Friday, September 30, 2016
Is being moderate the same as being lukewarm?
I come from the generation that promoted moderation to its fullest degree. Work but do not work too much. That is bad. This was a cut against my parents whose generation worked too much (at least that is what we thought). Enjoy life in moderation. Drink but don't drink too much. Drink but don't waste too much money on expensive beer and liquor. Moderately priced booze is just fine. Drive a middle class car but don't spend too much money on a vehicle or your clothes. Go to church but not too much and do not appear to enjoy it. Treat the faith moderately. Be interested but certainly do not be extreme in matters of doctrine and faith and practice. That is always bad. The worship service should not go on too long; neither the sermon. Bible study is fine but if there is something good on TV, well, we all understand. A little sex and vulgar language is okay but not too much. That is bad. A few children are good. Too many children and that is not so good. Live moderately and make a moderate carbon print upon the environment. Recycle? Yes. Live off the grid. No. Moderation. We visit churches in search of the one that fits us -- not too much nor too little but just right. And then we attend moderately lest anyone get the idea that somehow or another we are radical.
Lutherans were born to take a prudent, cautious, middle-of-the-road approach to contested or divisive issues. We really don't get why people could be against us since we are so moderate in our approach to people. The media do not like immoderate people who take immoderate positions on issues of religious and moral significance. In fact, the media believes that the best Muslims are those who are too Muslim and the best Roman Catholics are those who are not too Roman Catholic. Lutherans, too. Moderation means thinking for yourself, picking and choose from the smorgasbord of doctrine, faith, and practice. Lock step is bad. A little independence and distance is good. Especially for religion. Compromise is good and if you have to negotiate away some of your beliefs or principles in order to appear united, well, that is also good.
I must admit that my kids are not moderate at all. My kids have a uniform disdain for contemporary worship, touchy feely stuff that substitutes for doctrine and truth, and happy clappy songs that take the place of real hymns. I am not so sure how we did it, but we raised immoderate children who have little time for half-baked politics, religion, and interest. I guess I failed as a Lutheran. Moderation is not the sacred value for my children that it is for most folks of my own generation.
The reality is that moderation is a malicious myth. We don't need moderates and God doesn't need them either. We don't need Christians or Lutherans in name only, who feed only moderately from the grand buffet of doctrine and truth. We don't need people who think for themselves enough to distance them from Scripture and that which has always been believed, taught, and confessed. We don't need a moderation which seeks to be less than fully the new person Christ has raised us to be out of the waters of baptism. Moderate subordinate their faith and morality to our secular culture and feel free to dissent from the words of Jesus and the creeds of Christendom and still be good Christians, good Lutherans. We don't need moderates who make your own morality apart from Christ and who are pro-life for themselves but leave everything else up to the individual conscience or the will of the majority or the courts to decide. Nope, lets face it. Being moderate is a lot like being lukewarm and unless I remember wrongly God is going to chew up and spit out the lukewarm moderates who run neither hot nor cold about anything -- even the cross. Moderates are immoderate when it comes to the one thing that remains when heaven and earth pass away and that alone ought to make us suspicious of something we once thought was our cardinal virtue.