I frequently am asked what I mean by “passionate moderate” or how I can be a committed moderate Christian. These questions come even more frequently than ones that ask how I can be a “liberal charismatic,” probably because “passionate moderate” is my self-label, whereas “liberal charismatic” was assigned to me by someone else.
The term “moderate” has a bad reputation in some circles. It’s connected with “middle of the road” where there are, supposedly, only skunks and a yellow stripe. But I reject that characterization. I have indeed met “moderates” like that. Their answer to every question is to place themselves comfortably in a non-threatening center between all the people they know, and thus they are always arguing a mediating position.
I simply reject that definition, and I don’t think it is even accurate in describing both moderates. For me, being a passionate moderate means that I do not accept the extremes as the only options. There are issues on which I am extreme. That’s because I have examined the spectrum as I understand it, and found that I belong on one end of it or the other. On many issues, however, I believe passionately in something more to the center. There is no reason whatever that I cannot believe passionately in any particular position I choose.
I could try for another label, but I don’t know what it would be. It sounds “moderate” to me. Most self-identified moderates that I know would agree with my characterization. While some people fit the stereotype, the yellow stripe and dead skunks slur is just that for most moderates–a slur by people who want to force people into their extreme camps.
I reject the “extreme” plan for spirituality, for politics, for my personal lifestyle, and for my way of thinking about everything. Thus I am a moderate, and I’m passionate about it. I’m a moderate Christian and I’m committed to it.
PS: One last thing. I don’t reject the label “liberal” either. It’s a bad word to some people, but there are many ways in which I can properly be called a liberal. An opponent once labeled me a “liberal charismatic” and that stuck, so much so that I used it as the subtitle to one of my books, Not Ashamed of the Gospel: Confessions of a Liberal Charismatic. Others label me as evangelical, which seems odd, but generally when they define how they understand “evangelical” I find I fit. Labels are troublesome that way. When one is moderate, one’s labeling can be confusing.