We are now getting deep into elections. The Nashville mayoral runoff is very near and the Presidential sweepstakes is really starting to gear up.
Relax, I am not about to make an impassioned plea for you to vote this way or that. It really doesn’t seem fitting for clergy to use their position or pulpit for such bare political means.
I’m more interested in standing from a distance and observing the whole enterprise as it unfolds. In the mayoral AND even more so in the Presidential, we seem unable to avoid the rush to divide all of us into two camps. Make no mistake, the founders envisioned a two party system and the genius of it was to provide checks and balances. So-called “super majorities”—whether republican or democrat—stunt the political process the founders imagined.
Of course, all that depended on “statesmen and stateswomen”—people who were capable of rising above their own self-interest in order to do the things that were in the best interest of the entire country. The seemingly lost art of compromise. Special interest groups have now hijacked that process. Unlimited campaign finances have skewed the conversation.
Here’s what I’m wondering: Will the “Center” push back? Most of us are aware of the bell-shaped curve. This was a type of statistical tool designed to remind us that the vast majority of people reside somewhere in the center of most opinions. The 5% on either side of that bell represent the fringe opinion. The fringe opinion is important. It is frequently where the fresh, new idea can be found. Unfortunately, in our current culture, it is also where a lot of wacky stuff can be found.
What is most distressing to me, personally, is that we who occupy the center have allowed the fringe to dominate the conversation. I suppose you can blame the 24 hour news cycle for some of this—we appear to love nothing better than to put a “screamer” in front of a microphone and then sit back to watch the fun. That might be strangely entertaining for some, sort of like watching a train wreck, but it has now reached frightening proportions.
I don’t blame the fringe talkers. They are taking advantage of what has been made available to them. I blame mostly the rest of us for allowing them to dictate the terms of our discourse. Until and unless we in the center stand up to these folks, their piercing noise will continue unabated. And we will get what we deserve in the end.
So please be involved. Be heard. If you occupy the center—as probably 80% do—you must also make your voice heard. We have serious problems that need serious solutions. We are a centrist nation and always have been. The center needs to stand and be heard.
It is vital that people of faith engage in this process. A nation whose political process is held accountable by people of integrity will always be a stronger nation. Integrity is what we have to bring to the table. Please don’t leave it “under a bushel.”
Kristin Clark-Banks is the pastor of Forest Hills UMC.