Thursday, May 27, 2004

One great piece of mischief has been done by the modern restriction of the word Temperance to the question of drink. It helps people to forget that you can be just as intemperate about lots of other things. A man who makes golf or his motor-bike or bridge or a dog the centre of his life is being just as 'intemperate' as someone who gets drunk every evening.
-- C.S. Lewis writing about the Cardinal Virtues
-- Prudence, Temperance, Justice and Fortitude

Growing up in the midwest, in the country, a mile from the nearest neighbors, temperance was a constant teaching of our parents. Temperence, moderation in all things. But one thing my parents taught that Lewis leaves out is temperance in your church life. My parents were members of church committees now and then, and we were always in church on Sunday, but I remember well my father saying, "The church is always in need and it will eat your life alive if you let it." We seldom, if ever went in for church activities during the week as a family.

I saw a man at my old Methodist church with a wife and a child quit his job and lose his house, he moved in with his in-laws, that he might deliver more meals to the needy. I saw him run a youth program, without pay, all his energy focused on bringing the unchurched to God, while his own son acted out, spitting on other kids, crying hysterically, in care of others. I saw him endlessly filming and editing the church services, without pay, to send out to nursing homes and to those away on vacation, while his family, at home, was falling apart. I saw my father's warning played out in real life and I think about it now, when my new parish has another need of someone, for something. I'm willing to help, but...

Temperance in all things, my father taught me, and family comes first.

Oh, I know all about Jesus telling people to leave their family, consider them dead, and follow me! But were those families left behind Christian families? Jesus was talking about turning people to God, not about breaking Christian families apart. I'll happily call Bingo if my family is marking their cards. I'll happily run the ring toss at the Fall Festival with my sons. I'll even take my turn on a committee, but I won't intemperately find myself at church every other evening while my children play catch against the bricks.

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