There are many occasions in life where false dilemmas are posed between two extremes that neglect the middle ground that both of them equally dislike. Throughout history there have been many false dialectics between two extremes pitted against the middle that denied any existence of middle ground between them, each of them preferring the opposite extreme to the fertile middle ground that denied both of them legitimacy. Thus Hitler’s fascists and Communists under orders from Stalin both supported the other in the hope that the excesses of the other would make their own brand of totalitarian horror appear better in the eyes of the people, rather than concede legitimacy to the great mass of political philosophies between the two extremes. Nor is this technique limited to totalitarian politics.
The same sort of false dialectic can be found in much contemporary behavior in our own society, if on a less drastic scale than that found in late Weimer Germany. It appears that on both the right and the left there is a false dialectic between two evils. On the one hand are grand and soaring ideals that are full of flowery rhetoric but are divorced from any kind of practical reality. This is not to say that the ideals are without value, but rather ideals without a basis in practical reality can easily be turned into pitiless cruelty against those who cannot escape the repercussions of inhumane utopian visions. On the other hand is a sordid pragmatism that focuses only on the short-term, on the thousands of pages that it takes to write laws that no one reads that manage to fit in every sort of appeal to special interest groups but have no higher ideal than building coalitions of the greedy and corrupt.
How are we to avoid this false dilemma? How are we to be motivated by firm ideals, to have our eye on the systems and the big picture while simultaneously keeping grasp of the nitty gritty details and practical realities of life? To do this requires more than one perspective and more than one person. It requires an overall unity that believes both in high and difficult ideals that motivate our lives and shape our actions as well as a deep concern for the practical realities of this world as we live it under the sun. It does not seek an easy resolution of the many tensions that fill our existence, but rather a firm commitment to balance and the honest and faithful living out of ideals in ways that show honor to God above as well as love and respect for our fellow man, as well as good stewardship of those resources that have been placed in our hand and for which we are accountable to our peers as well as to our Creator and Judge in the heavens above.
In order to even remotely achieve this momentous task, we must be able to rise above the vacuous and empty debates of our time that seek to pit against each other incomplete and partial aspects of the truth, in loud denial that there can be any harmony between the partial truths that both sides loudly preach. Unless we can find a way of breaking through the divides between such unholy combinations of good and evil, and to build upon a coherent and just worldview that does not pit love against justice, law against grace, idealism against pragmatism, the here and now against the hereafter, liberty against equality, freedom against safety, order against creativity, but rather finds a way of harmonizing these apparent opposites in a way that allows us to move towards our ideals while also making a practical difference in whatever corner of the world where we find ourselves planted in the soul that gives us nutrients to reach toward the light even as we dig our roots down into the ground below us.