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.
I’m a political moderate; on some issues I think like a conservative, on some like a liberal, and on some 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.
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 liberal. 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.
He or she 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. A true moderate reserves the right to change that mind if clearer guidance and more precise understanding is provided. Such guidance and understanding is always sought and always welcomed.
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.
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.
Michael Ruffin is curriculum editor with Smyth & Helwys Publishing in Macon, Georgia.