We live in a highly polarized society. Sometimes it feels that moderates are seen as wishy-washy and that, if you were truly a believer in your cause, you ought to gravitate towards one extreme or the other. I have joked that being a true moderate is tough because the Right accuses you of selling out while the Left accuses you of not selling enough! But I believe that the best view is a moderate view – that extremism can lead us into dangerous waters. Please allow me to expound.
The Left/Liberal/Progressive/whatdowecallitthesedays? side is often seen as the side that cares about issues pertaining to social justice, people care, and advocacy.
The Right/Conservative/Fundamentalists/whatdowecallitthesedays? side is often seen as the side that cares about issues pertaining to piety, personal righteousness, and morality. The talking heads from both ends of the spectrum use these stereotypes to beat up their opponents. Left commentators talk about how uncaring Right politicians and leaders are. Right commentators talk about how the Left wants to destroy family values and morality and turn this nation into one giant Socialist commune.
I believe that there are positive elements to both sides (now would be an appropriate time to gasp and start writing your apologetic diatribe for the comments section). Not only are there positive elements to both sides, but I believe that God calls us to a more moderate position – the only real way forward.
In the New Testament, the letter of James tells us:
BAM. There it is. There are two sides to this coin. James is both Liberal AND Conservative at the same time! Can it be?!? He tells us that pure religion is two-sided. Part one is the social justice element that the Left loves so much – take care of widows and orphans in their distress. With the Ancient Near East (ANE) workforce being what it was, if you were a widow or an orphan you were just plumb outta luck. You had a good chance of going without food, shelter, or any other basic necessity. It was the job of the religious faithful to care for these who could not care for themselves. If you extend that principle into our modern society we would probably do well to add other groups in there. While widows can join the workforce, are we seeking to take care of people who are disadvantaged and disenfranchised? Are we actively looking to care for those who are in a bad way? Who have no leg up in society? If not then all of our religion can be flushed down the pooper.
But on the other side of the coin James shows us his Conservative streak. Pure and faultless religion includes keeping oneself from being polluted by the world. There is an element of personal righteousness, morality, and character involved. Without it, our religion is junk and is worthless. All you Conservatives – give a cheer! Character counts. It doesn’t matter how many poor people you help, how many social programs you implement, or how much to create a Socialist environment that takes care of everyone and every little thing. Without righteousness and holiness is worthless.
So where does that leave us? I believe that it means that faithful Christians ought to examine their politics in light of the Bible. It means that those of us who lean Left need to remember that holiness matters. Those of us who lean Right need to remember that practically caring for people matters. It’s not one or the other. It’s BOTH AND.
If we actually lived this way we’d put a lot of the talking heads out of work. Their books, radio shows, and news programs thrive on dividing people to the extreme. But it’s not biblical, for we are called to both. So…you up for it? Will you put faith before politics and try to live BOTH AND? Let’s put some talking heads out of work. 😉
How about you? What experiences have you had with the Left, the Right, or trying to walk the Moderate middle?