Extremist = bad
Fundamentalist = bad
Moderate = good
These three things are held true by most people when it comes to religion. The extremist kills, the fundamentalist hates and the moderate is nice and warm and fluffy.
So, why do I want to be an extremist? Why do I want to be a fundamentalist? Why do I want to be anything other than moderate?
Look at the definitions at the top. Look at what extreme and fundamental actually mean. Think about how that would apply to Christianity, based on its central message.
Does rejecting people because of their lifestyle sound like something which forms the central core of Jesus’ teachings? Or does calling them to follow him, dining with them, talking with them and loving them sound more like it?
Does taking the lives of people for their sins sound like Jesus? Or does telling them to “go and sin no more” strike you as more fundamental to his way?
Does the pursuit of wealth for the few come across as an extreme example of Christian teaching? Or does selling everything and giving the money to the poor fit the bill?
Does a love of Queen and country seem like the central tenet for us to hold onto? Or does the seeking of God’s Kingdom over all earthly kingdoms sound like our main aim?
Does a rejection of people based on race, colour or creed sound like a divine calling? Or do you think that welcoming strangers and making disciples of all nations is the thing we are called to do instead?
Extreme devotion to God.
Extreme service of others.
These, as the result of Jesus’ teachings and his sacrifice, allowing the Kingdom of God to break into this world, are the fundamentals of Christianity.
This is what true Christian extremism and fundamentalism looks like, not the false gods of the religious right in America or similar noisy factions throughout the world.
They are extreme, but not extremes of Jesus’ way.
They aren’t fundamental, but are quite the opposite as they twist and distort the truth.
And what of the “moderates”? What of the Christians who are “average in amount, intensity or degree”? Who actually wants to be one of those?
Is feeding the poor ‘average’?
Is worshipping a God that most people in the West don’t believe in ‘average’?
Is visiting the prisoner, or the sick, or the grieving, or the lonely, even though you don’t know the person ‘average’?
Is worshipping and praying with and for refugees who nobody seems to want ‘average’?
Is proclaiming your faith in the face of oppression, as many around the world have done, ‘average’?
Is speaking words of forgiveness, then singing songs of worship before being decapitated by masked men on a beach ‘average’ or ‘moderate’?
No. This is extremism and fundamentalism at its purest and most beautiful.
A quote has been posted on social media a lot recently. It says ‘If your fundamentalists are bad, there’s something wrong with your fundamentals’. I believe the fundamentals of Jesus were everything which is good. I believe that when you look at Jesus you see what an extremist, what a fundamentalist should look like.
It’s time we looked like that as well and took back those two terms to show what they can and do really mean.