Temperance is a Double-Edged Sword
-Rev Melissa Fain-
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"Donner, party of 50!"
It is wrong that the one line from Patch Adams is the above quote? Yeah, a little bit. I used it for a purpose. The Donner Party, and the horror that happened trapped in extremes of the American wilderness, is a breaking of natural restraint in a way we can't easily wrap our head around. Cannibalism was a step too far, but, at the exact same time, a necessary step if anyone from the family was going to live.
Temperance is self-restraint. The opposite of temperance is gluttony. Therefore, gluttony is the lack of self-restraint.
We act from a lack of self-restraint when we want to just devour what is around us. Perhaps it's video games, books, or even exploration. John Muir had a gluttonous desire to explore and learn. It is because of him we have the National Parks in the United States.
We also act from a lack of self-restraint when our restraint reaches the breaking point. For the Donner Party it was survival. These are moments of reaction, not thoughtful action. If you're literally starving to death, you have to eat. If someone keeps pushing you, and pushing you, and pushing you... we'll eventually you push back.
Finally, we act from a lack of self-restraint when nothing appears wrong, but the restrains put upon us must be broken. During the Suffrage Movement, restraint (or telling women they shouldn't have the right to vote) was a form of a gilded cage. Some women
Temperance When Tied to Deadly Gluttony
Our biggest problem with gluttony is that every depiction is always related to the excess of food. Not all overweight people are gluttons. Weight gain happens for a plethora of reasons: glands, genetics, and food deserts to name some. This is why I don't want to talk about deadly gluttony like it's an eating problem, because it's not. Deadly gluttony is when we are able to show self-restraint, and should show self-restraint, but don't.
Real deadly gluttony is difficult to see, because we do it without even realizing we are doing it. Real deadly gluttony keeps something necessary out of someone else's hands and keeps it in our own. We often don't even feel we are doing it, because we can never feel the lack or loss from someone else. We only know what we have, not what others don't.
When I took on the male pastoral username for six months I felt the abundance of trust given to masculine clergy without fact checking or authentication. I understood in those six months why my male colleagues couldn't understand my side of the situation as a female clergy. In their excess, they couldn't feel my struggle. I felt the excess for six months, and it was intoxicating.
Not all of us are female, so here's one every American living into. China. Guess what America? We're living into a modern form of slavery. We purchase goods for next to nothing, so we can maintain our lifestyle. While workers in China get paid unfair wages to make our little must have items. We can talk all day long about raising the minimum wage, but that's not going to impact those who actually make the goods we purchase. I think about it constantly, as it's impossible to not feed the gluttonous beast. Everything comes from China now.
How do we live into that kind of temperance, tied to that kind of deadly gluttony?
It starts with something incredibly simple: Put down our self-centered gaze, and try on an other-centered view. We have to see the problem first, before we can fix it.
"Knowing your place," is weaponized temperance at it's worst. We, as a society, love to label things. Whether we mean to or not, our actions hold incredible weight to raise someone up or keep them down. This can happen in a few ways.
We will unknowingly give unearned passes to those who remind us of previous mentors or beloved family members. Raising someone up without reason can actually make it more difficult later, when they react in their own way, not the way of the person we've remembered from our past. It can lead to hurt feelings, as we can't justify why giving preference to an individual happened to begin with.
Then we do the opposite to those who remind us of people who have personally slighted or hurt us. To keep someone down because they happen to remind you of a negative person from your past, is a tempered cage. It's not fair to judge someone harshly on something they have never done.
The gilded cage, however, is incredibly dangerous and alluring for those who want people in them. Both the above examples are tempered cages. A gilded cage is when you mentally trap someone is a station, or tempered cage, and imagine the beauty of the cage you've placed them in.
When women were fighting for equal rights starting in the 60's, often it would be paired with their gilded cage. Why should they want equal rights? Men don't have it that great! They don't get to lounge around the house all day and chat with their friends!
Instead of seeing the incredible amount of work tied to keeping a house, and the muzzle attached to it, the ideal of a stay at home mom was glorified and gilded. It's difficult to discuss a problem, when they problem is being framed like it's somehow better than the solution.
Temperance as an action of faith.
Godly temperance might not always look tempered when it is. I immediately think of Jesus and almost any time he interacted with the Priests. To Jesus he was doing what was right, and was not acting outside that purpose. Self-restraint was giving glory to God, not humanity. To the Priests, they believed self-restraint was in not doing those things on the Sabbath, and keeping spiritually and physically clean.
We cannot act in true temperance unless we have our faith in order. Simply put: we must first know what we are restraining before we can restrain it. When we find Godly faith, our tempered actions might not look tempered to those around us. That's the truth of faith. We walk paths that sometimes sends us through the refining fire, and people fear stepping into God's flame. Yet, that's necessary to have tempered faith.