Tuesday, March 19, 2013


You Can Be A Fan Without Being A Fanatic

Mike Spencer in an iMonk classic posts wondered about fanaticism:
It occurred to me this week, while observing a group of religious fanatics putting on a public demonstration of embarrassing, excessive religious behavior, that I would be considered way out of line if I told the fanatics to cut it out and calm down. Such is the equation of fanaticism with the genuine work of God, that I would be proving to my peers that I was totally insensitive to the Holy Spirit if I questioned the behavior of fanatics in any way.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines a fanatic as a person motivated by an extreme, unreasoning, enthusiasm for a cause. The original latin root had religious connotations referring to orgiastic temple rites and ceremonies. Today, the word “fanatic” is used generously in everything from sports to hobbies to religion. Americans are, generally, quite tolerant of fanatics, whether they be grown men dressed as Jedi Knights or football fans colored and tatooed like some kind of visitor from the islands of New Guinea. Unvarnished, undiluted enthusiasm is considered a good thing, even if it borders on the excessive.


On the other hand- and of more interest to me in this article- is the inability of the Christian community to come to terms with fanaticism in its own ranks, and to agree that it is 1) probably not the work of the Holy Spirit and 2) ought to be discouraged- firmly and frequently.

Mike goes on to explore the history of the pentecostal movement and the cases where Americans have tolerated such fanaticism. I think the answer Mike seeks lies in the definition of fanaticism, "motivated by an extreme, unreasoning, enthusiasm." {emphasis added]

We are prone to fanaticism because we are absent reason. Evangelicalism has largely abandoned its intellectual roots. Fanaticism is going to flow into the void.

Christianity in America has largely come to be about "feeling good" about one's self, about God, and about the culture. If feelings are the thing, then people are going to explore their feelings to the ultimate degree, hence fanaticism. Tat is s not to say that feeling are bad, but there is a balance.
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