Moderation in All Things

I side 93% with Barack Obama

I have seen this quiz pop up all over my facebook wall recently. It’s pretty straight forward, you answer a series of questions about your opinions on “political” issues and it comes back with what politician you agree with most. I decided to take this quiz a couple days ago when writing another word of my thesis about domestic violence seemed completely overwhelming. I was not incredibly surprised by the results–as you can see in the image I side with Barack Obama about 93% of the time. I am a liberal through and through (in fact, the times I did not agree with Obama it was because my answers were more progressive than his).

I am proud to be a liberal. I love having that “D” on my voter id card. I feel no compunction about being a progressive in a mostly conservative church–I am who I am and I won’t apologize for it. That being said, I work hard to be a moderate person.

I generally believe that not much is gained from espousing hyper-partisan positions–in my experience when I am particularly strident I end up alienating those with differing opinions and erasing any common ground between us. I would much rather try to connect with another person on a human level than push my own political agenda.

This can be easily applied to our interactions in the church as well. Those of us who identify as progressive or feminist Mormons are definitely in the minority and it is natural–if not actually true–to feel as if our voices are being trampled. But we gain nothing if, in pain, we exhibit the same behavior as the loudest and most extreme voices of our conservative sisters and brothers.

I am fortunate to know and have spent time with the famous Mormon writer, Phyllis Barber. One of the most important things I have learned from her is to be compassionate of all people no matter what their viewpoint. As Phyllis often says, each of us clings to a story to help us get through mortal existence. My story is that patriarchy is the result of a fallen world and not the directive of God. I just could not continue to participate in this or any religion if I truly believed gender inequality was God-sanctioned. Somebody else might have the exact opposite story. This doesn’t mean that their story is true and I will always vigorously disagree with them. But in understanding their human need to believe something that helps make sense of the world I am also honoring their humanity.

We are in a time where being moderate has gone out of fashion and I believe this is to our detriment. It is easy to speak loudly and then plug your ears and refuse to listen to anybody else. What takes true grace is to hold strong opinions and allow others to do the same.

What are your experiences with being moderate? Does it work for you? How do you approach people with differing opinions?


  1. I’m trying to be a moderate and I am not registered with either party. My experience is that it is confusing. I don’t know who I should vote for this fall, because I see so many things I agree with and disagree with in both parties.

    Thank you for the quiz! My results were:
    85% Ron Paul
    62% Romney
    54% Obama

    I was also:
    84% Libertarian
    37% Republican
    54% Democratic

    That discontinuity between the Romney and Republican scores seems interesting.

    • Thanks for sharing, Katie! If I had gotten your results I think I would be confused on who to vote for too. 😉 It seems that you are one of the much sought after “independents” so I guess you can look forward to four months of being a target audience. Good luck finding a way to navigate being moderate, I know it can be difficult.

  2. To answer your question” what are your experiences being moderate?”

    I’ve always been the moderate, And I mean ALWAYS. Ever since I was young, I was the one who went between people in my family to get them to talk.

    I find it to be odd, because even now with church, the more traditional members don’t like me, and the more progressive members say, well you know how they feel about moderates.

    I’m currently at the point that I just don’t like being around anyone, I’m just tired of ALL of it. Just nonsense.

    BTW, took the test and I came out a supporter of Jill Stein, now, I keep up with the news, but who the heck is Jill stein, I’ve never herd of her.

    • I also got Jill Stein as a result and have no idea who she is. Maybe I should google her? I think you make a good point, Diane, that both conservatives and progressives are guilty of being un-moderate. I think this is unfortunate because it alienates people and also makes it harder to get things accomplished–just look at Congress. I am hoping that the current place we’re in is temporary and sooner or later we’ll realize that we need each other, regardless of differing opinions.

  3. Just a quick comment and perhaps a thought that I rarely experience when discussing issues with LDS feminists.

    I do not believe that Gender inequality and patriarchy are analogous.

    I do not believe that patriarchy is the result of a fallen world. I believe that it has been instituted by God for a specific purpose that we do not yet fully grasp.

    I believe that the Lord has been somewhat discriminatory in the past, and he may well continue to do so into the future. Descendants of Abraham were the chosen people at one point, then just the Jews as apposed to the Gentiles. Now the Gentiles have prominence. There has always been and element of “The first shall be last, and the last shall be first” in the way the Lord does things. I do not see any reason why this will not apply to Gender as well.

