The Potential Arrogance of Moderation

The Potential Arrogance of Moderation

Before you continue, look at the tag line for this blog. I self identify as a moderate, though I have a somewhat eccentric view of being moderate.

My view of moderation doesn’t really solve the problem, however. As a moderate, I believe I should examine the whole spectrum of views on any issue before trying to select a particular view to advocate. There are two reasons for this: 1) There’s no guarantee where on the spectrum the best approach on any issue will be, and 2) If compromise is necessary, as it may well be in a variety of social or political situations, I know what the options are. I’m not a centrist, i.e. I don’t believe that I need to be toward the center on all or most issues. My actual beliefs, politically and doctrinally, may be on different sides of the spectrum on different issues. For example, I can (and do) believe both in drug legalization (for the most part), but at the same time believe in fairly vigorous law enforcement.

But there is a potential for arrogance in this view as well. Let me just illustrate this personally. Every day I see a stream of social media posts from people in a variety of points on the political and religious spectrum. No day goes by without me sighing a bit at some people who seem over the top about one issue or another. It’s very easy for me to become arrogant and think, “Wow! I’m so much smarter than all those people who get so worked up about ______.” If I’m on one side of the spectrum or another, I get a double dose of feeling superior. I’m so unextreme! “Lord, I thank you that I am not as other people are, overwrought over so many extreme political or religious positions.” You should pardon the paraphrase.

But a moderate position, or each position that falls within it, is an opinion on a topic as well. It is something that I prefer, something that I advocate. It may be that I am not passionate enough in my own advocacy of that position. It’s easy for moderates to sink into apathy and spend their day not advocating stuff. It’s also easy to decide that because others are so extreme, a lack of a position on an issue is a better.

But people’s passion is not wrong, and a lack of a position is not a virtue. In many cases my decision to advocate on some issue or another is a strategic one. Where should I spend my time? What is my emphasis going to be? As a publisher, I place myself as an advocate of advocacy. I’m looking for passionate people to write books about the subjects that drive them. It should not be surprising that they are, in fact, passionate about the issues they write about. In fact, some of them are passionate about not being at the extremes, and that is also not a bad thing.

One of the positions I’ve noticed (and participated in) is a desire to draw Christians back from being too invested in the politics of this world. I believe we should be involved, but always remember our commitment, our ultimate allegiance, is elsewhere. But even this can be a cause for arrogance. If I can take the election results more peacefully than my neighbor, that makes me so much better as a person, doesn’t it? Actually, I think not. I will suggest some moderation in tone, but you see, that is a position as well. I think reasoned advocacy and relationship building is the better approach to dealing with political and religious issues.

Wow! Who’d a thunk it? I must be a moderate!

One thought on “The Potential Arrogance of Moderation

  1. My late father was fond of saying “Moderation in all things, including moderation”. I think you and he would have got on famously.

    For my part, I think passion in expressing and pressing for your viewpoint is fine, as long as it doesn’t prevent you from listening to opposing argument. I also have a strong impulse to try to find not compromise, but synthesis. Compromise lands somewhere in the middle of a spectrum, synthesis goes in a completely new direction, making the original spectrum irrelevant.

    Of course, I find that far less often than I’d like. In some cases, there’s probably no synthesis available – and in those cases, the best solution is usually that which leaves both sides equally unsatisfied, the “Chinese deal”.

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