Balance the Extremes

First of all let me say  I am proud to be an American….sing with me, “where at least I know I’m free. And I want forget the men who died and gave that right to me; and so I’ll stand up”….never mind.

One of the hallmarks of most Americans is that we tend to go to extremes. We lack balance. When we do something we do it full speed ahead. We give 100+%. We shoot first and ask questions later. This is both are greatest strength and biggest weakness.

We learn extremism early in life. Here are some popular value statements in our culture that show our lack of balance.

“If you are not first your last.”

“He who dies with the most toys wins.”

“Fake it until you make it.”

“Go for the gusto.”

“Shoot for the stars.”

“You only live once.”

Additionally, we, as United States citizens, tend to have addictive personalities. We are addicted to…

…work

…money

…sex

…alcohol

…religion

…facebook

…being bigger and better than everyone else

…exceptionalism

…caffeine

…food

…sports

…tobacco

…blogging

…and the list goes on and on

We also lead the world in…

…obesity rates

…divorce rates

…incarceration rates

…illegal drug use

…murders

…rape

…car thefts

Our lack of balance is what I believe is causing this election season to be so out of control. There seems to be no middle ground. I hear otherwise rational people saying, or blogging, or writing on their facebook the following completely out of balance statuses:

“If Obama wins our country is doomed.”

“We can’t take 4 more years of Obama.”

“We need to get that Muslim out of the White House.”

“If you don’t understand the trouble we are in then you have your head in the sand.” (A more crude version says your head is in some other part of your body.)

“If you don’t vote for Romney it will be your fault when the U.S. falls.”

“We are electing a president not a pastor.”

Personally, I am getting so tired of people telling me that a vote for a third-party candidate is actually a vote for Obama that I am thinking about voting for Obama out of spite (sarcasm implied).

We have not had balance in a long time in our country and we are paying the price. Here are just a few examples of what I mean:

  1. The abortion debate: The abortion debate is an all or nothing argument. I am strongly pro-life, but I wonder how many unborn babies could have been saved if we had been more willing to work with pro-choice people to limit the number of abortions instead of completely outlawing all of them. Yes, I would like to see abortions made illegal, with the possible exception of a mother’s life being in danger. But I know that is not going to happen any time soon. Even if Roe vs. Wade was overturned tomorrow all it would do is send the issue back to the states and I guarantee you there would be a state somewhere that would allow abortions all the way up until the time of birth. (My state, for example, has some of the most liberal abortion laws anywhere.) This issue is not going away. We need to stand up for our principles, and we need to stand up for all of life, but if we would work more toward balance instead of extremes, maybe we would have stricter abortion laws and fewer abortions across the board.
  2. The issue of capitalism: Again, it seems we fall into extreme camps without realizing that capitalism is a man-made economic model, not a God-made one. This whole issue reminds me of a saying by a catholic bishop, I don’t remember his name, but he said something like this: “When I try to help one person I am called a saint. When I try to help a group of people I am called a communist.” When the goal of capitalism becomes to get more and more and more just for the sake of getting more and more, that is an extreme form of greed. Once again, our consumeristic society shows our lack of balance. We have bought so much stuff that we have to rent storage units for it all. Only in America.
  3. Our extreme views have also convinced us that there is nothing wrong with a person making as much money as possible as long as they work hard and are not doing anything illegal. The result of this is the other extreme view that there is nothing wrong with a person having nothing, or being homeless, because more than likely they are like that for a reason and if they would just work hard they could get themselves out of their situation. There is no balance that would cause us to look at societal systems, institutions, and structures that could be causing some to get rich and others to remain poor.
  4. Our purchasing habits: I have already mentioned consumerism, but I think it needs to be mentioned again. If you ever eat at a restaurant outside the U.S., you will be disappointed in the portions of food. We eat more than most people in most countries. “All you can eat” is an American thing. Our houses, on average, are larger than most other countries (even wealthy countries), and our vehicles are bigger and our consumer debt more per person. Our obesity problems goes beyond mere food.

What we need is balance.

Immediately I know some of you are thinking what I am calling for is compromise and there is no way we should compromise what we believe. Well, that’s another extreme statement. Balance is not the same as compromise. In a representative democracy like ours, at times, compromise is needed. But balance is always essential.

The reason we can maintain balance in all things is because of God’s sovereignty. Politics should not get us so upset because regardless of who is president, Jesus is King. Finances should not stress us out because our Father owns everything and He has promised to meet our basic needs. Maybe, just maybe, going to extremes is an admission that we think we are in control, not God.

How much better would we be if instead of going to extremes we practiced balance…and moderation?

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2 thoughts on “Balance the Extremes

  1. I agree in large part with what you’re saying Kevin. I think our desire to buy more and more is making us less and less apt to help others. The Western church is largely to blame for this also as we build bigger buildings, invest HUGE sums of money on ministries that bear little fruit for the kingdom, and then expect our people to pay their way out of debt by using ANOTHER program (not that financial peace U is bad at all) but then expect them to give that savings to us to build a bigger worship center instead of planting more churches and investing the money to help others. That would eliminate much of the government’s role in this and put the help back in the hands of the people. What I don’t like is the government taxing me to death so that others can manipulate the system for benefits. I know some co-habiting couples who live better than couples in my church because they can rig the system for benefits for their children as single parents, better housing arrangements, and assistance with medical care and groceries. That is what needs to stop. It won’t, but until the church backs off and stops building mini Utopias, nobody will see their brokenness in what you talk about.

  2. What you are really calling us to is to step away from our ethnocentrism, which is a tall bill! To be fair, I will say from living overseas, EVERY people/culture has this same difficulty! It is tremendously difficult to suspect our own assumptions, accept alternative vies and live with some things left in the tension of plurality. Separating biblical truth from some of our cultural notions and setting it free as supra-cultural should be aim.

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