Will the Center Hold?
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) wrote these lines in 1919, just after the end of “The Great War,” but they have a disturbingly contemporary ring to them.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. (“The Second Coming”)
Born in the idealistic patriotism of the post-WWII generation, I was raised with the naive assumption that there was a political center that tended to hold things together in this country. My parents were rock-ribbed Republicans while my cousins grew up as Democrats. My father and my uncles would have vigorous debates (okay, they were arguments) over just about everything.
Across the years, my loyalties shifted so that I was just about as disappointed when Nixon beat McGovern as I was when Kennedy beat Nixon. Sometimes the pendulum would swing toward the Democrats and sometimes it would swing toward the Republicans, but over time the pendulum would swing back and forth across a center that was committed to doing what was best for the country. I thought that the broad “middle class” of the electorate would ultimately balance out the extremists on either side.
I’m not sure I believe that anymore. Perhaps my personal “ceremony of innocence is drowned.”
Within in the world, the nation and our denomination, it seems that all too often “the best lack all conviction” and all too often, “the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
A Center That Will Hold
So, where will a center be found? Maybe this is what the Psalmist had in mind when he wrote, “Many people say, ‘We can’t find goodness anywhere.'” (Psalm 4:6) It’s a disturbingly cynical thought. But then he remembers the goodness of God and declares, “But you have filled my heart with more joy than when their wheat and wine are everywhere!” He finds his ultimate trust in the faithfulness of God and says, “I will lie down and fall asleep in peace because you alone, Lord, let me live in safety.” (Psalm 4:7-8)
Now, there is a center that will hold.
Grace and peace,
P.S. I had already written and posted this message when I came across this sad confirmation of my observation in “The Washington Post”: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/americas-new-tribal-cycle-of-hatred/2015/04/17/67794040-e50a-11e4-905f-cc896d379a32_story.html?hpid=z5.