If chastity is out of fashion, so is its cousin, temperance. If you’re like me, the word temperance conjures visions of the temperance movement in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Though the movement was well intentioned, who can forget hatchet-wielding Carrie Nation, who was repeatedly arrested and fined for her habit of marching into saloons and smashing them up? The resourceful Carrie financed her activities by giving lectures to the public at which she sold souvenir hatchets for twenty-five cents apiece. Believing she was on a holy crusade, she described herself as “a bulldog running along at the feet of Jesus, barking at what He doesn’t like.”1
Of course, not everyone appreciated her nonstop barking, as evidenced by the popular barroom slogan: “All Nations Welcome but Carrie.”
Doesn’t sound very peaceful, does it? Of course, that’s not what I mean by temperance. Like chastity, temperance is often mistakenly linked with prudishness and narrow-mindedness. But in reality, temperance is a mark of strength. While chastity involves the ability to control one’s sexual appetite, temperance involves the ability to control one’s appetite for food and drink. Just as lust is the opposite of chastity, gluttony and drunkenness are the opposites of temperance. Who but a strong person is able to control his or her appetite?
Recently I had dinner with family friends. One of the children ordered a meal large enough to feed four big-time wrestlers for four days straight (slight exaggeration). These supersized portions have become the norm at restaurants across the country. What are we to do? Stop going out to eat? Go on yet another diet? Have weight-loss surgery? One thing we can do is to ask God to help us grow in the old-fashioned virtue of temperance, which will produce in us not only greater health but more peace, because we will no longer be slaves to our appetites. More
- Keven McQueen, “Carrie Nation: Militant Prohibitionist” in Offbeat Kentuckians: Legends to Lunatics (Kuttawa, KY: McClanahan Publishing House, 2001).