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John Shore Christian Blog and Commentary

If You’re a Zealot, Raise Your Hand. Now Put It Down--But Quick

  • John Shore
    Besides here on Crosswalk, John blogs on JohnShore.com.
  • 2007 May 24
  • Comments
This is just a quick question--probably more a foray into semantics than anything else. But, lying in my bathtub just now (I’m writing this in my bathtub right now, with my laptop balanced on our little bathroom garbage can--hey! I get the job done!), I had a thought.

Below are some words that describe believers in Christ. Go down the list, and see where those words stop describing you. 

Supporter

Believer

Committed

Devoted

Passionate

Zealous

Zealot

Fanatic

Now then. I’m guessing that you stopped at “zealot.” That’s certainly where I did. I am a zealous believer in Christ; so I’ve got no problem with that word. But I recoil at the idea that I’m a zealot--and would be freaked by anyone calling me a fanatic. So I stopped at "zealous."

Between zealous and zealot, I have a problem.

So here’s what I’m thinking: What distinguishes a zealot and/or a fanatic from the sort of person I daresay most of us would like to be thought of is passionate, furious intolerance: a really profound, inflamed, crazy-making desire on the part of the fanatic to turn people who don’t think or believe what he does into people who do.

Right? That’s a fanatic (or, in the classic sense of the word, a zealot): Someone who is convinced that what he believes is the only true belief--and that anyone who doesn’t believe what he believes is grievously, tragically deluded, and would be much better off if they believed as he did. As such, then, a fanatic believes that it's his moral duty to do virtually everything in his power to persuade people to believe as he does.

So. There it is.

I am a fanatic.

I knew there was a reason I would use my laptop in the bathtub!

No--but it is shocking to realize that I am, by definition, a zealot, a fanatic. But I am. I do believe, with all of my heart, that everyone in the world would be infinitely better off if they held the exact same religious beliefs that I hold.

I’m telling you: It sure seems to me that tolerance is the only thing that’s going to save us all--Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Christians, atheists, everyone. Unless I’m missing something, sheer and true tolerance is the only thing that finally separates a loving, thoughtful person from exactly the sort of person that … well, that it’s distressingly easy to accuse other people of being.

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