The Seeming Impossibility of Moderation

April 29, 2011

I am feeling soapbox-y today.   I am sitting at my computer waiting to type because the words inside me are making my blood pressure rise and yet my ever too common need for restraint coupled with my brain's inability to organize the useful from the possibly hurtful is weighing on my soul.  So forgive me if the start is muddled and the transitions aren't crystal clear, here the poetry is failing me and the emotions are vying to win over the words.

My mom  is a dietician and really smart one, she's pretty much smart at everything.  If you are a registered dietician in America you probably know who my mom is.  Every couple months she gets the nation-wide publication from the American Dietetics Association with journal pieces about new diet fads, nutritional advancements and the studies by experts refuting or ratifying the opinions and findings of others.  Each year one volume inevitably brings one idea to the forefront as if it was a new fangled thing, ready to be unleashed on the population to cure their dieting woes and obesity foes, and my mom laughs.  Here, in the pages of the experts, the ones who know more than you and I will ever know on the history and future of dietetics, someone advertises for moderation.  That maybe, just maybe if you eat your fruits and vegetables and go for walk every day and don't just sit to marathon old episodes of Friends and maybe if your kids play outside instead of video games, you and they will be healthier.  It's as if no one had heard the wise and unimposing voices of moderate, however right they were, for the last hundred generations.  I feel that way in every aspect of my life, especially today in a polarized and impersonal world.

I used to want to be a politician.  My professors would remind me that running on idealism wasn't actually a feasible strategy.  I would smile and secretly hope that wasn't the truth, that I could better society through moving rhetoric and my odd fascination with public policy.  There had to be people who wanted to agree in the middle  A few years ago, unbeknownst to me, God removed that desire from my heart entirely and I have never been more thankful.  The volatile world of politics would eat me alive as it has with so many. 

Our society lives in the ideas of extremes and we accept nothing less.  We lap up the poisonous language of partisanship that dehumanizes our brothers and sisters simply to hyperbolize a point.  Words like "Nazi" and "terrorist" have been downgraded to euphemisms on pitifully small ideas like taxes and oil manufacturing.  And then we scoff at those who  aren't beside us, right or left, filling up on what we can't see is actually hardening our hearts and as Derek Webb says in his song The 21st Century, "You'll be surprise what you can do with a hard heart."  Now, we see comrades and countrymen as nothing more than enemies, something to be destroyed so we can have peace, which is exactly how Alexander the Great established "peace," killing all those who would stand up against him.  Sounds peaceful doesn't it, death?

Or in our churches where we are divided on things that deserve context and conversation but instead we remove them from their proper home within those two axioms and place it on an ivory tower where we praise the divide and truth shudders for its life.  We want the Church to be heavy on love but not light on sin and have decided that the two don't coexist within the hallowed walls of our vanilla box churches.  We have determined to teach that God is either love or wrath, justice or mercy, grace or vengeance and refuse to accept the mystery that the One who created an endless universe might also be bigger than our vanilla boxes.  So what do we do with those who yearn to be loved and whose lifestyle some consider sinful and other see as lovely?  Instead of community discussion and healthy discourse we separate and we argue and we listen to those who move us forward only in the direction we like.   We use theologian's names as punch lines and mock those who are preaching the gospel to thousands because it's not the gospel we resonate with.    All the while, we profess to have the same beliefs:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ his only son our Lord who conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate was crucified dead and buried.  He descended in hell, on the third day he rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.  From thence he shall come to judge the quick and dead.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.  Amen.

If we can be united by something as exquisite as the Apostle's Creed, why can't we discuss something as beautiful as grace without looking a gift horse in the mouth, arguing over mechanics and whether or not it's our decision who is "in"?  Why can't we discuss taxes and salary caps without feeling like our livelihood is being threatened?  Why can't we stand in the middle of all it and with civility and love ask each side to give a little so that as they step closer they see the human faces of those impersonalized as enemies, maybe then realizing we are all fighting the same fight.  We want a good world for our children, we agree that justice is necessary and that slavery is wrong.  We believe that water should be clean and that gas should be less than $4 a gallon.  We believe that John 3:16 needs John 3:17 and that if you believe in neither you have that right, but I still hope for you.

So how do we respond to the faces of our enemies, when we are in danger of seeing them as people with families and friends and good natures and senses of humor?  We tweet about it, we make facebook a proper platform for discussion as if 140 characters and a "like" button are enough to solidify our opinion in the face of a divided and hurting world.  We look to snake oil salesmen like Glenn Beck and Chris Matthews to validate our decisions to verbally abuse those we wouldn't line up with in a game of red rover let alone something as "important" as congress' ability to regulate steroids in baseball.  We read Rob Bell or John Piper but never both just in case they both bring new light to an old story.  Our fear of the unknown masquerades as adherence to tradition and we walk further and further apart.

So here I stand in the impossible places, not as a martyr or a saint being a voice for the voiceless but as a scared little girl trying desperately t keep the splitting ground beneath her from separating anymore and swallowing her into oblivion.  I will clamber here, hoping that I am not alone in the idea that maybe, just maybe, just exercise isn't the answer and just fruits and vegetables isn't the answer, but a little of both.  Heaven help me.

You Might Also Like


Blog Archive