It depends where you are standing: Thoughts on moderate Christianity

Can a moderate Christian 1) truly exist, and 2) speak anything truthful?

This is the question I have asked myself constantly over the past two weeks. As I mentioned in my last post The United Methodist Church, the denomination I call “home,” has been embroiled in legislative hell festivities for the past two weeks in Portland, Oregon during our international business meeting we call General Conference.

Bishops and delegates from geographical Annual Conferences all around the globe come together every four years to refine what it means to be United Methodist. There are some non-negotiables that cannot be changed, such as creedal theology and some organizational rules, but other than that, there is much up for debate. This year, it was no surprise that after years of intense debate with little fruit to show for it, delegates were once again saddled with what to do regarding marriage, ordination, and human sexuality. 

If you are interested in hearing what came of that, I will point you here.

What has transpired in the immediate fallout of all of this, at least on social media, is further polarization between the right and left, leaving those who consider themselves “moderate” stuck in the crossfire.

It has made me ponder what it means to be a “moderate Christian,” which is somewhat of a buzzword. I consider myself one in the sense that there is always someone to my right and to my left. There is always someone who feels like I am too much of a tree-hugger and always another who feels that I am a stick in the mud.

It is an uncomfortable place to be. Often, the more moderate Christian is accused of being conflict-averse, ambivalent, or maybe worse, apathetic. I can only speak personally on this matter. I do hold opinions and strong convictions when it comes to some issues, and am more open to mystery when it comes to others.

For example, I consider myself pro-life, but I struggle honestly with issues such as pregnancies that result from violent crimes, or pregnancies that risk the mother’s health, or pregnancies where the fetus is shown to be unviable or will suffer to the point of death shortly after birth. I wrestle with these things. I find myself leaning one way in the morning and the other by afternoon. Scripture speaks to me differently at different points of the day. For that reason, and for many others, I find myself walking in the middle, trying to hold both tensions as I go, or until I figure out which way to go. 

Every summer, I have a tradition of reading C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia, starting in May with The Magician’s Nephew. It might be my favorite of the series. In chapter ten, shortly after Aslan sings Narnia into existence, the narrator turns back and starts telling the story from the perspective of Uncle Andrew, which is perhaps not nearly as glorious or whimsical as the children’s perspective. 

For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.

It seems that when it comes to matters of faith, at our best, we give each other latitude to discover and experience, even if that takes longer than we wish. It also seems that we as Christians are called to a higher level of openness of experiencing God. I get chills when I read about Aslan singing and Narnia filling in around him as if it were a grandiose oil painting; however, I can also see how Uncle Andrew might have felt a bit afraid and alarmed.

Let’s let one another breathe. Let’s let one another walk with God and discern in God’s time. And, for goodness sake, let’s try to respect the ground that we stand on.