I’ve debated what I wanted to write for today’s Story Monday. There are a lot of good stories out there. Ones to make us think. Ones to make us smile. Ones to stir us emotionally, mentally, spiritually.
But my mind is wrapped up in a particular story that I cannot shake. I think it’s a story that has gripped many of us with talons of fear. The talons have pierced our skin, our flesh, and it threatens to devour us. Our humanity at least.
There is a word that is being thrown around a lot. That’s what the media does. Akin to buzzwords in corporations, the media latches on to an idea and mercilessly exploits it until we can think of nothing else.
Or radicalization to be more precise.
What does this even mean?
Webster’s defines Radical:
1: of, relating to, or proceeding from a root: as
a (1) : of or growing from the root of a plant <radical tubers> (2) : growing from the base of a stem, from a rootlike stem, or from a stem that does not rise above the ground <radical leaves>
b : of, relating to, or constituting a linguistic root
c : of or relating to a mathematical root
d : designed to remove the root of a disease or all diseased and potentially diseased tissue <radical surgery> <radical mastectomy>
2 : of or relating to the origin : fundamental
3 : extreme
a : very different from the usual or traditional
b : favoring extreme changes in existing views, habits, conditions, or institutions
c : associated with political views, practices, and policies of extreme change
d : advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs <the radical right>
4 slang : excellent, cool
I think we can agree that the media is going for definition 3 in its use of the word. So are a lot of public figures. They speak of young men “radicalizing” and becoming extreme in their views. These young men carry out extreme measures and commit extreme acts of violence.
And, so these public figures say we need to take extreme measures to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
The thing is I think that they’re extremely wrong.
They say we need to cut out the root of these extreme acts of violence.
I agree. However, I think they don’t have a clue what root needs to be cut.
They say an ideology, a religion, needs to be cut. Why? Because of the potential for anyone who adheres to that religion becoming a radical.
I think they’re forgetting something. As a human being, we all have the potential for becoming a radical.
No one people group, no one religion, no one ideology holds more potential of extreme acts than any other.
Evil lurks at the doors of all our hearts. Any one of us can think that we must make others suffer. If they don’t hold to our point of view, if they violate our ideology in any way, we must take extreme action against them.
This is the root we must attack.
But, how do we attack a root that is deeply embedded into the very nature of humanity? How do we attack evil?
It already has been attacked and cut by another young man who went radical. A young man who took extreme to a whole new level. His actions were unprecedented, and still most of us don’t understand what it is he did.
Even those of us who say we follow him.
He took action against the very heart of the problem – our hearts.
He attacked this vine that has gripped all of humanity – all of creation – and choked life out of us.
Now, with his help, we just need to dig it out and get rid of it.
The call to banish a whole religious movement will not weed out evil. Standing up against any group of people because they might not fit our definition of normal or that we think threaten us in any way will not get to the root of the problem.
I’m not advocating not defending yourself if your life or the lives or your loved ones are truly threatened.
I’m saying we need to reassess what we think is a threat.
And we need to reassess how we arm ourselves.
Mercy. Grace. Love.
These were the weapons of choice for one radical who rocked the world – who still rocks the world.
He never watered down the truth. He never wavered on what he believed or what his purpose was.
He never alienated anyone or made them feel less than human, less than worthy. No, not even the Pharisees. Look closer at his interactions with them. He called them to a more radical religion, a more radical love.
What would happen if we did that? If we radicalized the way Jesus did?
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