Core Decorum: common ground

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Illustration courtesy of Cecilia Lang

Human beings crave categories. In order to make sense of our surroundings, we want to slice, dice and sort reality. If we can pin the dichotomy of black and white, light and dark, or good and evil on the complex ideas, people and objects that we encounter, those complexities seem to become less daunting.

Judgment is key to our intellectual processes. Without our calculative powers, we would never decide or define anything. Although we must constantly parce out what is favorable and less favorable to us, there exists a subtle temptation here. If we pretend to be the Judge, we create destructive divisions and breed enmity. 

The curvature of the truth is difficult to trace. Our world is infinitely complex. The individual intellect can only comprehend a small corner of our existence. Yet, we claim to be able to draw the lines of enemy and friend. 

The Church condemns the heresy of Manichaeism for this very reason. This distortion claims that the cosmos is the battleground of the good and evil, of matter and spirit. Manichaeism offers an alluring account, for each of us wishes it was only so simple. 

Nothing is new under the sun. Our political and social moment capitalizes on this lie. If one listens closely to the rhetoric, it is startlingly repetitive — it’s us against them: Republicans versus Democrats, one race against another, the patriarchy against women, the vaccinated versus the anti-vaxxers, the minorities against the majority and on and on. It’s exhausting.

But if we take a step back from this heretical metanarrative, it crumbles. Middle ground exists, and it always will. The Truth often appears in the mean, in the unextreme, unexpected places. To be a Truth-seeker is radical, in the sense that it is firmly rooted in the eternal and unchanging. 

Although the heroism of battle against the forces of evil is utterly romantic (and certainly has a time and a place), it does not always serve us in the Christian call to love people and bring each soul to Christ. Common ground exists in our common humanity and in our need for an account of reality that grasps what is truly good for human beings.   

Passing whims and perversions must be rejected. People are not causes to be fought or ideas to crush but immortal beings to be cherished and gently enlightened by the Truth. And we must not forget this. 

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