Charles Gray | How I see the color gray
Farewell Column | My view of ‘The Gray Area’ has changed over the last four years
May 11, 2012, 3:22 am · Updated May 11, 2012, 3:31 am·
The Gray Area
“The kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.” (1 Corinthians 4:20)
For me, the apostle Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians are among the most powerful books in the Bible. Paul addresses these letters to a group that is struggling with how to live their lives in the wake of Christ’s teachings. They are able to talk about their faith, but they weren’t able to really live it in their lives.
The verse talks about achieving “power,” but it isn’t worldly power in terms of having a substantial office or position. Instead it calls for individuals to move beyond mere talk. It calls us to walk the walk.
Writing 36 columns over the course of four years has taught me a great deal about the power of this verse.
This is best reflected in the way my attitude towards the column’s name — The Gray Area — has changed. Aside from being a convenient pun on my name, the title I chose freshman year also had a very distinct purpose — to communicate the muddled messages that I would be sharing.
Once, a friend told me that The Gray Area was ironic because my columns hardly ever dealt with middle-of-the-road opinions.
What had really changed was the how I thought of “the gray area.” I began to see value in expressing viewpoints that might not be popular.
However, as the apostle Paul noted, these columns have limited meaning. They are just talk. Real value lies in the ability to translate talk into effective action. Words in a column, book or a speech, for that matter, mean nothing without action to supplement them.
Time and time again in American political history, we see the importance of supplementing talk with action. During the 2000s in California, it was very clear that the state’s budgetary outlook was not sustainable and that major reforms were needed.
In 2005, the state legislature refused to deliver much-needed reforms, so the governor decided to call a series of statewide referendums for people to decide.
Three weeks before the election, most polls predicted that the reforms would pass. But something very odd happened in these last three weeks. At the last minute, people became scared to make responsible and tough choices. None of the referendums or ballot measures were passed.
As Joel Kotkin has noted in a recent Wall Street Journal interview, the dreams of upward mobility for the middle class in California have largely been destroyed by the state’s unsustainable tax burden and lack of job creation.
A similar phenomenon has occurred in Greece, Spain, Ireland, Portugal and Italy. Unsustainable fiscal spending has not been adjusted to meet modern demands. As a result, these countries have become bankrupt.
The United States’ federal government is on a similar path. While the dollar’s status as a reserve currency has bought this country more time to solve its fiscal problems, we’ve got to wake up and smell the coffee. The reforms need to begin soon.
A few individuals, like Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, are delivering real proposals and solutions to the nation’s fiscal problems but most are simply talking about them on the margins.
When folks move beyond talk and toward action, they often enter the loneliest of places — a real gray area. But, as the apostle Paul shows, this is a position of real power where one can lead by example.
This kind of power can never be achieved simply through transmitting words through a newspaper or merely talking. It requires meaningful action over the course of a lifetime.
Charles Gray is a College and Wharton senior. He has appeared in The Daily Pennsylvanian for the last four years with the column named The Gray Area. After graduation, he will most likely be moving home to Casper, Wyoming, to temporarily become General Manager of Mt. Rushmore Broadcasting Inc., after which he intends to study at Oxford University. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org