The Paradox Party

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

“Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise–why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool–why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.” Ecclesiastes 7: 16-18

If I’ve learned one thing about doing eye exams it’s this: never discuss politics or religion with patients. Whenever a patient comes in with a particular political or religious rant and throws out the inevitable bait, “Whataya think about that doc?,” I cautiously steer the conversation back toward more mundane topics like bifocals, cataracts and how to treat blepharitis with lid scrubs–boring, maybe, but much safer.

Of course, it’s next to impossible to spend any time in the blogosphere without stumbling into a discussion of these hot topics. To make matters worse, the two are often mixed together like an explosive dollop of C-4 plastique. The subject is of intense interest to Christians who are constantly debating which political party most accurately represents the interests and spirit of the Gospel. In other words, is Jesus a Democrat or a Republican? Or put another way: if he wasn’t running himself, who would Jesus vote for (WWJVF)? Like “the making of many books,” there is “no end” to the opinions and passion surrounding religion and politics. So, I figured that if I was going to enter the fray, I first had to figure out where I am currently located on the political spectrum (after all, I’ve got to know what team colors to wear once the contest ensues). It’s been a while since I had given that question any consideration, so I decided to seek professional help.

Enter the OkCupid! Politics Test (the same folks who brought you the OkCupid! Dating Test). I had confidence that this scientific and no doubt rigorously validated psychometric instrument would lay bare, within a reasonable degree of confidence, my true political soul. I took the test and here are the results:

You are a Social Moderate (55% Permissive) and a Economic Conservative (60% Permissive). You are best described as a CENTRIST with a very well-developed sense of right and wrong and belief in economic fairness.

I guess I wasn’t that surprised since I’ve found myself occupying the center more and more over the past decade after camping out on the right wing during my 20s and early 30s. Real life experience, it seems, has taught me that more than one ideology is often needed to tackle complex problems and that there is more than one way to skin a cat (to cat lovers: this is a figure of speech–please don’t call PETA).

What was a little suprising to me was that I was a Libertarian-leaning Centrist, who, when mapped on the famous person grid, landed just below “The Donald’s” lower lip and to the right of Adam Sandler’s right ear. What does this mean? I’m hoping that having to endure Trump’s caviar breath will somehow translate to a gig on The Apprentice. Maybe they could do a special eye doctor version–the winner gets to do eye exams for “The Donald” and his bevy of beautiful assistants for a year. But what to make of my proximity to Sandler? I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I have an irreverant sense of humor, but to date no one has accused me of being goofy and profane. That one has me perplexed.

I was a little suspicious about the Libertarian tag since I am not a fan of either marijuana legalization or assisted suicide. So I went to the Libertarian Party website and took “The World’s Smallest Political Quiz.” The results? Check it out:

Aha! I once again show up as a Centrist squatting near the edge of Libertarian territory. So where did that Libertarian streak come from? Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a native Virginian and have a little bit of the Jeffersonian Ideal in my blood. More likely, it has evolved as a result of trying to chase my glaucoma patients around over the past 15 years and make them take their medicine. I used to drive myself crazy doing this, and then I finally realized that if a person really doesn’t want to take their medicine and would prefer to go blind over following my orders, there really wasn’t a lot I could do about it. To each his own.

So, it appears that I am officially part of either the “mushy middle” or the Vital Center, depending on who you’re talking to. I would prefer the label, “Radical Centrist” since that sounds much cooler, but I may be too Libertarian for that and may have to march a little more toward the middle to claim that title.

When I think about it, being in the middle has it’s advantages. That way, if you have to move to either the left or the right to solve a problem, you don’t have to walk as far. At my age, that’s an important consideration.

But hanging out in the center has another advantage: it allows for paradox. You see, the older I get, the more I become a “both/and” instead of an “either/or” kind of guy. I love a good paradox. My favorites include:

  1. The wave/particle theory of light
  2. Both scripture and tradition
  3. Jesus as both God and man
  4. Balance between federal and state governments
  5. Aristotle’s Golden Mean of Moderation
  6. Rooting for both Alabama and Auburn
  7. Eating at both Wendy’s and Pizza Hut

I am not a man who suffers false dilemmas lightly.

Neither do I take to the idea that one particular political ideology has the right answer 100% of the time. From my experience, sometimes you need a little dash of liberalism thrown in with a dose of conservatism to handle life’s complexities. I’m glad God is just and demands accountability; I’m even more glad that when it comes to grace that he’s a bleeding heart liberal. If indeed, “there is a time for everything” and to fear God is to “avoid extremes” in all things, then maybe I’m right where I need to be. The Preacher and Aristotle couldn’t both be wrong.

What I need now is a political party to accommodate my centrist tendencies. Is there a Paradox Party out there somewhere? If not, I hereby start one, and you can all join if you like. All I need now is someone to print up the bumper stickers.

  1. scott

    There is a Paradox Party–they are the guys wearing the tin foil hats.
    Stir away.

  2. Derek Jenkins

    “The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.”


    So who’s to say what is extreme and what is merely just?

  3. Anonymous

    I took the OkCupid! Politics Test and scored similarly: Social Moderate (56% permissive) and Economic Conservative (80% permissive–“Let them eat cake!” I guess). I am a proud Ayn Rand reading Capitalist! Unlike you, I’m troubled by the appellation “moderate”: I am a conservative, and as such (ie a defender and upholder of the US Constitution–not as I see it but as it is actually laid down in words, including the word “is,”– with actual meanings) I am an old-fashioned “liberal,” you dig?!
    PS Don’t forget that Capitalism and Charity can coexist nicely.
    PPS My result at “The World’s Smallest Political Quiz”: upper right quadrant of “Centrist.”

