Fanatical Christians can be trying. They speak in cliches, are outspoken on political issues and other religions, and judge people for, well, not being like them. The interesting thing is that these Christians, often assumed to be the leading and thus the mature voices of Christianity, are really only half Christians.
They’re half in the sense that they don’t practice the deep faith that their teacher Jesus taught and modeled. Instead they adopt a more surface and legalistic approach. If they’ve ticked all the boxes (believe this, do that, vote correctly), then they’re good, in their eyes. They believe they’re in God’s good graces. It doesn’t work this way. It never has. Surprisingly, they actually need more of their religion.
Tim Keller writes this in his book, The Reason For God:
The people who are fanatics, then, are so not because they are too committed to the gospel but because they’re not committed to it enough…. They are fanatically zealous and courageous, but they are not fanatically humble, sensitive, loving, empathetic, forgiving, or understanding – as Christ was…. What strikes us as overly fanatical is actually a failure to be fully committed to Christ and his gospel.
Before we look down our noses upon these well-meaning folks, Keller reminds us that Christianity has all the self-correcting measures in place for these people (and those who would condemn them). He points out how Jesus himself strikes blow after blow upon the fanatically “religious,” calling out their hypocrisy, bigotry, greed, and wickedness. In other words, within the teachings of Christianity there is everything needed to combat this behavior. Believers simply need to keep going – keep digging.
It’s easy to judge. It’s easy to point out the inconsistencies of fanatical Christians in light of the message of Jesus. I’m often extremely harsh on them, and have little patience or compassion, often getting self righteous. I’m guilty of swinging swords rather than practicing the compassion, love, patience, and kindness that I argue the fanatics lack.
The reality of our hearts is disheartening. We assume that we know more, know better, understand more clearly. We rarely do. God does though and will guide our hearts accordingly.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson