‘Stuck in the Middle with You’

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right

Here I am stuck in the middle with you.

            – Stealers Wheel

Our friend made a comment yesterday that made me laugh. It also made me think of a silly song that suddenly had new meaning in the currently polarized landscape in which we live.

John Shirk works as a “missionary” to poets and artists in downtown Chicago. He walks a fine line between his mostly conservative Christian constituency that supports him on one side, and the mostly liberal artists he lives among on the other. His comment was that he often feels alone, caught in the middle between two factions. “I’m not conservative enough for my friends on the right and not liberal enough for my friends on the left. I’m stuck in the middle.”

I immediately thought of the Stealers Wheel 1972 song, “Stuck in the Middle with You.” If there are clowns to the left of us and jokers to the right what does that say about us who are stuck in the middle? How about knuckleheads, or nincompoops, or nitwits? To be stuck is the worst part. Stuck means you are going nowhere.

John may feel stuck, but he is not. He is one of the few people I know who is actually going somewhere. He’s attending our Wednesday night study; he has bought into the church we are forming, claiming his gifts of leadership and volunteering to lead a discipleship group, this, on top of an online church he is already leading from his own home, and an open mic session he is starting online with inner city artists in lieu of the shut down of the local bar where they usually meet.

Actually John is in a unique position to be a bridge between the “clowns” and the “jokers” and everyone in between because that’s what we do in the body of Christ. We bring believers together to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. And what a time to do it — when there’s so much division that we can all bridge. Come on, everybody, get into the act. We’re all just a bunch of clowns and jokers and nincompoops, all loved by Jesus Christ and all forgiven and one in the Spirit of God. Whatever is supposed to divide us is not stronger than this!

So if you’re feeling stuck in the middle, don’t. First, appreciate the diversity of all of us, right to left and in between; second, have lots off great discussion with one another because we are so diverse; and third, embrace the unity that we already have because the Spirit lives and loves in us all. We are already one because of that Spirit. That oneness will show up every time we come together whether in real time or cyberspace.

For a surprisingly good YouTube rendering of the 1972 song, “Stuck in the Middle with You” by four Gen Xers, click here. Proof that the kids like our music. They nailed it. This is in some ways better than the original.

Don’t miss


tonight at 6:00 p.m. PDT

Our Guest:

Randall Balmer

Randall Herbert Balmer is an American historian of American religion. He taught at Barnard College and Columbia University for twenty-seven years before moving to Dartmouth College in 2012, where he was named the Mandel Family Professor in the Arts & Sciences. He is currently the John Phillips Professor in Religion at Dartmouth. He is also an Episcopal priest.

discussing his new book,

Solemn Reverence: The Separation of church and state in America.

This entry was posted in body life, church, Millennials and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to ‘Stuck in the Middle with You’

  1. Kevin Krabbenhoft says:

    clowns and jokers and nincompoops… you forgot the turkeys.
    You reminded me of a song too Mr John !
    “If God can love turkeys, God can love you.
    You are a turkey, and I am one too…
    So if you are lonelyEEEE, Remember the truth….
    If God can love turkeys, God can love you (God can love youuuuuu)”

  2. Bob Pusey says:

    Politically homeless is another way to put it. I don’t fit in either party, but Jesus was politically homeless too. He had Simon the zealot and Matthew the tax collector among his disciples and bridged the gap. He gave them a bigger kingdom to live for, while still living and paying taxes to the earthly kingdom they were part of.
    Why can’t we do the same? Live in this political system without being consumed by it? Or as Doug Stevens said, “live above it and choose a third way. Christ’s way.”
    As Christ’s followers there will always be tension because we are not of this world.
    In John 18:36 Jesus stood before Pilate and said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight…..”
    So even though we have tension , we are not to fight. This is very hard right now, not to fight. But we have more important battles because we have a more important kingdom.

  3. Paul Sonkowsky says:

    Those young musicians are great! But rather than Gen X, they look more like young Millennials or older Gen Z folks to me.

    I’m definitely a clown / joker / nincompoop, many times over.

  4. Bob Hofferber says:

    REminds me of this little-known Mark Heard gem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k589H60i-Io

  5. Roger Howell says:

    This fits with our minister’s emphasis to be peacemakers. Reina, Toni, Josh and Cameron are around 30 years. They bring good vibes to old geezers like me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.