By Tank Tankersley,
Fill in the blank. “Religious” would be the most frequent response, I suspect. The dictionaries inform us that a fanatic is one who is “too” zealous, or excited, or enthusiastic about whatever it is that’s being described. He is unreasonable. He goes too far. He takes things to extremes. He is unrestrained, immoderate, etc. You know, one of those guys, who just doesn’t know when enough is enough.
The word is almost always used to describe one who believes or does something of which the one using the word disapproves. People are devoted to causes of which we approve but fanatical in their support of those we do not. The term is a “loaded” one.
We sometimes use the word jokingly, as in describing the sports fan who paints his house the colors of his favorite team, names his first born after the team mascot, and is plunged into despair when the good guys lose. This sort of fanaticism is hardly sinister, so long as it stops short of bribing game officials of poisoning the opposition’s pre-game meal. But we also use the word to describe those who engage in manifestly bizarre (taking to the hills as imagined end times draw night) or violent (killing the abortion doctors) conduct.
But many spiritually-minded people are labeled fanatics whose only transgression is take God’s word seriously and to attempt to live it out. How can one be “too faithful” to God’s word? How can one be “overly desirous” of pleasing Him? Is “loving extravagantly” to be condemned?
I suspect that those who are not ashamed to profess a commitment to something higher than the persuit of a six-figure income or who will admit their ignorance of the latest prime-time TV offering are so often labeled as fanatics because they make those throwing around the term more than a little uncomfortable. In a world in which relativism rules, and in which nothing but the expediency of the moment is much considered, those who stand for something better get used to being referred to as fanatics, or worse.