"I will not surprise anyone by saying that we are going through a period where fanaticism, both religious and political, seems to be gaining ground. It also animates in an omnipresent way the current media landscape. Terrorism, the rise of extremes, withdrawal of identity, discriminating behavior for ethnic, religious or sexual reasons make up the news of our last months."
With these words, Joseph Gotte opens his article in Réflexions: Le véritable radicalisme, l’unique réponse au fanatisme (The true radicalism, the only answer to fanaticism). It is easy to confuse emotion and passion with fanaticism. We can live with emotion and passion without going down the road to fanaticism. "Fanaticism generates reactions that lead to disqualify others, condemning those who are not like us, criticizing and rejecting those who do not share the same ideas, to the point of building insurmountable walls." We can have clear ideas, know well in what we believe, what we want and want what we desire, know clearly where we go and where we come from, distinguish what we must do to live well and to love well, without falling into the fanaticism that leads to being inflexible, categorical, extremist. The antidote is "to practice tolerance, to be receptive, to open up to others, to accept those who think differently or do not share the same points of view. To be ready to live with the other, with the stranger, with the one who is different, without renouncing one’s own ideas, convictions, and values. To know how to tolerate, to accept, to love, to integrate, to listen, is a long way that leads to the construction of bridges and not walls, it is the way out of these extremes that can make us fanatic" (¿Radicalismo o Fanatismo?).
Theologian Timothy Keller in his book « La raison est pour Dieu » (Reason is for God) explains: "Fanatics are therefore not people who follow the Gospel too closely; on the contrary, they are too far away. Fanatics are authoritarian, satisfied with themselves; they have very fixed opinions, are insensitive and hard. Why? It is not because they are too Christian, but because they are not Christian enough. Those who slip and become fanatics are actually devoted people, too weakly impregnated and unaware of their religion, be it Christ and his Gospel, Mohammed and the Quran, Buddha and his teachings. Indeed, the word "radical" in itself means "root". From the Latin "radix", it refers to the idea of going to the root of things, refers to the deeper, more definitive, more essential part of oneself. It is not a subject of amusement or something anecdotal, or passenger or capricious. It is so fundamental that in its absence life is not understandable. To be radical is to have deep roots, which plunge into the essence of the soul, in the most true way of what we are, what we love, what we cannot renounce. The radical in each person is what nourishes her, is the motor and the source of her energy. These "roots" therefore are to be deep. Authentic radicalism never departs from those who believe differently or from those who do not believe. In the review Le Monde des Religions (The World of Religions), it is said, for example: "At a time when the Christian roots of France are invoked in a litany mode, it is not useless to recall that Christianity itself was born of a cultural mixture, that of the Jewish religion and Greek thinking. This shows that to be faithful to one's roots is not to freeze them at all costs - in which case the message of Jesus would never have given birth to a new religion - but to endeavor to revive them, to make them bear fruit. "Radicalism and fanaticism can be confused, but are very different. Radicalism is an unconditional commitment. Fanaticism a blind ideology; radicalism is a truth that illuminates. The fanatic is intractable, rigid and labeling everyone, destroying bridges and raising walls. The radical is attached to his cause and firm in his certainty, but seeks to understand. The story shows exemplary mutations of a fanatic to a radical and vice versa. From Saul, the anti-Christian fanatic to Paul the radical apostle: so fanatical as to persecute the Church, so radical that he gave his life for ideals and values that he considered eternal. Some radicals have made history: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Edith Stein and many others. People with deep convictions are called to be radical and not fanatical.
To slip down from radical to fanatic is also easy. The most controversial example is undoubtedly Muhammad. His contemplative radicalism made him the founder of Only One God's religion, of the Most Merciful God. Thus begins the Quran: "In the name of God, the compassionate with all creation, the merciful with the believers. The All Merciful." Driven out of Mecca with his first faithful, he found refuge in Medina, and his followers among the Christians of Ethiopia. It was when Islam entered into politics, economy, and power that Muhammad/Islam became fanatical. As was the case with Christianity at a certain period of the Middle Ages.
Joseph Gotte ends his article with the note: "The radicalism I love," and refers to Isaiah the Prophet. The prophet Isaiah was confronted with a people who lived in a country largely devastated, destroyed, where there was corruption and great social inequalities. Speaking of fasting, the deprivation of food for religious reasons, he puts on the lips of God these words: "Isn’t this the fast I love: To break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and to not ignore your own flesh and blood?" The acts of piety and religious practice that could be seen as radicalism, are worthless without a commitment to social justice. All of us are called to be radicals, but by a radicalism that leads to the one who differs from us, to defend the oppressed, to fight social injustice, to the mad desire to restore peace in conflicts, to the willingness to welcome the refugee!