My friends, both face-to-face and FaceBook, will not be surprised to see that I am writing a piece in defense of fanaticism. My name is Carrie and I am a Dodgers-aholic.
Have you heard? The Los Angeles Dodgers are in the World Series!
I will confess here that I am not one of the elite Dodgers fans who have watched a majority of games through decades of consecutive seasons. I’ve lapsed. I may blame it on my husband not being a baseball enthusiast or, gulp, on being a fair weather fan; I rather emphasize that over my life time a sample of my blood will always serve as evidence that I do bleed Dodger Blue. And yes, the fact that they have been division champs for 5 years running has got my blood pumping.
The word fanatic has carried the burden of negative connotations for the most part as a result of religious fanaticism. Although, spouses/girlfriends/boyfriends of sports fans may beg to differ. The dictionary app on my computer even defines fanatic with the negative word “excessive”. Fanatic: a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal, especially for an extreme religious or political cause.
I became a fan of Jesus during the 70’s “Jesus Movement”, a time when the label “Jesus Freak” was used both pejoratively and as a positive self-identifier. I didn’t jump on the Jesus People bandwagon fully. For example, I was never interested in communes. I did think if you’re gonna be called a freak it wouldn’t hurt to be seen as freaky about Jesus.
Sports fan culture and Jesus fan culture have similarities. We get a thrill out of coming together and celebrating our shared enthusiasm. Some of us are in the habit of shouting and throwing out our hands in adoration. We value loyalty and community. We’ve developed a lingo of our own. (Sometimes to the detriment of others). Being fans bring us a lot of joy. Joy that can’t be fathomed by those who are not fans of our particular persuasion.
Fans can have a number of weird, yet harmless, traits. Baseball is full of superstitions. Christians have a bunch of traditions that don’t have their roots in the Bible.
Being a sports fan or a Christianity fan can also resemble the negative connotations found in the dictionary definition of fanaticism. Let me use an outrageous, far-fetched, impossible, illustration: imagine the Dodgers not winning the current World Series. (My superstitious readers are freaking out right now). If I then fell into a depression over the loss, my status as a fan would be unhealthy and you could make a reasonable deduction that my emotional and/or mental health was poor. You could rightly say I had a unhealthy obsession with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Religious fanaticism can have far more serious consequences. That pretty much goes without saying in this terrorist ravaged age. However, Jesus followers, by Jesus’ own definition are not to be religious. In his time here on earth he got angriest over the self-righteous religious of that day. Following Jesus means trusting Jesus. Not trusting a religion. Trusting Jesus is about having a relationship with him; choosing to love as he has commanded; choosing love over man made rules. The only rules we’re to follow are the commands he gives us. And since he is love and he is good and he is perfect, he’s the only one completely worthy of my obsessive fanaticism.
The synonym that rightly applies to obsession with Jesus is “all-consuming”. The sports team or celebrity or anyone we fan-girl about is gonna fade. At some point they are going to fail our expectations or fail themselves. But our God?
Turn to Hebrews 12:28-29 “…since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
His love is a consuming fire. That’s a fire I want to fan.