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The In-Between Spaces

By May 23, 2014 2 Comments
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By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:35

A former colleague once told me that Kuyperians are a people who inhabit the in-between spaces. We are neither “conservative” nor “liberal”—we don’t believe the bible fell out of heaven and yet we believe that Christ’s body was raised from the dead. This allows us a unique opportunity to have multiple conversation partners. We share common theological concerns with conservative evangelicals, while we find common ground with liberal protestants on social and cultural issues. There’s much about Catholic social teaching that we can affirm—I’ve heard more than one of my colleagues speak highly of Pope Francis—while it’s fair to say that, at times, we can be out “creationed” by some in the Orthodox tradition. This in-between existence is both a wonderful and challenging place to live. It’s wonderful because there are so many touch points for dialogue with brothers and sisters from other traditions. It’s difficult because maintaining the center is no easy task. At times we can be criticized from both sides… we’re not conservative enough for the one and we’re not progressive enough for the other. Even so, I think it’s a good place to be, inhabiting the in-between space, engaging issues on all different sides from all different directions.

And yet… I’m afraid that our current social and political climate is hostile to this in-between existence. Politically we see this in the absence of real dialogue. People who hold different views of economics and government are no longer able to engage in meaningful debate. As a country we’ve become polarized around figures like Bush and Obama. Instead of dialogue there develops an attitude of “your either with us or against us”—closing off the middle and forcing people to pick a side. We can see this happening with current social and theological issues: birth control, abortion, homosexuality, evolution, gender roles—just to name a few. These are complex issues with no easy solutions, but that’s the beauty of the in-between, it opens the space to acknowledge and live with complexity. Life in the middle refuses to reduce these issues, and the people affected by them, to political slogans or ideology. Yes, there are times when difficult decisions must be made, but they shouldn’t be made to shore up a political base, they should be made with fear and trembling as we seek to follow the crucified and risen Christ.   

The primary calling of the Christian community isn’t to protect and proclaim “truth”, the task of the Christian community is to embody the grace and love of God for the world. Christ doesn’t say they will know us by our truth—he says that they will know we are his disciples by our love. This is the beauty and challenge of living in the in-between spaces.

Jason Lief

Dr. Jason Lief teaches courses in Christian education and youth ministry. A Northwestern College graduate, he served as the chaplain for Pella (Iowa) Christian High School while earning a master’s degree in theology from Wheaton College Graduate School. He also completed a doctorate in practical theology from Luther Seminary. He previously taught theology and youth ministry at Dordt College for 10 years. Dr. Lief is the author of “Poetic Youth Ministry: Loving Young People by Learning to Let Them Go” and "Christianity and Heavy Metal as Impure Sacred Within the Secular West: Transgressing the Sacred.”

2 Comments

  • Dave Vroege says:

    I have long valued this "in-between space" of our tradition. Thanks for the reminder … and the excellent visual.

  • Jim Schaap says:

    "The primary calling of the Christian community isn't to protect and proclaim "truth", the task of the Christian community is to embody the grace and love of God for the world." I don't know that it's either/or.

    But you're certainly not wrong. The hostility is awful.

    BTW, Jason, the American Family Association now uses "every square inch" in their radio ads. (Fits what you're saying.)

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