Moore: Stuck in the middle with you
I love how a great classic rock song can instantly time-warp me back to my youth. The other day I was driving down the road when “Shapes of Things” by Gary Moore came up on my playlist. Crank to 11.
You aficionados out there are thinking “wait a sec, ‘Shapes of Things’ is a Yardbirds tune,” and you would be right. Released in 1966, Jeff’s Beck’s use of guitar feedback was an early precursor to heavy metal, for which I am of course grateful. But given that I was born in 1966, the version I know by heart is a cover released by the Irish blues and metal artist Gary Moore in 1983. Every time I hear that song it takes me back to high school, irritating my neighbors as I maxed out the stereo of my parents Pontiac 6000. Memories anyone?
Speaking of irritating neighbors, let’s revisit a thought I shared a few months ago. It’s the idea we’re being force-fed by politicians and the media that if you disagree with me on a political issue, you don’t just have a different opinion, you are the problem. Even more, you are probably bad. Only people that agree with you are rational, good-hearted and sincere. Everyone else is, well, pick your favorite social media pejorative. This is a real problem, as many have observed. But what’s the connection with classic rock? Ah, let me explain.
On their 1972 debut album, the Scottish band Stealers Wheel released “Stuck In The Middle With You.” It’s an awesome song for many reasons, but the chorus is what resonates today. “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am — stuck in the middle with you.”
Stuck in the middle with you? Really? Is there a middle anymore? We have lots of different political and social views, but that’s not really the problem. This is America, and strong political viewpoints are as American as apple pie and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The cultural (and moral) distortion is the belief that if we significantly disagree on some things, then we can’t agree on anything. Therefore, we can’t know each other, can’t listen to each other, and certainly can’t have an honest discussion about things that really matter to us.
But what if we aren’t as different as we are told? What if (sounds crazy, I know) that person on the other side of the political and cultural spectrum shares some of the same values and beliefs I do? What if that elusive middle does exist, but our preconceived notions cause us to surrender the day to the clowns and jokers on both extremes?
Let’s say I’m straight, conservative, and Christian (which I am), and you are gay, liberal, and agnostic. Pick your cultural divide. We instinctively assume we are against each other. True, there’s much we disagree about, but is it really inconceivable we have some things in common? That we could actually benefit from listening to and learning from each other, and expose the lie that we are supposed to hate each other? You can study history about what happens when we lose the ability to talk to people who are different, and trust me, it’s not pretty.
I’m not all rainbows and unicorns here. Issues matter, all beliefs aren’t true, and not all ideas are good. The point isn’t that we think the same, but that we benefit from getting to know and respect people who think, believe, and act differently from ourselves. People will always have different values, but that doesn’t mean they have to be devalued. This requires understanding, and it doesn’t happen by accident.
So … I propose a radical experiment. Be it over coffee or at your favorite watering hole (mine’s 7 Hermits), let’s meet up. I sincerely, legitimately, want to get to know you. Think of it this way — what’s the most important thing about you a guy like me should hear and understand? What do you really care about? That’s what I want to hear, and I promise to listen with an open mind.
My faith in Christ teaches me a person’s inherent value isn’t a function of their views, birth, or even their behavior. They matter for the same reason I do — we are creations of the God who declares we are created in his image, and that image is good. I really believe this, and its time I put my ears where my mouth usually is. So how about it? Let’s push the clowns and jokers aside for an hour, and just maybe we will find some middle ground. Not a bad place to get stuck.
Ethan Moore is the pastor of Trinity Church in Edwards. He and his wife Lisa have lived in the valley since 1995. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.