November 24, 2014
I recently returned from conducting a leadership conference in Italy followed by some research work in Qatar – two very different places, and each with a unique voice in the world. Rome is the home of the Roman Catholic Church and Pope Francis (who was recently ranked as the 4th most powerful person in the world according to Forbes Magazine). Qatar, is a Muslim-majority state and home to Al Jazeera, one of the most powerful global voices in media – influencing millions.
As different as these two places are, they do have something in common – an on-going identity crisis. Neither place seems to know who they are. Consider the following:
- Rome is the epicenter of Catholic Christianity with 2000 years of tradition to lean on – but a recent survey found that in areas of abortion, premarital sex and same-sex marriage, US and European Catholics are more liberal than the teachings of the church. The Catholic church is clear on moral integrity – and yet even in Rome, it seems that few connect what they believe with how they live and behave.
- Qatar suffers from their own form of an identity crisis. They are a small nation with lots of oil-money. They are supposedly an ally of the US and yet they abet terrorism. They host the largest US military base in the Middle East (which provides them with a significant measure of security in the region). At the same time, they have allowed private fundraising for al-Qaeda and ISIS and they have courted the friendship of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist groups (which gives them the perception of regional influence – especially as a counterbalance to Saudi Arabia).
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, the new emir of Qatar responded to this apparent duplicity with the following statement: “I’m not in a camp against another camp. … I have my own way of thinking.”
Which simply means, “I’m going to sit on the fence, not decide who I’m going to be, and hope that it all works out.”
And it won’t. It never does. No one can stay on the fence forever. You cannot call yourself a follower of Christ and act nothing like Him. You cannot call yourself a friend of one country while funding their enemies. Everyone…every nation…every group…every individual has to eventually decide who they are, choose their path and live with the consequences – for better or worse. The middle is not an option. The middle isn’t fair to yourself, to those around you and the “middle” never leads anywhere productive.
The Russians have a very good proverb about this very thing. They say, “If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one.”