The Moderate

Posted on January 14, 2012. Filed under: Culture | Tags: , , , , , |


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If you spend some time Googling Martin Luther King Jr this weekend, you might notice a few things your second grade teacher left out of her lesson. I’m not talking about the fact that he had extramarital affairs or even more egregious, that he was a Republican. I’m referring his distaste with something we’re all guilty of: being a moderate.

King said, “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.” He wrote in his letter from the Birmingham jail, “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate.”  Unlike the white moderate, the supremacist had devotion to a cause and  fought to defend that cause rather than seek “the absence of tension.” Indeed he wrote, “lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

Was King onto something here? Is moderation something to be pursued to keep peace or avoided to stand firm in convictions? Does a moderate have a better chance of winning ‘hearts and minds’ or does a moderate just lack a back bone?

Craig Groeschel’s Weird highlights Christ’s ‘woes’ on seven churches that lost their way in Revelations. For six of them, Jesus acknowledges good with the bad, but to the church of Laodicea, he just laments. What was Laodicea’s crime? Idolatry? Sexual immorality? Poking a badger with a spoon? Nope, those were the other churches…and Eddie Izzard. Laodicea’s problem was its moderate nature: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Rev 3:15-16).

There are other places where God expresses our faith is not to be moderate in nature: “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter” (Matthew 7:21).

“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13).

Christ and MLK Jr. were saying that we cannot be tepid with the truth, in whatever form it takes. God judges us by our actions, not how we say we feel. While being a moderate may not get you into trouble, it almost always signals one of two things: ignorance and/or apathy. Truth cannot dwell in anyone with either trait.

In his letter, King wrote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Paul called for Christians to “have a strong belief in the trustworthy message …[and] be able to encourage others with wholesome teaching and show those who oppose it where they are wrong” (Titus 1:9). Those convicted by truth shouldn’t tolerate lies, but strive to lovingly spread the truth.

There may not be ‘whites only’ drinking fountains anymore, but I think moderation still shows a lack of conviction and/or understanding. A Church full of moderate Christians focuses more on religion than faith. A country full of moderate citizens focuses more on 15 second sound bites or ESPN than investigating facts molding our future. Schools full of moderate teachers demand regurgitation of academic creeds rather teaching students how to think critically.

We’re all guilty of being the moderate in some area of life. I think this MLK Jr Day  we would do well to remember something else he said, “But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label…the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

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9 Responses to “The Moderate”

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Amen. This was refreshing to read.

I understand and agree with what you are saying about having a passion for what is going on in the world, but more importantly not to be apathetic and ignorant. I personally do care but often find it overwhelming. There are many times I just want to come home and have a quiet dinner, walk my dog, catch up with my husband, watch a tv show or two, read and fall asleep, and never catch up what is going on in the world. I try to be a good Christian and be a good person. It is exhausting to be extreme in so many matters, and be judged if I haven’t memorized the name of the current US Attorney General is. I agree to not be a moderate and you should care on some level- but to be extreme? I don’t know if I have it in me? I don’t personally like people who are so extreme that they are unrelateble and criticizing of everyone around who don’t share the views as passionately. They often turn people away.

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12
And to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.

Romans 14:1
As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions

Isaiah 5:21
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!

I agree, Shannon, being knowledgable about everything would be exhausting!

My point is that Christians have a responsibility to seek truth in every facet of their lives. We all need to have a world view that guides us – we should not compartmentalize our faith. God calls us to live a certain way, not just in our ‘religious life.’ Our actions in every area of life reflects God to others, and indeed no one does it perfectly!

God gave us all unique passions that of course drive our interests (we should use those passions to bring glory to Him). But I think too often we let fatigue, apathy, fear of judgement, and life distract us from our responsibilities.

When I dance, I pick one side of the room, never in the middle. Do you like my analogy?

Hah, very much!

Great thoughts! As a Christian leader it can be tempting to tone down biblical truths so as not to “rock the boat” or offend anyone. It’s easy to seek some sort of middle ground to satisfy as many people as possible; however, I think deep down it’s our human nature to know ultimate truth and be called to a higher standard. I believe the people who raise their level of belief and devotion from hearing this Truth will more than make up in influence what was “lost” by those who were half-hearted at best and walked away in anger.

Absolutely! After all, as someone I know once said, we speak boldly about what we believe deeply. Thanks for sharing your thoughts

MLK Jr. did not endorse a U.S. political party or candidate, so I don’t think it is correct to say he was a Republican. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.#Public_stance_on_political_parties). It seems that the claim originates from a statement made by one of King’s nieces, Alveda King, in a video (i.e., a second hand account) and the message has been promoted recently by several political candidates. In his own words, however, King said in a letter to Viva O. Sloan dated 1 October 1956 “I have always voted the Democratic ticket.” (Source: The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Volumes 2-3, University of California Press, 1992, p. 384).

In addition, Politifact rated the claim that he was a Republican as False, and concluded that King avoided partisan identification. See http://www.politifact.com/texas/statements/2011/jan/17/raging-elephants/houston-group-says-martin-luther-king-jr-was-repub/

Interesting – it appears there is quite a bit of controversy between the King family as to where he would stand today too. It appears people have been frustrated by both parties’ inability to stand firmly in their convictions for decades now. Perhaps, he would have been a libertarian?


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