Monday, October 24, 2011

"Moderate Islamist Party Set to win ..."

This post is not about Islam.  It is about using the adjective "moderate" to characterize a religious group.

"To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:  ...  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm - neither hot nor cold - I am about to spit you out of my mouth." - Revelation 3:14-21

What I am wondering is if any religion honors those who are "moderate" more than those who are zealous.  Certainly Christianity doesn't, although mainline churches have done a great job of emptying their pews by encouraging their flock to be "moderate".  That is, the preachers teach their listeners to be slackers in the faith.

The counter argument is that the "moderate" here is really a virtue taken from the philosophical notion of "all things in moderation".  This can be dispensed with quite quickly, however, because those who support the notion that religion should be done in moderation never call for abortion to be done in moderation.  There is no call for the depravo-religions to tone down their lawsuits nor for moderation from the PETA folk nor the one-worldwide-totalitarian-government-to-stop-global-warming crowd.  To give examples from the opposite extreme, no one praises a group for being "moderate fascists" or "moderate racists".  Anyway, philosophy is not unanimous in its claim that moderation is a virtue:

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom." - Ecclesiastes 9:10

Xenophon praised Socrates as being one who cheerfully endured the greatest hardships of any Greek soldier.  The extreme or the extreme.  Would Aristotle's name have been remembered if he had pursued learning in moderation? Which of us chooses to read a philosopher on the basis of the philosopher having a reputation for being mediocre?  Um ...

My general view is that to call someone a moderate Papist or a moderate Buddhist or a moderate follower of religion Y is to insult him.  We are referring to him as a slacker who wants to have some affiliation with the religion, but really doesn't care.  Islam is likewise a religion that has no praise for moderation, except as a tactic for furthering its ends.  Thus, regarding the western journalists that use this description, the only decent response is ... ptttuuuiii.


Delirious said...

Well said!
I think you could also have written a similar post about the word "extremist". The media uses that word to describe anyone they feel is "over zealous" in their religion. The would probably classify me as an extremist because I don't drink coffee, tea, or alcohol. But if a person is really following God's laws, and not going "beyond the mark", can they really be too extreme? Similar thought....but just a matter of semantics.

Looney said...

Thanks. The insult of "extremist" has been going around since at least the 60's during the presidential campaign. Wondering who started that ...

I don't generally think of following basic rules as a mark of extremism. A Jew is not zealous if he merely eats kosher foods, nor is a Muslim zealous for going on the Haj. For a Christian, what should mark the zealous is going out of the way to do good things and caring for others, while proclaiming Christ as Lord and savior.

Delirious said...

Excellent point. If I'm going to err on the side of extremism, I would like it to be said that I was extreme in being Christlike. :)

Looney said...

That is a good way to put it!