Have you noticed over the last decade that it seems that the United States has become a nation of uncontrolled extremes? In saying this, I’m not referring to a particular tribe or group. I’m talking about ALL of us. Every conversation, every movement, and every thought proposition seems to be dominated with radicalism.
There is no room for balanced thinking or living. In fact, it seems that the very idea of “balance” or “moderation” or “temperance” is completely lost within our current American culture. The pursuit of moderation has been practically erased from public interaction and conversation. It has no value. As a result, without the virtue of moderation to constrain us toward nuanced balanced thinking – we have become a polarized nation that is continuously reactive, and driven to unhealthy and illogical extremes.
In our present condition, the adoration of extremism has produced an environment of angry hostility in every facet of our culture – in politics, in religion, in the arts, in the economy, and in the social interaction between classes, generations, races, and genders. Everywhere we look, extremism rules the day.
Sadly, most American Christian evangelicals have whole heartedly bought into this practice. Along with everyone else, evangelicals join right in with extremism, and polarize themselves into stringent and opposing positions of fundamentalism on one side, and progressivism on the other. As evangelicals, we are so often critical of radicalized Islamic practices – as we should be – yet, we cannot seem to see that we ourselves are unwittingly devolving toward the very same behavior.
Ironically, we Christians seem to have forgotten that “moderation” is a Christian virtue that is taught over and over again in the Bible. The book of Proverbs repeatedly warns us against extremism. In the Gospel Beatitudes, we are called to be people of Shalom (peacemakers) and not a people of confused radicalism. We are told to love one another and live quiet (peaceful) lives of worship. In the book of Galatians, we learn that patience and moderation are actual fruits of the Holy Spirit.
So, if moderation is affirmed in the scriptures, and it is; and if moderation is indeed a fruit of the Holy Spirit – and it is; then the American church has lost its way. Perhaps, without realizing it, we are in desperate need of the Holy Spirit of God to bring us under control, to quiet our anxious souls, and put to death the fleshly extremism that reigns in our collective hearts. If so, I pray that the Spirit of God would quickly apply his much needed correction in this area before we completely devour each other… because, without a doubt, a house divided against itself will never stand.
Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (moderation / self-control): against such there is no law.
Philippians 4:5-7. Let your moderation (gentleness) be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 4:10-12. Brothers and sisters in Christ, we urge you to love more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet (moderate) life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders.