Below, listed in order of General Intensity, are some words one might use to describe a believer in Christ. Go down the list, and see where the words stop describing you.
Did you stop at “zealot”? Most would, I think. I sure did. I’m a zealous believer in Christ; but I’m no zealot for Christ. Zealots are scary.
Please. Werewolves are less scary.
Relative to religious conviction, I think it’s fair (if not outright crucial) to consider when and how one crosses the line between zealous, and zealot or (yikes!) fanatic.
My Official Guess is that line is crossed by anyone the moment intolerance for belief systems other than their own kicks in. You’re zealous when you’re about your own religious business; you’re a zealot when you’re about the religious business of others. (And you’re a fanatic when … you start ripping off your shirt and howling at the moon.)
Guy praying in his church? Zealous. Guy screaming on the street through a bullhorn? Zealot.
And none of us needs reminding of what religious fanatics can do.
In conservative Christian circles, the word “tolerance” is almost a curse word. I’m either a conservative or a liberal Christian, depending on the issue. But it seems to me that religious tolerance is the only thing that’s going to save us all–Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, atheists, everyone. In the final analysis, I just don’t see how full acceptance of the belief system of others isn’t the only thing that separates a loving, thoughtful person from being exactly the sort of person that it’s entirely too satisfying to accuse other people of being.
Of course it hurts to extend to the belief system of others the same respect we all feel is due our own.
Withhold that respect if you must. But know that doing so makes you a dangerous person.