The middle is an interesting place. In an Oreo cookie, the middle is the best part (that's why they make Double Stuf - with extra "stuf" in the middle...) Sometimes, the middle is not so good. Nobody wants the middle seat in the airplane. "Middle child syndrome" is a pain - I know, because I'm the middle child. You get none of the privileges of being the oldest, or the attention of being the baby.
In the last year or so, I've thought a lot about being in the middle. The last presidential election really brought this to my mind. Our politics in this country have come to the place where the middle is left out of the process. The Democrats cater to the far left, the Republicans to the far right. Candidates get elected by appealing to the extremes of their own party. Meanwhile, those of us in the middle feel left out, like there's no one to represent us anymore. I'm registered as an Independent. The media loves to talk about how the candidates have to reach out to the Independents, but while they reach out to us, they don't really represent us.
I've often wondered what it would take for a candidate whose stand on the issues represented those of us in the center to get elected. It almost seems impossible, given the strong hold the two parties have on the system. It doesn't help that when third party candidates enter the race, their views are usually even further from the center than the two parties. Ross Perot comes across as a crazy guy. Ralph Nader seems like a grumpy old man. Can't we find a true leader who shares the values of those of us in the middle? It seems to me that there are enough of us in here to elect someone like that.
But it's not only in politics that I find myself stuck in the middle. It's true in my church, as well. The Adventist church has seen a dividing in recent years, much the way our government has. There are two sides - the right, and the left. Those on the right, often called the Conservatives, or Traditional Adventists, hold to very traditional Adventist teaching on everything from doctrine to lifestyle. They are sometimes characterized by legalistic leanings, and a rejection of new ideas or ways of doing things. On the other side are those who call themselves Progressive Adventists. They worship in new ways, and question the things they were taught all their lives, often rejecting the traditional Adventist teachings, and adopting a theology that bears little resemblance to traditional Adventism in many respects.
Once again, I find myself in the middle. In theology, I am closer to the right. My theology is very conservative. I believe that my salvation was purchased by the blood of Jesus on the cross. I believe that the sanctuary in the Old Testament taught that lesson beautifully. I believe that God created the world in six literal days less than 10,000 years ago. I believe that Jesus is coming back very soon. Most traditional Adventists would be comfortable talking with me about theology. But they would hate going to church with me, because I enjoy worship services that use contemporary music, drama, and other elements that the traditionalists don't enjoy, and even more, think it is wrong to use them in worship.
On the other hand, I find some things in Progressive Adventism that resonate with me. I believe it's important to question the things we've been taught, and evaluate them by Scripture, rather than just accepting them because it's what somebody told us. I believe that we have misused the writings of Ellen White, elevating them to the level of Scripture, though our Fundamental Beliefs indicate otherwise. But there are things that scare me about this side of things, as well. I think that the left's growing acceptance of belief in theistic evolution has absolutely no place in the church. I believe that those who prefer contemporary worship should not look down on those who prefer traditional services (and vice versa). I believe that the Sabbath is still a holy day - we need to re-evaluate what that means, but there's a danger of it becoming just like every other day, and thereby losing it's meaning as a sign pointing us to rest in Christ.
The right is represented by publications such as Our Firm Foundation. The left speaks through magazines such as Adventist Today. The Adventist Review, which works to represent the whole church, still leans towards the conservative in many ways. So here I am again in the middle, wondering who represents me? Am I alone in here? I don't think I am. In fact, I find that there are many like me stuck in the middle.
But then I'm reminded that here in the middle, I'm in good company. One day on a hill outside Jerusalem, there were three men on crosses. Two of them deserved to be there. But the one in the middle was different. He was there because I deserved to be there. But He loved me so much, He took my place. He hung in the middle so that for eternity, I can live in the center of His will, in the middle of His love. It sounds like life in the middle might be okay...