My first reaction to this question is, "I'm not a fanatic." In my mind, a fanatic is a person who is so extreme in their thinking, attitudes, and behavior that they are not in touch with reality. We can all think of some characters we have seen portrayed as fanatics in movies or on TV. They almost always behave in bizarre and irrational ways. Comparing myself to this, I'm not even close to being a fanatic, at least, I don't think I am.
As it turns out, my definition is not that far from the truth, in some ways, that is. Let's dig a little deeper into the word fanatic and I'll show you what I mean.
According to Dictionary.com, fanatic is defined as, "a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics." Just to be clear, let's look at a couple of the words from this definition a little closer.
Extreme is defined as, "farthest, upmost, or very far in any direction; exceeding the bounds of moderation; utmost or exceedingly great in degree." So, extreme implies something as far away from something else as it can be. But wait, the second of the three phrases in this definition says "exceeding the bounds of moderation." Exceeding the bounds of moderation doesn't seem to be that extreme to me, especially when you consider we are all different and what I consider moderate may not be moderate to my neighbor or my friend, let alone, an enemy who may not agree with me at all. So, extreme is relative-it all depends on the person and their thoughts, feelings, and attitude.
The other word that needs clarification is uncritical. Uncritical is defined, "not inclined or able to judge, especially by the application of comparative standards; undiscriminating; not applying or not guided by the standards of analysis." As an example of how uncritical might be used, Dictionary.com gives us, "their uncritical acceptance of traditional values." In other words, this person is unable to look at their attitudes and values from an objective point of view. They are not able, or not willing, to consider they may be wrong.
So, applying this understanding to the original definition you might say they believe their opinion about religion is the truth and they are unable or unwilling to consider they may be wrong.
So, why does this matter? Our society is moving farther and farther away from what the Bible teaches. This means anyone who believes the Bible is the inspired word of God and the foundation of truth we should use as the model for living a Christian life is a fanatic according to the world. In other words, if you believe you should live a life according to the teachings of the Bible you are seen as prudish and fanatical. I'm not talking about the strange or unusual beliefs of extreme cults. I'm talking about following the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus--the basic doctrines of the Christian religion.
Let's look at an example: the Bible clearly teaches sex outside of marriage is a sin. In the USA, and other countries, sex outside of marriage is common place and becoming more and more accepted all the time. It is not illegal for consensual adults to engage in sex, but, according to the Bible it is sinful. So, you have to decide what standards control your moral compass. Do you use society's standards for wrong or right, illegal or legal, or is your moral compass guided by the Holy Bible? In many cases, the Bible's standards are much stricter than society's and that brings us back around to the question at the beginning of this post. Are you a fanatic? According to the moral standards of our society, if you believe the Bible is true and sets the standards for how you should live, you are a fanatic. The closer you try to live by the teaching of the Bible the more fanatical you are. To prove this, you only have to look at the TV listings for one day to find many shows that portray situations that are sinful according to the Bible, and yet, are considered OK by society.
Jesus taught on this very idea in The Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5:27, 28, he said, "You have heard that it was said, 'do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." A few verses before this, he says, "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment." (Matthew 5:21-22a)
Jesus expects us to live according to a higher code of conduct than merely obeying the laws of the land. He wants us to not only be righteous in our actions but also in our thoughts. As Christians, we are to live according to higher standards than the secular world. Of course, we know the only way to do this is through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us. I cannot meet these standards of conduct in my own power. It is only possible through my relationship with God and that only by the blood of Jesus, shed for me.
As it turns out, I am a religious fanatic after all. My desire to live a life that honors God by living, according to the teachings of Jesus, found in the Bible, makes me a religious fanatic according to the secular world. More than that, when I speak of my belief that God communicates with me, personally, through the pages of the Bible and my sincere conviction that I am obeying God's will by writing this blog and sharing God's message to the world, as I understand it, I am being even more fanatical. In fact, as our society moves farther away from the teachings of the Bible all Christians appear more fanatical just by believing the basic teachings of Christianity.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20, Paul tells the church at Corinth, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." I have been bought by the blood of Jesus. I must honor God in every way I can. I am glad to be a fanatic if that honors God.
What about you? Are you a religious fanatic?