Thursday, 13 January 2022

No Middle Ground

 Democracy only makes sense if all members of a nation or community or whatever it may be have the same idea of where they should be heading and differ only on what the best route is to this destination. This obvious but often ignored fact is allied to the equally obvious point that all members of a community must trust each other. Without that simple connection the case for democracy makes little sense and it becomes just a battle to come out on top with each side or sides despising the other. In other words, for democracy to have any meaning all members of the democracy must be on the same side in terms of what really matters to them.

I saw an interview the other day in which someone, very reasonably, said that current society risks falling into extremes in which there is no middle ground and this is a dangerous situation in which to be. She advocated what she called nuanced conversation in which each side tries to understand the concerns of the other without demonising them. You might think this a sensible and considered approach, one which avoids outright confrontation and seeks harmony between opposing forces.

In many circumstances this approach might be the right one. People have different opinions based on different perceptions and experiences. Fair enough. We can all learn from others to our mutual benefit. The trouble is adopting this approach when it comes to truth and lies. Advocating a middle ground approach is an excellent tactic for the liar. But for the person aligned to truth it is a disaster.

If you and I are arguing about the merits of Bach and Beethoven there is no point in coming to blows. I prefer Bach but I respect your position. However, if we are arguing about whether God exists or not there can be no middle ground. This is an absolute truth and not to abide by it will lead to bad things. I don't respect your position and will have none of it. That doesn't mean I don't respect you or your right to hold that position though it may well mean the former. It depends what in you is causing you to have that belief, whether it is an honest search for truth or whether you are someone who denies God because he doesn't like the idea of God.

If you come to a fork in the road and one path leads to heaven and the other goes to hell do you respect the people who want to take the left hand path in the same way you do the ones who want to take the right? Only if you are naive. Again, it is very important to look for motivation. Why do those who want to go left want to do so? Is it a genuine quality in them which has just made a mistake such as a desire to find truth for oneself rather than do what an institution tells them to do? Or is it down to what I will call  a spiritual perversion of the will? What you do, though important, is always less important than why you do it.

In today's world there are forces, psychological forces, spiritual forces, that are sifting human souls, sorting out those who will go on to higher states of being and those who will be left behind in the material realm or equivalent. In such circumstances to advocate the middle ground is to be sucked into making the wrong choice. If you are not actively for God you will be absorbed by the side that is against him and you will find yourself on the outside with the naysayers. It is true that in normal times and situations you should not demonise your opponents but what if your opponents are demons? Or, to put it less provocatively, what if the line your opponents are taking is one that demons have put forward? It is said that demons are subtle. I don't think that is true. Human souls, all of them, yours and mine included, can be too easily led astray by lies that appeal to desires or fears or vanity or pride. If we make wrong choices it is not because the demons are so clever. It is because we have been led astray by our own shortcomings.

In spiritual terms there is no middle ground though this does not mean that those on one side are all personally good and those on the other side are all necessarily bad. But it does mean that whoever is for God is for the good and whatever is against him is for evil. At the same time, human beings are all sinners and it is not our place to condemn individuals. We can judge them with righteous judgment but the righteousness is God's not ours. Any soul can repent and it is our job to lead those who are wrong to repentance not to condemn them. But we can and should condemn their position if it is wrong. This is the only middle ground we must strike, the one that condemns the sin but prays for the soul of the sinner.


Bruce Charlton said...

"the one that condemns the sin but prays for the soul of the sinner."

I think this saying has become unclear to many modern people (including me!) - and perhaps it does not really say enough in one way, and too much in another.

Too much, because one cannot (in any specific way) pray for all sinners and all sins that we encounter; and not enough, because it leaves unmentioned what we should actually do about the sinner in terms of our relationship. That is often the problem at hand - attitudes to a particular person in a particular context.

"The sinner" refers to everybody, ultimately - but I suppose in this sense the saying refers to a particular person who unrepentantly pursues some particular sin under consideration.

Maybe the saying refers to the general problem of unrepentance, or somebody or some group/ institution who is promoting a sin (maybe politically or in the workplace); more than someone who sins in a particular way?

As I say - I find this saying a difficult one to apply satisfactorily.

William Wildblood said...

I suppose I have lapsed into conventional speak with that phrase but I am really thinking of people close to us or with whom we come into contact rather than everyone everywhere. Therefore actual individuals rather than abstract humanity which is not our concern as far as I see it. If a family member or friend persists in wrong choices then we should condemn the sin but pray for that person's soul as in their conversion to the truth.