We have much discussion in our media, government agencies, churches, and elsewhere about zealots, radicals, and such. To set the stage, definitions are very helpful. What is a zealot or radical? Who are the converts? Who and what is a believer? We can often confuse one with another, or have a flawed understanding. Here, we are looking at these three groups in their most basic forms.
RADICALS OR ZEALOTS These people came from all religions and faiths. We can find radicals and zealots among us. A zealot or radical is a person who puts his understanding, often of a religious sort, as the most important thing in his life. He usually is willing to die for his cause with no concern for what damage, death, or pain is caused. He also wants desperately for all others in his world to adopt his views, or at least submit to them.
Radical Islamic zealots (Jidhadists), for instance, are much in the American consciousness. We hear they want sharia law to be the law of all lands, and rhe world to be Islamic. Suicide bombers vividly slam home their willingness to die for their cause.
Are all Muslims zealots? No more than all Christians are white supremicists, for example. We don’t want to remember the radical groups among American society., but they are here and active. Christianity and Islam are the only “militant” faiths among the world’s major religions. Onward, Christian Soldiers and The Battle Hymn of the Republic are among the best known examples of Christians proclaiming their militancy. Both Christians and Muslims want the world to be evangelized to their beliefs. This has generated clashes over the centuries, and will continue to do so. Among zealots from all persuasions we find converts and believers.
CONVERTS The convert is usually among the more active and zealous practitioners of their faith. “More Catholic than the pope” is an old saw describing a convert. Are all converts this way? Of course not. Many can not be told apart from the moderate or occasional practioners of their faith. A number are as inactive as some life long members. All a convert is, at base, is a person who has chosen a different faith or belief than he had previously. Converts span the spectrum from radical to dormant.
BELIEVERS The believer is one who has embraced the tenants and practices of his group. Thus, believers can also be found among radicals and converts. Most believers, in my experience, are not radical, anxious to change, or even very willing to go outside their immediate group or church. They are generally content with who they are. (This does not mean they are correct, loving, or accurate about their practices, though they may be. There is room for much discussion here. Such discussion mostly yields little of subtance, though we love to discuss.)
Having said all this, what use is it? Hopefully it broadens our understanding of the actions around us. It can not lessen our own watchfulness and concern for actions which can harm us or ours. It does not mean that we all will gather together and sing Kumbaya. It does not even mean that U.S. Anglicans and Episcopalians will join together in harmony and love. It can, howevcr, lessen misunderstandings and ignorance.