They called it “must see TV” this week when former F.B.I. director James Comey appeared before Congress to testify. I heard nearly 20 million people watched that interview. I wasn’t one of them. But I saw enough snippets from replays to last me a long time.
I am troubled from all this drama. It’s exhausting to me and for the most part, I just want to turn off the TV. Our nation seems to be as polarized today as it ever has and it doesn’t help when certain major corporations in the media make a handsome living ensuring the polarity continues or intensifies. They are very aware that most of us aren’t disciplined enough to stop listening and so they continue to “feed the beast”.
Aristotle encouraged his students to follow the way of moderation between extremes. This idea became known as “the via media”—the middle way. This term was used to describe Anglicanism as the “middle way” between Catholicism and Protestantism. We Methodists are a direct offspring of the Anglican Church so it is fair to say that the Via Media flows through our veins—it’s in our DNA.
On a personal level, what would it mean to the social, cultural, and political landscape if we all practiced the via media daily? Rather than getting swept up in the emotion of an issue, what if we stepped back to make sure certain questions were being asked and that there would be someone who could tell the difference between what’s happening and what’s going on—rarely are they the same thing.
The same can be said of the church. We begin Annual Conference today as I write. The Annual Conference is mostly a time to hear reports about mission and ministry that has occurred—and is occurring in our churches. It is mostly a time for celebrating who we are as a church and a time to Commission and Ordain persons for ministry (like our own Gracie Dugan).
But inevitably each year some issue arises that threatens to send delegates into “camps”. Speeches are made that seek to divide rather than unify. These camps are almost never “the middle way”. They are nearly always at one extreme or the other. The same thing occasionally happens in a local congregation. An issue arises and our capacity to compromise with one another gives way to a more primal desire to be “right”—to “win”.
Here’s the interesting part to me—I believe most of us ARE advocates for the via media. I believe it is naturally the place to which most of us are drawn. However, because the voices on either extreme can be so loud, the ones in the middle remain silent. Reality gets distorted and those in the middle cower.
Here are nine things you can do to embrace the Via Media:
- Stay Spiritually Grounded
- Maintain a Sense of Humor
- Regulate Your Own Responses
- Help People Clarify Need, Not Positions
- Challenge Behaviors and Ideas, Not Motives or Worth
- Paraphrase the Idea of Others Before Responding(hear someone else in your own words before responding);
- Stay In Your Own Skin—Don’t Speak On Behalf Of Others
- Start With What Is Possible
- Pray For One Another