    I do not believe that this life is fair at all. Women today think – and are correct in many ways – that they are getting the short end of the stick. In all of history, a much larger majority of the population have been getting a much shorter end of their particular stick.

    I do however think that in eternity, the Lord is fair. I believe that once we are all dead, we will see vast changes in how things are ordered and who is responsible for what. Those who cannot adapt to accept this kind of change will be left behind.

    • This is your story, Davis, not mine. I’m glad you found a belief that brings you peace and helps you get through life. My belief that patriarchy is not God-given is what brings me peace and helps me get through life. It is not wrong for me and I am not likely to change my story. Your story is what works for you and my story is what works for me. Each is valid.

      Do you have any thoughts on being moderate?

    • I don’t believe that God commands us to live principles that are beyond our ability to reason through the right or wrongness of. If so there would be no way for us to hold a commandment up to the internal moral compass that we’re all instilled with to tell if the command is really from God or not, and there would be no way to know who we are really serving.

  4. I’ve become more liberal in recent years. I’ve always considered myself liberal on a political scale, but when I was an active member of the church I found myself trying to agree with the church on social issues while trying to stay true to my liberal feelings. I was in a strange place of not being conservative enough for most Mormons and not being liberal enough for most liberals. It was hard to defend my opinions, especially on social issues like abortion and gay marriage, because I only had them because the church said I should. I don’t envy those who find themselves in a moderate position; it can be hard to find common ground with people who are passionate on the extremes of the political scale.

    Thanks for the quiz! I had fun with it! I wasn’t surprised by my results, except that I’m more libertarian then Republican. Both were pretty low, but I found that amusing.

    • It is interesting to hear some express that a moderate approach ends up alienating some people from their more dogmatic colleagues. This is what makes me worried about our society: Moderates are shunned and disenfranchised because they are esteemed as unaligned with a “side.”

      Moderates were once the people that allowed business to get done by building bridges and making compromises to accommodate actual majorities. Today they are scorned.

  5. Just in case anyone else was curious, Jill Stein, describes herself as a wife, mother, physician, and a Green Party candidate who ran against Romney in Mass and finished third.

  6. I also feel like moderation has gone out of style and that is frustrating. Extremism on either end of the political spectrum can’t possibly lead to a positive outcome. What a great reminder this post was to remember moderation in my church interactions as well as my political.

  7. I like the idea of moderate as a means of describing temperament rather than as ideologically centrist (whatever that means). For example, I peg both Obama and Romney as fairly moderate because, campaign-season nastiness notwithstanding, they seem like measured, even-keeled guys who value consensus-building and agreement within their respective ideological confines. Contrast that with Michelle Bachman or (lately) Harry Reid — whether they’re more or less conservative or liberal is beside the point; their approach to politics is decidedly more polemic. It’s why as a liberal guy I prefer Gary Johnson to Ron Paul: I agree and disagree with both about equally in policy matters, but I perceive Paul to be far less moderate (and especially some of his supporters, who seem to revel in immoderation). Having said that, I’m sure that having a number of immoderate firebrands is good for democracy; I’d just prefer they stay in the minority (especially the ones I disagree with, naturally 🙂 ).

    • Thank you, Casey. I think you perfectly articulated what I was trying to get across in my post–you can have strong opinions one way or another but still work to build the community with those you disagree with.

  8. Amen forever! I love this post. These issues have been on my mind lately. Growing up, I think I can call my general views of things moderate, IF ONLY because I could see truths and validity in many different viewpoints, I wasn’t personally confrontational, and it seemed important to me to validate others’ opinions. I was such a caretaker of people’s feelings. I wonder if any other Mormon women have ever had that problem….

    Anyway, inside I was extremely insecure about my own opinions and rarely expressed them. If I ever did express them I was shaking on the inside with fear. I’ve finally come to the conclusion, after entering my fourth decade of life on this earth, that loud, dogmatic opinion-expressing is a real red flag of ignorance and utter lack of nuance. In fact, I’ve spent so much of my life doubting myself because I didn’t neatly fall to one extreme or the other, that now that I’m secure in my moderate-ness, I get very angry and frustrated with the extremist pablum coming from the far ends of the spectrum.

