Zealots Have Too Much Zeal

I have discovered something about zealots – I mean, other than that they’re annoying – they have too much, well, zeal. That overflow tends to have a couple of counterproductive effects:

(1)  First, they make you feel bad about yourself and your own more moderate (and likely more rational) approach. That is, if you are sympathetic to their cause in any way; if not, skip straight to step 2.

(2)  They turn you away. Extremists generally only attract other extremists. Unreasonableness and lack of empathy never won anyone over to any cause. To the contrary, it turns people away.
I think we should stand-up for what we believe, not lacking and not hiding our conviction. But sometimes I think we also need to remember we *might* be wrong. Or partly-wrong. Or more convincing if we can sympathize with the opposition.

For example, take a few areas that commonly create extremism:
My religion is integrally important to who I am. However, I prefer to retain the ability to converse outside the confines of overt apologetics. This is how I maintain friendships with people who do not share my beliefs – how they can stand to be around me long enough to actually see my beliefs in action. Proselytizing to an empty room is like angrily preaching abomination to an unbeliever… Do either really accomplish anything productive?


Health matters are near and dear to my heart (literally and figuratively.) Two ravaging diseases and standing on the brink of death is pretty effective at turning one’s attention to their health. Regardless of the motivation of my crusade for healthful choices, it’s an awareness I am committed to and want for everyone. Even so, sometimes moderation is the key to longevity.
My family and I still eat out occasionally. We generally eat what other people serve us, even if it’s not something we would buy/make in our own home. And I often let my kids try things they are curious about, so they’re not overly interested, not ostracized from their community of friends over a simple food experience, and to help prevent a backlash of them gorging themselves whenever given the occasion to have a forbidden item.

Frozen pizza and soda at a friends’ will not ruin my child’s organs for eternity, and store-bought breakfast cereal is perhaps not of the devil himself. (Although McDonalds might be; the jury is still out on that one.)

Do I even need to say anything else about this one? Did that one word conjure images of the intolerable people you know who are staunchly right or left and in your face about it? You know the ones, you try to slide past them in social situations and hide their Facebook feeds.

Ironically, if the goal of persuasion reigns over discussion, on any topic, the persuasive powers are diminished. Lectures, sermons, advice from experts, and everyone's opinions all have their place - often very important places. However, that place is not always an aggressive accusation or a mistimed, one-sided conversation with no ears to hear your opposition. 
Look, if I'm honest, sometimes tireless support (yours and mine) just, well, tires me. I want to run these races for a lifetime - not sprint and then fall away.
And sometimes, like extreme animal rights activists that would value a kitten over a human child, the credibility of fanatics is diminished by their very fanaticism.
It is possible to be gentle and still strong in your convictions. It is possible to be convinced but remain open-minded or empathetic, whichever the situation calls for.

You other people can take your zeal and shove it… in a Captain Jesus cereal box made out of kitties and American flags.


  1. “Liberal Christians tend to believe that Jesus is more conservative than they are on moral issues, while conservative Christians believe he is more liberal,” writes Randy Dotinga of HealthDay News. “Liberal and conservative Christians also tend to believe that the matters most important to Jesus are the same ones most important to them,” he continues.

  2. My friend Val commented that I seem to be zealous about not being a zealot. Touche Val, touche.