Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Place for Christian Moderates, a Rejoinder to Matthew Paul Turner

I read Matthew's piece several times. You should give it a good read, as there is much value in Matthew's writings, here and elsewhere. However, I want to push back a little bit.

I won't be saying a whole lot on areas of agreement, because where I don't push back, I agree with Matthew entirely. And there is plenty to agree with. I also apologize if there is overlap between myself and other commentators, I didn't read through their thoughts. ;)


I do claim to be a political moderate. I think the label I've used is "Liberal Republican." As with many people, I'm liberal on many things (immigration, welfare) and conservative on many things (taxes, abortion). I am slow to take sides unless I think I'm fully informed, and I get very discomforted when I see instances of group think. I've been accused of resorting to a "middle of the road" fallacy, and that may be true.

The truth isn't always found in the middle, but starting in the middle and keeping a sure footing has often given me much room to wiggle in the realm of contentious issues.

So, just something to provide a bit of where I am coming from.


However, I do think Matthew has too narrow a view of moderates. The negative side of moderates can very well includes those who simply avoid extremes or are spineless. The positive side, which I think far outweighs the negative, is that moderates can have a tempering effect on extremism.

Let me explain. In a room where a fundamentalist christian and a stuffy atheist are duking it out, having someone where to pump the breaks and affirm areas of agreement will more than like save the lives of the atheist or theist. Also, having the moderate around to remove sharp objects is a plus, as they are unusually sensitive to their surroundings.

But one a more serious note, when I've debated religious/political liberals, I've been very quick to point out what I think. I think most moderates that I know (save for that one I won't talk about) are very quick to state their views, and with passion.

But, the tempering effect is needed, especially in polarizing times.


I do think Matthew has put some form of the cart before the horse. Certainly, "moderate" can be used as a "get out of awkward conversation" card. I did that once, and it worked like a charm. And I agree with Matthew that if you don't have convictions about the issue then "stay out of political debates."

That is an entirely fair statement. 

But I do think Matthew stretches himself a little thin on this. The personal element is missing. Simply put, people like me are very slow to dive into a bloodied arena where opinions are being used like machetes to hack apart such things as universal healthcare. It is not that we do not have opinions, but that depending on the company, we are very slow to give them.

An example may help frame this:

I have had several people (some friends, some strangers) bring up the topic of hell to me. Depending on who they are, I had various answers, all version of what I currently believe (and if you want to know, buy a ticket). It purely depends on who I am talking to. If one is antagonistic, I am very slow to respond. If one shows signs of interest, I'm more open to giving my thoughts.

It is a defense mechanism.

Sociology and psychology are necessary, and cannot be stressed enough. Some people, depending on their personality types, are slow to respond, or may lack certain nuances to their arguments. Thus, coming across as firing blanks is something that doesn't result from a lack of conviction, but of a thwarted attempting at explaining them. Its like a kid who stutters when asked for her thoughts.

All of this said, some moderates do need to get thick skin. Never be afraid to explain what truth is. But always be ready to give an answer for your opinion. But liberals and conservatives need to realize that there is a place at the table for those that are slow to respond.


Politics is a nasty game. It ruins friendships, compromises marriages and makes for awesome satire. A modest proposal, if you may. Do not be afraid of being a Democrat or a Republican. Do not ruin a conversation by being lukewarm. Stay out fo it.

But, liberals and conservatives need to keep in mind that discussion involving controversial issues that effect our lives need to be slow to anger and realize that not every is as passionate as they are. Moderation is key. But always be prepared to stop, drop and roll when a conversation gets heated.

But if you don't feel a part of either party, there is always the House Party.


1 comment:

  1. FWIW, I was going to write a rant on my blog about why I started the #JesusIsMyCandidate silliness (that you dissed ;-P) and it's largely because I'm completely confused and conflicted about my options politically. Jesus is my candidate because we've got such a freaking mess that what I do on November 6th is a ludicrous comedy. I'm probably going to vote for the guy who seems "earnest" over the guy who
    has been more openly brash in his cynicism, but it has nothing to do with actual policy. It's purely emotional. I just don't want Obama to lose because of a successfully executed 4 year strategy of sabotage. And the thing is I realize that might not even be what really happened -- it could be the spin I've chosen to believe.

    I'm a moderate ex-Southern Baptist who basically voted "against fundamentalism" for the first 16 years I voted, but now I'm cynical about the kinds of games the progressives play, e.g. demonizing FCA as an anti-gay organization in order to get Chick-Fil-A's annual "hate" donation count up into the millions. I can't be pro-choice after seeing teenage girls in my high school class use abortion as birth control. Though my wife and I use birth control, there's a part of me that cringes at the thought of conceptualizing it as "preventative care." And I wonder if it's okay to want there to be consequences for sexual promiscuity that naturally set boundaries around it.

    I could rant and rave a lot longer. Anyway, Jesus may be a bandwagon and it's a little Pollyanna of me to think that conservative and liberal Christians could be influenced by seeing what each other had to say about Jesus. But I'm gonna keep on being ridiculous from 9-10 pm EST every night until November 6th. It's good therapy.