Growing up in church, the word “radical” was a almost a badge of honor. When somebody was radical they were considered to be totally “sold out” for the Lord. As I continued to grow I noticed that people sort of had to “out radical” one another. It wasn’t enough for radicals to be “modest”, they made a show of their extreme modesty. In the recent terror attack in San Bernadino, Tashfeen Malik progressed from wearing a head covering to completely covering her face so that only her eyes and nose were exposed. In all religions, “radicals” can be identified by lifestyle choices that set them apart from mainstream society. They consider themselves to be the purest form of that religion. If one is truly “radical” they see themselves as the only true representatives of that religion.
It’s easy to talk about “radicalization” in Islam, but radicals abound in every religion. The process of radicalization is the same. People isolate themselves from ideologies that are different from theirs. They begin thinking of themselves as the only pure form of their religion and they become increasingly suspicious or even hostile towards people with opposing views.
Several years ago, one of the top selling Christian books was a book called Radical. I was pastoring in Illinois when that book came out and many of the college age people in our church read the book. The book advocated things like “secret church” services for believers only. Instead of entertaining people with music, these radicals were encouraged to sit through multiple hours of Bible teaching. No doubt this book positively influenced lots of people, but I noticed that many who read the book started looking at our church as if we weren’t as spiritual as these “radical” Christians.
The current state of our world has caused me to want to be “real” rather than “radical” I love Jesus as much or more than the next guy, but if I have to prove that by sitting through a four hour Bible study, than I guess I’m admitting I’m not radical.
Being real means that we not only have passion for God, but that are also aware that all of us fall short of our best intentions. I am a passionate Jesus follower, but I don’t think my brand is the only expression of Christianity and I don’t think that I am right about everything having to do with religion. If ISIS and terrorism has taught us anything, may it teach us to continue to preach, but be less “preachy”. Maybe its time to be less “radical” and more “real”.