Saturday, June 13, 2009

Why Moderates Are Usually, Sometimes, Occasionally, Customarily More Correct than Other People

My name is Mike—and I’m a Moderate.

There, I said it and I feel better.

I’m a practical Moderate—I try to live a moderate lifestyle, doing little to excess (except when I find a dish of real banana pudding—the kind the recipe for which you find on the Nilla Vanilla Wafers box and that requires a double boiler, meringue, and an oven—in front of me); I’m a political Moderate—on some issues I think like a Conservative, on some I think like a Liberal, and on some I find myself thinking out of both sides of my brain; I’m a Christian Moderate—I subscribe to and read both the Christian Century and Christianity Today and find myself challenged and affirmed by each of them, depending on the issue (double entendre alert!); and I’m a Baptist Moderate—so my Baptist Conservative or Fundamentalist friends think I’m a liberal and my Baptist Liberal friends think I’m a sell-out.

I confess that I am sometimes troubled by my Moderate stance, approach and mindset. As my good wife is wont to remind me, “If you’re not careful, you’ll be so open-minded your brain will fall out.” Moreover, and perhaps more important, since I wish to displease my Savior even less than I wish to displease my wife, I keep hearing the words of Jesus in Revelation: “You are neither hot nor cold; therefore I will spew you out of my mouth.” I really, really don’t want to be spewed out by Jesus—I really, really, really don’t.

But, to quote Luther, who I suppose could not be classified a “Moderate”—“Here I stand; I can do no other.”

I have said many times—and I mean it—that I wish I could be, whether in political or in religious life, a true-blue die hard Conservative or a true-blue die hard Liberal—and it wouldn’t matter to me which I was since, so far as I can tell, they just sit on opposite ends of the same bench, a bench over which hangs a sign that says, “All those who don’t want to think for themselves, sit here.”

Now, some would say that I’m being unfair and they would be right; one cannot paint all Conservatives or all Liberals with the “non-thinking” brush. I read and listen to Conservatives and to Liberals, both religious and political, who read and who think broadly and deeply. Still, it seems to me that for the most part the minds of most people who think of themselves as “Conservative” or “Liberal” are already made up—their position on something is whatever the “Conservative” or the “Liberal” position on it is.

The true Moderate approach—and I put it that way because some so-called “Moderates” are really just Liberals standing six inches to the right or Conservatives standing six inches to the left—is to seek the truth and to end up standing wherever that quest leads you. Thus, a true Moderate will look at an issue or a problem or a biblical text from every available and reasonable angle and then will (and I put it like this because I’m speaking of Christian Moderates since that’s what I am), under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, with submission to Holy Scripture, through the lens of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, and by means of the best tools of research and reason available, make up his or her mind, reserving the right to change that mind if clearer guidance and more precise understanding is awarded, with such guidance and understanding always sought and always welcomed.

The danger for Moderates is that our approach will lead to indecision and paralysis; I call it the “Gilligan Syndrome.” In a classic episode of the classic TV series “Gilligan’s Island,” the Professor and Mr. Howell were engaged in an argument. Mr. Howell would make his point and Gilligan would say, “You have a good point, Mr. Howell” and then the Professor would make a point and Gilligan would say, “You have a good point, Professor.” This happened several times until the Skipper said, “Gilligan, everybody can’t have a good point,” to which Gilligan replied, “Skipper, you have a good point!”

Sometimes as a Moderate I am guilty of thinking that everybody has a good point; even when they do, I have to decide for myself, again, under the Lord’s leadership, what the best point is, whether it is held by Conservatives or Liberals or somebody in between or whether it is held by absolutely no one but me. I have to stand where the quest for truth leads me.

Some people think, it seems to me, that Conservatives and Liberals are at least highly principled in their approach to things while Moderates are unprincipled. That’s not true, of course. Among the principles held tightly by this particular Christian and political Moderate are: (1) God and God alone is God; (2) Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Messiah; (3) The Holy Spirit is God’s active and empowering presence among God’s people; (4) Holy Scripture tells us all we need to know to be saved and to live as Christians; (5) The Church is to live out the principles of the Kingdom here in the world; (6) In America, freedom to practice one’s religion, freedom from religious coercion, freedom of speech, and all other Constitutional freedoms are necessary to the vitality of the nation, and (7) I am pro-life, which for me means wanting to maintain and to preserve the value and dignity of human life from conception to death and which therefore means that I am concerned not only with the issue of abortion but also with the issues of hunger, poverty, war and peace, literacy, health care, access to clean drinking water, the environment, and other issues.

But there is one characteristic that characterizes the true Moderate approach and it is this characteristic that makes it likely that on most matters a Moderate has a greater chance than doctrinaire Conservatives and doctrinaire Liberals to be usually, sometimes, occasionally, and customarily more correct: humility. A true Christian Moderate believes in absolute truth but not in his or her ability to arrive at that absolute truth; a true Christian Moderate knows that God’s way is right but does not presume to know what that way is. Still, true Christian Moderates trust that, as we faithfully and honestly and humbly try to find God’s will and way God will lead us in the way we should go, whether we realize it or not; we also know that God just may show us some of that truth and way in other people, regardless of whether their particular persuasion matches ours.

I am Mike and I am a Moderate. I find it a most honest, inspiring, challenging, enlivening, and thrilling way to live.

Besides, we’re usually more correct than other people.

And I say that with all humility.


Scott Rushing said...

Spoken like a true Baptist! Darn that individual conscience! ;)

David C. George said...

Well said, Mike.I'll take my stand close to you.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I think of moderates as the true liberals, the root of the word 'liberal' being liber, Latin for 'free'. Being in the middle you are free to move to one side or the other as the issue requires, and you are positioned to see truth in both directions, which contributes to free thinking. There's a difference between being genuinely liberal and just being on the left. Peace to you.

David Henson said...

This is a really nice post. I'm a pretty far out-there "liberal" in terms of theology and most of the time in politics, but I identify with a lot of what you said, particularly the part about humility.

I always hold out the assumption that I could be (and likely am, just ask my wife) wrong. Or, put more like a liberal heretic, that we are all right in some way or another, given our contexts.

Too many people entrenched on either side simply dismiss the differently minded as ignorant rather than taking their sisters and brothers seriously, graciously and humbly.


Jim said...

You hooked me with the reference to banana puddding--the one thing I could truly make myself sick off of...
Thanks for successfully redeeming the "Moderate" moniker! Though it is hard to be committed to discerning truth without being burdened by a host of pre-conditions!?!?

Wade Burleson said...


Your post is excellent. It helps those of us who have always considered ourselves "conservative" to not be as troubled when others call us "moderate."

Well done. With your permission I would like to copy and link to your post.

Wade Burleson

gina said...

Amen and well said. From another moderate.

I'm really enjoying your blogs and articles and passing some of them on.