Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Extremism in the Defense of Liberty Is No Vice

Some of you may be old enough to remember when Barry Goldwater repeated those words -- words that were used against him to brandish him an extemist who could not be trusted with his finger on the nuclear button.  And we wll know how that election turn out... right.  So the message is not to extreme.

On the forms that Pastors fill out to deliver to the District Office for distribution to districts and congregations considering calling him, there are several lines where you must rate yourself between theological, liturgical and practical extremes.  The oft made point is mark the middle no matter what you think because congregations do not like extremists.  Now we all understand that there are extremists and no one likes and no one wants in our church body or congregation -- troublemakers whose extremism is like a sieve that sifts through people to find the true believers.  I am NOT talking about those folks.  I believe I have posted before about the tendency of our church body to narrow the funnel until no one fits through but me...

But... there is something we lose when we are all self-identified and objectively marked as moderates.  Moderates are, well, moderate -- not extreme or extremely pointed toward anything.  Can moderation become its own vice?  Is it okay to love our spouses and kids moderately -- we don't want to be too extreme in this, you know, passion can be a bad thing if pushed too far.  Is it okay to love our Lord moderately -- evenly without too much passion or drive but pleasantly and non-threateningly.  Is it okay to be moderate church members and goers, moderate in our support of the Lord and His work, moderate in our witness to those around us?

Or, is God looking for some passion in us... drive and fire... urgency and excitment?  I would hope so... The moderate church bodies do not seem to be doing so well... moderate congregations and church members are not doing much other than going to church... and the Lord is looking for something more than going through the motions.... I am looking for some extremism in the Church -- not to the left or to the right necessarily but seriousness about the work of the Lord and His mission... urgency about their role and place in that work... passion about worship and the holy things of God (read that Word and Sacraments), and enthusiasm about the Gospel and mercy's work...  I think God is looking for the same kind of extremism...

You know how it is when you drive down the road and somebody asks "Where do you want to eat?"  "I don't know... I am flexible... whatever works..."  It should not be this way about our drive to Church on Sunday morning... about our voice singing and speaking His praise... about the bill we peel from our wallets for the plate... about the "amen" to the prayers... about the the way we listen to the Word... about the way we greet others in the faith (especially new folks)... about the way we walk out the door to fulfill our baptismal vocation to the world... No, a little extremism in our parishes and some passion in our people and some urgency in our Pastors... that is a good thing!


Anonymous said...

Just waiting for someone to quote (out of context), "Let your moderation be known in all things..."

Curtis said...

Thank you for this post. I am often upset by the lack of passion in some of my Lutheran friends. No one likes the word "extremism" but I think we should be passionate about spreading the Gospel and seeing as many saved as possible. Isn't that what we are told God wants? As many saved as possible? I think that does need some extremism.

Thank you!