  4. mike

    Ha! If that’s the case, then pass the tin foal! Actually, I can go here and get one ready made. My personal fav is the “The Kosher” model.

    Chesterton is “da man!” I’ve never seen another who can so much with so few words.

    Am I supposed to answer that question or is that thar’ one of them REE-TORE-ICAL ones?

    Yes, I dig. I’ve know you for a long time and although I was pretty sure you were the Unabomber, out of my deep love for your sister, I didn’t rat you out.

    Of course, I didn’t say I was a moderate–you did. “Moderate” invokes images of lukewarm water and “C” averages. “Centrist” on the other hand, flows off the tongue in a cooler away and sounds more like the name of an action figure. “Radical Centrist” would be even better, but as I pointed out, I haven’t arrived there yet according to the rigorous pyschometric testing that I’ve undergone.

  5. extremist


    My experience has been that most of the “moderates” who are professionally involved in politics are the least principled of the bunch. They tend to cynically exploit the “Goldie Lox fallacy.”

    This policy is too hot.
    This policy is too cold.
    But *this* policy is juuuust right.

    The truth is rarely in the middle, but “swing” voters (people who haven’t formed an opinion) often think it is and politicians take advantage of that. They become swing voters in office, because that’s where the power is. Everyone is courting you when you’re the swing vote.

  6. mike


    Ok, all together now, “Mike is a CENTRIST, not a MODERATE!” 😉

    Ex, with a screen name like that, I was hoping you would wander by and contribute to the irony of the situation! Seriously, I know your screen name is tongue-in-cheek, just as much of my post is.

    As someone who is not a professional politician, I have less of a vested interest in “team colors.” I do have a strong interest in “truth” however, and the truth of the matter is, that at least in my line of work and in my life in general, a “middle path” is often the most wise and winsome.

    I’ll give you an example. In optometry school, I learned the “textbook” way of treating ocular disease, only to find out that hard and fast, black and white dogma doesn’t work “in the trenches” of my workaday world. I often improvise “on the fly” responding to the multitude of variables encountered that textbooks don’t take into account. I guess I view black and white party ideology much like I view that textbook–very useful, but not wholly adequate for the job at hand.

    I’ve often watched you guys on The Hill and it seems to me that one of the outcomes of the clash of opposing parties, “iron sharpening iron,” is a “middle way,” which, while not wholly satisfying to either side, reflects the wisdom of compromise and meets the needs of a broader range of people. That to me has been comforting and has always struck me as part of the genius of the system.

    But maybe I’m wrong–perhaps the “losing side” of a particular legislative fight is really just bummed out and licks their chops until the next battle rolls around at which time they hope winner takes all.

    Now as to “swing” voters being people who “haven’t formed an opinion,” I think you’ve got to be careful there to not sound too paternalistic and elitist. The fact is, many have formed an opinion and it is that the truth often does reflect balance and elements of both “extremes.” That may not strike someone in DC as “principled,” but for many in “fly-over” country, it is a fact of daily life.

    Again, I take my cues from The Preacher and Aristotle. If that makes me a “swing vote” that must be courted, then all I can say is “come and get me.”

    Thanks for stopping by and stirring the pot–I love it! Nice job, BTW, on your comments on McCarthy over at Elrod’s–I was enthralled.

  7. mike

    To all–

    I was hoping someone would get the “Gold Star” for noticing this, but if you look at the first picture in the post, you may notice that it’s an optical illusion. It can be two people debating, but if you change your point of view slightly, it becomes the “dove of peace” emerging in the middle. Nice touch, eh?

  8. Anonymous

    Talk about a paradox…I derive all my income from the federal government (from two different departments), yet I am very much in favor of smaller government. My test result landed me squarely on the nose of “W.” The World’s Smallest Political Quiz placed me way out in right field on the liberterian fence. That was a very interesting exercise.

    I tend to agree (politically) with what the “Extremist” said. I think the truth rarely lies in the middle, but it is often political suicide to be on the side of truth.

    Liberterian Right-Winger and proud of it.

  9. mike

    Thanks for stopping by and chiming in.

    I’m surrounded by “paradoxes” like you here in Huntsville who are conservatives in the employ of Uncle Sam. They are usually for smaller government too–until it comes to their own department, which usually has something to do with “defense!”

    I bet you fall into that category, don’t you? 😉

    Maybe the most valid test for a conservative civil servant would be to see if they would support eliminating their own job!

    I appreciate the comment, stop by again soon.

  10. hermit Jeremy


    I land squarely south of you on the other side of the line…

    But, I think we agree on the way that things should be done.

    I am ideologically left, though I don’t think that Big Gov, especially not the way that it has been practiced for the past 30 years, has much to offer. And I find it particularly telling that the current party has done little to cut down the size of the government. I find it sad, though, that while government has burgeoned, social well-fare programs are shrinking.

    Stories like this one, I find particularly sad…

    But, things quickly are getting complicated and I don’t have the time, at the moment to outline my rather vague ideas of how the nation should be run.

    May you be at home in peace; may your child and wife be safe.

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