A major struggle we face as Christians is an unbeliever’s long list of defense they can turn to in an argument against Christianity. There is no greater choice from that list than a religious fanatic. Fanaticism is excessive or irrational zeal for any personal belief or stance. In Christianity, these individuals are extremely intolerant of anyone who goes against their religious beliefs. They speak out against various popular followings in our culture such as movies, television, etc. They also look down on anyone who does not share or practice what they believe is the proper way to live.
There is a scale that is used to measure a Christian’s morality, as seen from a non-Christian, that ranges from ‘nominal’ to ‘fanatic’. On one end you have someone who is only Christian in name and non-practicing, the other is an overly practicing Christian. It is then assumed that everyone else falls somewhere between these two. The problem here is the non-Christian’s misunderstanding of a Christian, and the failures of the ones who claim to be. By using this scale one is assuming that Christianity is a form of moral improvement, and that an individual becoming a Christian immediately becomes ‘good’. This is simply not the case. “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
The Bible gives us the best information regarding fanaticism. Jesus, and the Prophets before Him, talked a lot about the individuals who were overly religious as a warning to us. Jesus constantly criticized the Pharisees for the practices, that on the outside looked to be holy and true, were self-righteous and wicked. They used their position to oppress people and “load people down with burdens they can hardly carry” (Luke 11:46). Jesus said to them that “the tax collectors and the prostitutes [would] enter the kingdom of God before you” (Matthew 21:31). Becoming a Christian does not elevate an individual to a higher status above all others, in fact it is the opposite. It is a very humbling experience when one truly understands the Truth.
An individual who is using religious or ethical obedience as a tool to gain power over others or to ‘win’ God’s favor is not a follower of Christ. The essence of Christianity is not what we do, but what has been done through God’s grace. The God of Christianity did something incomprehensible that no other form of religion claims. In Jesus Christ he became a vulnerable human who suffered and died in our place. He endured a punishment that we deserved so that we could return to Him. To be a Christian is to accept this truth, to trust in Jesus and be like Him. A Christian should be loving, tolerant and willing servants of all people regardless of any differences, because they know that they themselves are far from perfect. “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone…” (John 8:7)