Beyond "Beyondism" (Joseph Bottum, First Things)
I think it was David Brooks who coined, years ago, the term “beyondist.” A beyondist is someone who urges us to get beyond left/right distinctions, beyond partisan politics, beyond the stymied options of the day. Jim Wallis is a good example, as the title of his book God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It plainly shows.
Who can’t feel the call of beyondism? When Wallis writes, “Don’t be a liberal, don’t be a conservative, be a man or woman of faith. Don’t turn right, don’t turn left, go deeper,” the response has to be: Amen, brother—but stop preaching to the choir. Your heart gives that weird, despairing thunk of hopelessness the umpteenth time you hear a set of Democratic party talking points, Republican party rejoinders, liberal reposts, conservative retorts, leftist agitations, and righty fulminations. To be bound entirely by the political options of the day is to be lost in the perpetual quotidian—swept down the narrowest of channels, banging from side to side and scraping off your skin as you go.
And yet it’s one thing for people to get beyond left/right distinctions, and something different to demand that people get beyond left/right distinctions. That demand to get beyond politics itself exists in a political context—and its proposals always end up breaking for one camp or the other: The way to get beyond the liberal/conservative divide is for all of you on the other side to agree with me. It seems to be a rule that every beyondist is actually doing a little bait and switch—like the tire store that advertises discounted radials they just happen to be out of, though they’re happy to sell you these more expensive whitewalls instead. (read more)