How to be radical…

I’m fascinated by this word, radicalised.

It’s a word which crops up a lot in the newspapers at the moment, usually connected to unspeakably horrific events.  A young man is radicalised and then decides to plough a truck into hundreds of happy families strolling along a promenade.  A young boy is radicalised and so straps a suicide belt onto his slight frame, walks into a crowd and presses a button.

The horror, the terror, the ensuing grief and the lives damaged for years, is almost immeasurable.  How can you begin to fix so many, broken, shattered hearts?  The media may forget, but the loss is felt for several generations. 

However, the word ‘radicalised’ seems to imply that the people who commit horrific acts of terror are somehow acting in an almost hypnotic-out-of-control way,  as though they’d stumbled across extremist literature online and boom, there was no looking back, no choice at all.  They just had to commit these acts of terror.  As though they had no choice. 

It’s probably due to my nerdy, linguistic background (I notice words a lot!) but I’m fascinated by how words get introduced into our language and how they shape our view of the world.

The truth is, the word radicalised actually means to ‘be changed’, ‘to be altered’ and (my favourite definition),’to be transformed’.  Wikipedia describes it in more negative terms, that it means to be converted toward extreme philosophies. But I prefer the common garden dictionary definition;  to be changed, to be different. 

And whatever definition you settle on, the truth is, if a person can be changed, altered or transformed toward evil, then they CAN also be transformed toward good, toward Jesus, toward something truly meaningful.   There’s nothing at all in the word, to say that being radicalised is a bad thing.   If used in the right direction, it is a good thing.

I want to be radicalised every day. I want to be changed, to be altered spiritually and transformed all the time.  Romans says we need to do it often;

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

In a world where we’re surrounded by huge, yelling shouting voices in the media, telling us how we should think, to be radicalised (in this context) means to think differently. 

Jesus was a radical.  He upset the apple cart. He thought (and taught) differently. He didn’t go along with the status quo. He challenged entrenched and blind ways of thinking.  The Bible is full of radicals, people who were often the only voice in a crowd.  

From Noah to Moses to Esther to Paul, the Bible is packed full of radical, solitary voices which changed a generation for good.  They said the unthinkable.  They challenged darkness and they stood up for what was right, whether it was popular or not. 

For me, personally, I don’t want to say what everyone else is saying. 

I don’t want to think what everyone else is thinking.   

I want to be renewed and transformed by what God is saying. 

I want to be radicalised.