Every Wednesday night I gather a group of college students/recent grads and local clergy together for a program called Brewing on Belief, which meets at a local bar. The goal of the program is to discuss a unique topic each week, allowing the conversation to guide itself.
Last night we looked at the concept of Fanatic Faith and Fanatic Atheism, specifically what drives one to the extreme ends in defending their views.
This was an interesting topic, especially when we started with the discussion of whether or not any of us considered ourselves a fanatic in any form. It is an interesting question to ask yourself, What (if anything) am I fanatic about? What is something that I will always stand for, support, and never back down from? And the kicker, am I open to listening to other views?
For me, I thought the answer was easy. Yes, I do consider myself a true fanatic when it comes to rooting for my teams, specifically the Seattle Sounders of the MLS (2-1 winners last night in the first leg of the CONCACAF Quarterfinals).
And, when looking deeper, I considered myself a fanatic Episcopalian. I know that this church and the approaches it allows in the Christian faith is the place for me, and I am always willing to stand up for my church. However, it gets tricky with the question of whether or not I am open to listening to others.
If, to be a true fanatic, you must be completely closed to the views of others, than I know that I will never be a fanatic person of faith, simply because I believe that in order to truly experience God and grow in your faith you must open yourself to challenging and refining your beliefs. If you are unwilling to open yourself to changes, you will never grow and your faith will be stuck in a rudimentary state. And if that’s the case, then I do not want to have a fanatic faith.
However, I wonder if my unwavering belief in the necessity of growth and challenging discussions makes me a fanatic in a new vien. A fanaticism that is based on bettering myself and others through interaction, and knowing that we cannot truly live into our calls if we are not open to the input of our neighbor.
So I put it to you: what makes a fanatic? And when you’ve decided that, are you a fanatic?