Caught in the middle again: That’s me

By Reade Brower | Feb 08, 2020

John Pavlovitz wrote this piece in late September 2019.

His website describes John as “a writer, pastor, and activist from Wake Forest, North Carolina." In the past four years his blog, "Stuff That Needs To Be Said," has reached a diverse worldwide audience. A 20-year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, John is committed to equality, diversity, and justice — both inside and outside faith communities. In 2017 he released his first book, “A Bigger Table.” His newest book, “Hope and Other Superpowers,” arrived Nov. 6.

I have always considered myself a moderate; sometimes the feeling lately is that being a moderate is moving from center to far left, as judged by the power of the conservative movement.

This essay speaks to this beautifully; questioning: when is the middle left and will the pendulum swing back before it’s too late?


I’m not the Radical Left, I’m the Humane Middle

By John Pavlovitz

Apparently, I’ve been radicalized and I wasn’t aware.

Certain people call me the “Radical Left” all the time.

I never considered myself radical before.
I just thought I was normal, ordinary, usual.

I thought equity was important to everyone.
I imagined America was filled with people who took that Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness stuff seriously — for all people.
I thought the Golden Rule was actually mainstream.

Recently I took an inventory of my positions, screening for the extremism:

I believe in full LGBTQ rights.
I believe we should protect the planet.
I believe everyone deserves health care.
I believe all religions are equally valid.
I believe the world is bigger than America.
I believe to be “pro-life,” means to treasure all of it.
I believe whiteness isn’t superior and it is not the baseline of humanity.
I believe we are all one interdependent community.
I believe people and places are made better by diversity.
I believe people shouldn’t be forced to abide by anyone else’s religion.
I believe non-American human beings have as much value as American ones.

I believe generosity is greater than greed, compassion better than contempt, and kindness superior to derision.

I believe there is enough in this world for everyone: enough food, enough money, enough room, enough care — if we unleash our creativity and unclench our fists.

I’m not sure how these ideas became radical, though it seems to have happened in the last few years.

I grew up being taught they were just part of being a decent human being.

I grew up believing that loving my neighbor as myself, meant that I actually worked for their welfare as much as my own.

I was taught that caring for the least in the world, was the measure of my devotion to God.

I thought that inalienable rights of other people were supposed to be a priority as a decent participant in the world.

I don’t think I’m alone.

In fact, I’m pretty sure most people reside here in this place alongside me: the desire for compassion and diversity and equality and justice; that these things aren’t fringe ideologies or extremist positions — but simply the best way to be human.

I think most people want more humanity, not less.

I think the vast middle is exhausted by the cruelty of these days.

That these aspirations seem radical to some people, is probably an alarm that they’ve moved so far into the extremes of their fortified ideological bunkers and been so poisoned by the propaganda, that normal now seems excessive, that equality now seems oppressive, that goodness feels reckless.

Maybe the problem is, these people are so filled with fear for those who are different, so conditioned to be at war with the world, so indoctrinated into a white nationalistic religion of malice — that they’ve lost sight of what being a human being looks like anymore.

I am pretty sure that I don’t represent the “Radical Left,” but the vast, disparate, compassionate, Humane Middle; people who are not threatened by someone else’s presence, who do not see another person’s gain as their loss, who don’t worship a Caucasian, American god.

I suppose humanity feels radical to inhumane people.

In that case, I’ll gladly be here in my extremism.


“Fear prophets and those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them.” — Umberto Eco, philosopher, novelist (1932-2016)

Comments (5)
Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Feb 08, 2020 20:39

I am still looking to "join the revolution" or to at least understand what I am being asked to do? Maybe Mr. Brower could explain what he means.

Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Feb 07, 2020 07:15

Arthur Brooks spoke this same message of HOPE at the National Prayer Breakfast yesterday.


Posted by: Tanja Barbour | Feb 07, 2020 06:57

Last comment was Jake Barbour not Tanja Barbour

Posted by: Tanja Barbour | Feb 07, 2020 06:56

He was doing ok till he said “these people”. That reveled his true angry, morally superior self.

Reminds me of Luke 18:9-14 a parable from the “street preacher” (actually the Son of God)

“Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.””

‭‭Luke‬ ‭18:9-14 NKJV

Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Feb 06, 2020 07:42

Beautifully said and I might add that those who are "so poisoned by the propaganda" and have " lost sight of what being a human being looks like anymore" can't be allowed to define what our world is supposed to look like.  We must resist.  We must resist with all our power.  We must never be silenced.  We must never tire of fighting for a more humane world, of speaking out, no matter how "normal" our present political horror becomes.  trump and his minions must never be allowed to define this nation.



"Take sides.  Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.  Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." -Eli Weisel

If you wish to comment, please login.