require rational, logical minds to point out the irrational, illogical reasoning of leaders who put their own interests before those they serve. These times require dialogue and true dialogue requires courage.
Courage is required to step out of our echo chambers and help bridge the ideological divide with sincere engagement with those who think differently from us. Who knows, we might find some truth in what they have to say!