To me, the way these terms are used is incomprehensible; they totally miss the mark on what radical actually means with respect to genuine religions aimed at God. It's as if the hatred and evil underlying the attitudes and acts perpetrated by these people had anything to do with genuine faith!
According to the dictionary, radical as an adjective means "going to the root or origin" , " thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms", " favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms" and as a noun it means a person who: " holds or follows strong convictions or extreme principles; extremist." or "who advocates fundamental political, economic, and social reforms by direct and often uncompromising methods".
By these definitions, Jesus and the Gospels are truly radical!.The radicalism expressed is uncompromising as seen in countless Gospel passages, a few of which I've included below:
Matthew 18:21-22: 21 Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
Mark 10:21 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
And the injunctions from the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:
Teaching About Anger. 21 “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment
Teaching About Oaths. 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to your ancestors, ‘Do not take a false oath, but make good to the Lord all that you vow.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all;not by heaven, for it is God’s throne;... 37 Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’
Teaching About Retaliation. 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.
Love of Enemies. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?
Matthew 22:36-40: 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and the first commandment. 39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
So as I have come to understand it, the true radicalism of Jesus and the Gospels is that of living in Love with God and others in it's various forms; Forgiveness, Compassion, Honesty, etc... For this is the radical nature with which God shows love to his creation: "for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust."
This kind of radicalism is "the root or origin", "the thoroughgoing or extreme", "the favoring drastic reforms" of the Christian faith! I would maintain that someone following this form of radicalism is a person who " holds or follows strong convictions or extreme principles; extremist." or "who advocates fundamental political, economic, and social reforms by direct and often uncompromising methods".
The radicalism of Jesus and the Gospel is much more difficult for the individual human person than the radicalism of violence we see associated with the extremist making the news today. Perhaps that's why we see so little of it and that's why the Gospels term this the narrow gate. (Matthew 7:13-14)
As I start this New Year, I find myself looking for ways to embrace the true radicalism of Jesus and the Gospel that will work for me. This is a true challenge if I solely rely on the power of my own humanity (I sense a new Blog post coming up shortly). In doing so, although I find acts and attitudes of those marked as "religious radicals" reprehensible, I must still find a way to have compassion and forgiveness for the individuals that carry them out. That is not only difficult but truly radical!