Periodic Diatribe on Moderation

It would be nice to have a different word for this that carried less baggage, but if you make up a word, who will understand? Besides I think moderation in general has gotten a bad name.

I’ve encountered this recently with regard to the Lakeland Revival. In general I have taken little flack online, but in personal conversations, I have been urged to “take a stand, one way or the other.” It reminds me of the saying I heard a great deal when I was young, and more rarely in recent years–“there’s nothing in the middle of the road but a yellow stripe and dead skunks.”

Well, I have taken a stand, and it is simply that this is not a simple binary issue. There isn’t a stand to take “one way or the other.” There are positive things and negative things in what I’ve heard so far. Should I come to the realization at some point that there really are only two options in this case, then I will surely choose one of them, but not before.

Sometimes you have to take a stand against the “take a stand” people. For some reason they think there is a moral benefit in binary thinking. I disagree.

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  1. Well, I have taken a stand, and it is simply that this is not a simple binary issue. There isn’t a stand to take “one way or the other.”

    Well said, and thanks for saying it!

  2. There may be no moral benefit to “binary thinking” but our either/or reasoning has served us well, and people are sometimes suspicious of someone they believe to be using both/and reasoning and thus press for a “decision”. I’m not accusing you of using “both/and” reasoning here, but to some people, a middle position may sound that way. Refusing to draw a conclusion for lack of clear evidence to support any particular conclusion is good reasoning and should be respected too.

    1. Larry – it’s funny that the same day I wrote that I had been talking to my nephew, who’s a rather talented programmer working on his CS degree, about handling things in large integers. I forget just what the application was. I was thinking about that while I wrote, but didn’t want to take the detour. Enough well chosen binary decisions can work out quite well.

      Both/and reasoning is the problem I have with the word moderate. That’s why I use “passionate moderate” quite a lot because it sounds like an oxymoron and so people ask and I get to explain. There’s a difference between determining that there is good and bad in something so I can’t make up my mind, and in deciding that there’s good and bad in something, so we’re going to have to learn to deal with it, in my view.

      My thought about Lakeland is like the latter. There are things I find quite disturbing, but nonetheless also positive things. In practical terms hostility is counterproductive, and I think there’s enough good that the best response is to simply offer balance and discernment where needed.

      I had a phone conversation with a pastor near the church just a couple of days ago, and that’s precisely the situation he faces. People come back charged up from revival meetings, and how do you respond? How do you deal with local church members who are hostile? My view is that one supports any new energy in the congregation, and then works to provide balance and wisdom. That’s not so easy, especially with church members who want you to make the “revived” member shut up and go away.

      The Lakeland issue is the precise example, and that’s where I’ve taken a stand that it’s non-binary. But now there is a binary issue that results–is my stand right or wrong? I’d say that answer has to be yes or no!

  3. Henry,

    I appreciate your position. I actually have refrained from reading about the Lakeland issue because I expected it would polarize and cause people to want to label as either pro/con what was going on. As you point out, there can often be both and there isn’t necessarily a simple yes I’m for it or I’m against it.

    Your experience with local churches reaction to Lakeland reminds me sometimes of what happens with the Walk to Emmaus in the churches I have been in. People come back really charged up and there are those who become set against it for that reason or other reasons. (I’m not drawing a parallel between what Bentley does and Emmaus here be any stretch). But people tend to want to polarize about things and explain it in simple terms. I think as you said “passionate moderation” can ultimately lead to better understandings and less suspicion. I know not everybody wants to go on a Walk to Emmaus and that’s fine, but if both sides can understand that it’s not so “binary” then the hostility can usually be dismissed and we can exist together.

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