I am a religious extremist

by Kyle
published May 22, 2013


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I realized it the other day, and it’s about time to just admit it. I am a religious extremist, and I’d like you to join me.

In the 21st century, fundamentalism and religious extremism, I will admit, have earned a bad name. Groups like al-Qaida, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood have all, in the name of fundamentalism, wrought unspeakable violence on our world.

Some even pervert the Gospel, calling their brand of extremism “Christian.” Groups like the Westboro Baptist Church have used it as a guise for hate, while popular televangelists extort the zealous with promises that enough faith — and contributions to their ministries — will solve all their problems.

But, let’s put an objective definition on religious extremism, rather than appeal to anecdotes.

I submit that a religious extremist implements the logical outcome of sincere spiritual belief into their world view, lifestyle and decision-making process in such a way that it deviates from the prevailing culture.

This is not always a bad thing, though.

Sam Harris, a prominent atheist thinker, even admits this, citing Jainism. The hallmark of Jainism is complete passivism. Even according to Harris, refusal to engage in violent behavior because of your religious convictions is not necessarily bad. Have you ever had a conflict with or been hurt by an extreme pacifist?

Extreme, biblical Christianity, I would argue, is actually a good thing.

Christians believe that care for the poor rests squarely on their shoulders. (James 1:27)

If the poor are not cared for, it’s our fault. Since they’re not, I, as a religious extremist, have to admit that we have failed.

The Bible admonishes believers to sacrificially love their spouses, even above their own lives and happiness. (Ephesians 5:22-33)

It also commands fathers to love and raise their children. How many problems might be solved if fathers made an effort to be involved in their children’s lives? (Ephesians 6:4)

Scripture encourages sacrificial giving. We are encouraged to choose poverty for the sake of those who did not choose it. (Matthew 19:21)

After all the good we are commanded to do, we are neither to grow weary of doing it (Galatians 6:9), nor are we even to take credit for it because it is God who does it in us. (Galatians 2:20)

All of this flows logically out of the knowledge that I do not measure up to God’s standard, but that he loved me anyway and sent Christ to die in my place. I have a relationship with my Father, and my sole desire is to please him. Since he loves all people the same way he loves me, it seems like it makes sense to love them as well, as a function of serving and pleasing my Savior.

Giving up everything I am for everything he wants from me flows logically from this. In fact, if we say we “believe the Bible,” living the “extreme” life is the only logically consistent thing we can do.

Serve God. Serve the people he loves. Always, in everything, because he is “all in all.” (1 Corinthians 15:28)

When we live this out as a church consistently and to the extreme, it will be hard to call “religious extremism” a bad thing.

What do you think?

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