    Insomuch that I’ve come to think of myself as an extreme moderate. 🙂

    • Ha! The idea of an extreme moderate made me smile. I’m so glad you shared your experience because I think it shows how varied we are as humans. Your experience being an extreme moderate is just a valid as mine being a confirmed liberal and both our voices are needed to build a strong community. Thanks for the comment!

  9. I like Sherah’s label of “extreme moderate” as it is what I’ve taken to calling myself as well. On most political issues, I really can see both sides, and I get so frustrated with the polarization and lack of compromise. I am especially frustrated by partisan politics where one side takes a firm stand with its apparent sole objective being opposition to the other side.

    There are some issues about which I have stronger opinions. In general, I am liberal on environmental and social spending issues, but conservative on the social values type questions. Things like the gun control are pretty gray for me.

    I would like to be able to engage in intelligent and reciprocal political conversation, especially about the issues where I fall in the middle, but I am so put-off by most people’s rhetoric. Something like “You want roadless areas? You’re one of THOSE … hippie, commie, etc”. Also, I really wish that more LDS folks would open their minds to the possibility that the conservative commentators and the Republican party do not necessarily represent all of their values. So many people adopt extreme rhetoric and vote straight ticket every time.

    • I’m glad you picked up on the lack of compromise because I see this as the major problem with our current state of a lack of moderation. I just don’t see how holding onto our individual agendas at the expense of others is doing our community any good.

  10. Wow, it is not often that I find myself in the position of disagreeing with the argument presented in this post and the subsequent comments – since I love all the authors here and very much enjoy the viewpoints presented – but that pretty much sums up my take on it. To me, this post is a complete self-contradiction (no offense!), and I find it a bit curious that nobody seems to be aware of it.

    At first, Mraynes, you said you “work hard to be a ‘moderate’ person” and that you believe “not much is gained from espousing hyper-partisan positions,” yet two paragraphs later, you lay down a hyper-partisan, non-moderate position about gender inequality and the very character of God – that “patriarchy” to any degree is in your mind so unjust, so inherently wrong, that you would reject any religion that dared to promote gender inequality as the directive of God. You absolutely, positively, cannot accept that the true and living God would ever sanction the lord-vassal system for marital relationships, and if a God ever did, that God would become the arch enemy of women everywhere.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I disagree with that position (which of course I took the liberty to embellish 😉 ). I’m saying that just by being a Mormon feminist and taking this hard-line position on gender inequality, you’re throwing the whole “moderate” thing right out the window. You know the truth. You will not yield. You are the exact opposite of “moderate.”

    And this is where I get to address your questions at the end of the post. My experience with being “moderate” is that it is a position for the ignorant, the unknowing, the people who do not know the truth. You SHOULD be a moderate when you don’t know the truth; you should be looking for it and opening your mind to everything in order to find it. But once you’ve found it, there’s no going back. You become like truth itself: absolute, unequivocal, and intolerant of any falsehood to the least degree. And that, right there, is the very definition of God.

    To answer the remaining questions, yes, being moderate in my positions works for me when I am ignorant of a subject and need to find the truth. There is no place I will not go, there is no point of view I will not consider to find that knowledge. But once I have the truth, I am no longer a moderate – I become what you would call “hyper-partisan,” as if that were a “bad” thing. Finally, I approach people with differing opinions receptively when I am seeking for knowledge. When I have the knowledge, I can point out the flaws in their arguments based on the truth I have obtained. And I hope that others would do the same for me.

    • Thanks for the comment, Darlene. I think you might be misunderstanding my post though. When I advocate for moderation I’m not saying one shouldn’t be partisan, rather that it is possible to have strong opinions and still be compassionate with others. I address this in two personal examples: 1) that I am strongly liberal 2) I don’t believe patriarchy is God-given. So you’re right that I am not a moderate in my personal opinions but I also believe I can hold these partisan positions and also realize that other people will have a different truth. This is what I was saying to Davis above, her story that patriarchy has a purpose does not work for me but I respect her right and need to believe this. For me, moderation is an issue of community, not personal conviction.

  11. I love this because my story is that God is found in the many and not in the one. When we turn our back on one of our brothers or sisters because their experience is different, or they see the world differently, we turn our back on God. I take “if ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me” very literally.

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