The politics of the Center is either dead, or wide open, depending on the myth you follow. A Conservative Action group routinely grades the actions of each member of Congress. Each time, for years now, the most conservative Democrat ranks far to the Left of the most liberal Republican. There is simply no one in place to build a bridge. Goodness, there is no one in place to shout a friendly greeting across the chasm.
The Center in religious life still exists as a political force but it scarcely gets a hearing. Among national convention baptists, no Moderate-Liberal can get a hearing. In states like Texas, the Fundamentalist-Conservatives were forced to form their own convention to have a voice. There are no more smoke-filled back prayer rooms where groups come together for the good of the whole. The current climate is winner take all. The winners need to win and they need the losers to feel their loss viscerally.
Internationally, the rise of Islamic Fundamentalism has been/is being/will be mirrored by Fundamentalism of the Left, as militant atheists argue for the abolition of all religion by international law. The world, one feels, needs a time-out.
To roll back the rising tide of Fundamentalism will require a compelling story communicated by a vibrant voice. The Center must make a case for itself. Frankly, the current religious leadership seems as unable to make a case for the Center as the POTUS is unable to get bills through Congress, even armed with a (once) super-majority.
When the animating source of each side is to disable the other side (and wallow in the spoils of power), the great danger is more of the same nothing. Nothing viable comes out of Washington, let alone out of Nashville or Dallas (for those baptist Christians among my readers; you know who you are).
When the Center does not act, the default position is Fundamentalism, of the Right or Left. The deep cultural roots of Fundamentalism (explained in previous posts) and its strong story (the meta-narrative) carry the day. The world awaits the coming collapse of the whole.
We are at that point in history where Fundamentalism can be reversed only by a middle-class commercial revolution. This is particularly viable in the religious sector. When a meaningful portion of the religious population no longer buys the product, a change will come almost immediately.
The Religious Center needs a compelling story, told by a vibrant voice. Try this story.
Imagine a religious sector where healthy ministers, supported by a peer group of colleagues, tells the unvarnished truth to local congregations where the ministers are called to serve. No undue obeisance is required to some elastic, amorphous denominational apparatus. Real ministers, men and women, get meaningful training from experienced mentors, who themselves benefit from exposure to younger persons, wired to the world and energetic but lacking in the wisdom of age and the depth of love that (hopefully) comes with wrinkles.
Imagine an organization met to analyze, train and support ministers, so that the truth can be told to local congregations without fear of career suicide. Imagine a partnership with seminaries and universities to enable to academic training ministers do need as generalists in an age of specialization. Imagine a missions formulation that ends the practice of keeping up to 75% of all receipts with the administration and dribbling less money each year into the field.
Imagine one level of bureaucracy, rather than three or four, all needing to be fed, all tied to a constituency, each informed by a shadow government, less effective and more costly by the year. If you are a fiscal conservative (and a liberal giver), you probably fantasize about less expensive government and more local control.
You are the Center.
You have a story. Tell it.
Opinions expressed here are my own, not those of the church I serve or any other person.