I came across a piece about the “New American Center” that I find really fascinating. It debunks the idea that the middle of the political spectrum is just a bunch of wishy-washy people who can’t make up their minds about politics.
In fact, the group identified as the center has very strong convictions about what they think and believe. They just don’t associate those with one of the two major political parties. The conclusion of the polling data is that the middle is up for grabs. If a candidate or party could emerge that was fiscally conservative and socially progressive or libertarian, this group would be all in.
It will be no shock at all that I am very much a bleeding heart according to the survey or the “Gospel Left” – Faith is important to me, but I’d like to keep that personal and not in government. I believe our government’s priorities should be to help the poor, disenfranchised and left behind.
Charlie is absolutely in the center as this data defines it. He, along with the majority of this group, has been breaking Democrat lately, but could easily change to Republican if they could get their house in order. He doesn’t want anyone telling him how to run his life. He thinks government programs can be good. If there’s waste or fraud, punish it. But you don’t throw out a good program because of few people who abuse it. He’s also willing to hear about replacement programs if the legacy ones aren’t meeting the current need as efficiently as possible.
So that’s our house, which is sort of interesting…you know, to me. But a sentence out of the very end of this analysis really struck me:
…among the Right (the Righteous Right in particular), more than half feel no one is speaking up for them.
This data point brings so much into clarity. The surveys were done in August…months before the government shutdown or run up to it. But this finding explains so much about the people who favored a government shutdown and the rhetoric they used, which gets tagged with words like “crazy” or “wacko.”
If a person or group doesn’t feel heard, human nature dictates they will keep getting louder and more extreme to force people to listen, if that’s what it takes. All humans, every single one of us, want to be heard and seen. There’s no way around that.
When surveyed, the Left indicates they feel heard. They don’t always get their way, but they believe they are heard. The Middle sorta does, sorta doesn’t, but they’re not all the freaked out about it. The Right DOES NOT.
This explains why throughout the two and half weeks of shutdown, the sentiment kept bubbling up in one form or another, “Now are you paying attention to us?” So while shutting down the government may seem like insanity to me, it makes perfect sense to other people.
Keep in mind, feeling heard is not the same as actually being heard or having power or the ability to control a situation or dominating the conversation. In a person to person interaction, feeling heard usually comes from non-verbal cues that your opinion has been considered, even if not accepted.
So why don’t they think they have a voice? I think one piece of the problem is leadership. At least a faction of the leadership of the Righteous Right WANTS to be disenfranchised. The logic goes this way. In the Bible, Christians are told in several places that to be with God, means that you are against the world. In the Sermon on Mount, Jesus says it himself:
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~Matthew 5:11-12 (NIV)
So the corollary goes like this: People who are persecuted are with God. I want to be with God, so I must be persecuted. If I’m not, then I must not be with God.
This is dangerous logic in our society. Christians in America enjoy more freedom and inclusion than any place at any time in history. Since our country has no official religion, Christians (and anyone else for that matter) are able to work out their faith in any way they please. It’s not like in Constantine’s time, when the rulers told “believers” how you were going to practice Christianity and followed it up with the force of law.
There are places all over the world where Christians face real danger for confessing their beliefs: Iraq, Syria and China, to name a few off the top of my head. So leaders of the Righteous Right either have to conflate the zoning battles a church faces with the death squads people in other countries, or they have to admit that Christians have it really good here.
They seems to have forgotten other passages in the Bible, like Timothy’s letters, that make a strong case for the idea that American Christians had their prayers answered.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. ~1 Timothy 2:1-2
There are people who suffer for their faith. I genuinely believe that God will bless them for it. I just can’t make the case, that’s what happening in America. I told you I was part of the Gospel Left.
But if you’ve been fed a steady diet for 60 years of fears that the world, and by extension your government, must persecute you in order to stand up for you beliefs, and you want to be counted as a person who stands up for your beliefs, then you are not likely to believe that government hears you or considers your ideas.
So here’s the $24 billion question (since that’s what Standard & Poor’s estimates the shutdown cost the economy): How do we change this so it doesn’t happen again in January, when the current deal runs out? What will it take for them to feel heard? What does that look like? What does it sound like? What needs to be different from what it is now for this group to believe they are part of the national dialogue?
I don’t know. I really wish I did.