The middle can be messy and misunderstood. It can also be apathetic and atrophying. It all depends on whether this “middle” is merely ignoring and hiding from important issues, or taking a reasoned stand in a different place.
A recent study by Baylor University suggests that the “messy middle” among evaneglicals is growing, specifically in regard to homosexuality (i.e. the “messy middle” are “evangelicals who oppose homosexuality on moral grounds but support equal rights such as civil unions for gays.”). Also from the report:
For their study — “How the Messy Middle Finds a Voice: Evangelicals and Structured Ambivalence toward Gays and Lesbians” — researchers analyzed national data from the 2010 Baylor Religion Survey, a random sample of 1,714 individuals across the country. Researchers found that 24 percent of evangelicals fit into the ambivalent category, supporting gay civil unions even though they are morally opposed to homosexuality. The survey, designed by Baylor University scholars and conducted by The Gallup Organization, included more than 300 items dealing with religion and the attitudes, beliefs and values of the American public.
“We’ve known that moderate and ambivalent evangelicals are there, but now they are actually starting to have a voice and beginning to be more political,” Martinez said.
I think this “messy middle” is probably growing around other issues as well (justice, economic equality, racism, the gospel, mission, and biblical interpretation).
But can this “messy middle” hold?
Tony Jones, through whom I noticed this report, thinks this “messy middle” is actually a movement to the left (progressive or liberals depending on how you use those terms). He thinks the middle cannot (should not?) hold.
What do you think? Will this “messy middle” inevitably fall into a right/left polarization?
Or might something else break out?
If you hope something else is in store for the “messy middle” then please connect with Missio Alliance, and/or pick Prodigal Christianity, both of which are seeking a more “radical middle” become conservative and progressive.