“To many, total abstinence is easier than perfect moderation.” – Saint Augustine
“I’m one extreme or the other. I’m not good at doing moderation,” said actress Margot Robbie who plays the protagonist in the new movie “Barbie.” Perhaps that’s why she was chosen to play the role of the doll that is a symbol of Americana. Barbie is a study of extremes: the anatomical incorrectness of her body, her perfectly pointed and arched feet, her world displayed in shades of pink, and her always sunny facial disposition, were unattainable for the girls who played with her. Barbara Millicent Roberts (Barbie’s real name) was a “perfect” young girl with a perfect life, and a perfect boyfriend named “Ken” (Kenneth Sean Carson).
With Barbie, toy manufacturer Mattel and businesswoman Ruth Handler changed the game in doll making and accessorizing. Previously, girls had simple paper dolls, dressing them with paper clothes and accessories. Barbie’s clothing, shoes, purses, dream houses, and cars, were real and all about excess—channeling the fashion and styles of the times. And…Barbie could do ANYTHING! She appeared as an astronaut, surgeon, Olympic athlete, downhill skier, aerobics instructor, TV news reporter, veterinarian, rock star, doctor, army officer, pilot, diplomat, rap musician, presidential candidate (party undefined), baseball player, scuba diver, lifeguard, fire-fighter, engineer, dentist, and more…that’s why the US loves her. She is emblematic of what we’re all about—which is NOT MODERATION – the avoidance of excess or extremes, especially in one’s behavior or political opinions; or the action of making something less extreme, intense, or violent.
We love extremes so much that filmmakers are now suggesting moviegoers combine seeing “Barbie” with the film “Oppenheimer,” which chronicles the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a theoretical physicist who was pivotal in developing the first nuclear weapons. They’re calling the experience of watching these movies back to back the “Barbenheimer.” In the US, from politics to science, religion, sports, and now entertainment…we shy away from moderation and live in polarized extremes. To POLARIZE means to divide into two sharply contrasting groups or sets of opinions or beliefs. In days gone by, we understood that a majority of folks lie somewhere in the middle on most issues. Now, to be a moderate is a source of contention. In Scripture, moderation is a virtue that can bring equilibrium—balance to opposing influences.
Paul admonishes us to, “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:5, KJV) The Greek epieikés means what is seemly, fitting, equitable, fair, just, gentle, yielding, mild, forbearing, and reasonable. It is the sense of relaxing overly strict standards in order to bring true equity by keeping the “spirit of the law,” not just the “letter of the law.” In Philippians 4:1-3, there was a disagreement between two women in the church, Euodia and Syntyche. Paul advocated for their disagreement to end, and implored the church to help them reconcile. The character quality Paul wanted everyone to make use of was moderation—something he said Christ-followers are to display before all. I’m wondering if we have forgotten Paul’s admonition toward moderation, or if we’ve just set it aside when we silo into radicalized camps, hold to extremes, and point at one another from opposing sides. We know the call of the Lord Jesus Christ is to love those with whom we disagree, perceive as wrong, or even consider enemies. I guess, like Margot Robbie, we are just “not good at doing moderation.”