The nature of zealotry is in fanatical devotion, the removal of all doubt, and the single-minded pursuit of a goal, often blinded to anything other than that goal. Most often we think of zealots as people devoted to destruction and "evil deeds" in their pursuit of an often "wrongful" goal. This comes from a form of zealot who feels cornered, oppressed and powerless to react by any other means, and thus we have what are commonly referred to as terrorists.
This paints zealotry with a broad brush, ignoring the fact that many become zealots without realizing this is what they are doing. Zealots in pursuit of a "good cause" often feel they are immune to criticism of their methods, but the truth of the matter is that all zealots feel they are in pursuit of a good cause. You do not become fanatically devoted to something you don't believe in.
The power of the zealots comes from the ease of their temptations
That which offends and angers tempts us to rise against it
To strike against the servants of Chaos is a temptation
And to greet this temptation is to join them in servitude
For none that rise up in anger and retribution can be true
Their own cause becomes righteousness
The mark of the zealot becomes their sign
First Convergence 14: 1-7
Zealots are reactionary. They react to problems and issues. They seek to find solutions and answers to these problems and issues, which on the surface is a good thing. What happens with zealots is instead of seeing answers and becoming an example of those answers in action, they are consumed with a need to, in whatever way possible, get others to agree with them and the actions they prescribe. Instead of seeing a problem and resolving within themselves to move beyond the problem, they must compel others into agreement. The frustration that results from not being able to control the thoughts and actions of others leads zealots into collectives, groups of individuals who all see the need to enforce change in order to resolve issues and problems.
Zealotry exists beyond what we normally associate it with, in the political and religious spectrum. It takes root in everyday life. A person who is strongly opposed to the use of marijuana, for example, becomes a zealot when instead of simply not partaking in use of the drug, seeks ways to stop others from partaking in it. It does not matter what the example is, whether it is from the realm of environmentalism, nationalism, racism, sexuality, etc. What matters is that a person becomes a zealot once they move beyond being an example to others by their own actions and takes a position of righteousness, asserting that their beliefs are truths applicable to all. By nature, whatever you are a zealot regarding, you will defend as good and true. A person who crusades against the rape of children is still a zealot. The core nature of the crusade is important, but zealotry neglects the peripheral impact of the crusade itself. I know of someone who met a girl in a bar, where she persuaded the door man of her age, and told him she was twenty-one when she was actually fourteen. She went home with him that night and when she did not come home, she told her father about the man who took her home and forced her to have sex with him. He says the sex was consensual and believed she was twenty-one. He did time in prison and now is on the registry of sex offenders as a kiddie raper and is driven out of neighborhoods and has trouble getting a job. For zealots, this is simply collateral damage.
Outrage is the most common spark of zealotry. You are less likely to find vegetarian zealots than you are anti-abortion zealots. Few vegetarians would vandalize or burn down a butcher shop. It is the level of outrage and accompanying feeling of powerlessness to do anything to stop the outrage through normal channels that sparks the strongest forms of zealotry.
Zealotry also causes a backlash which eventually takes the form of rival zealotry. In most forms, zealotry denies compromise. You can always tell a zealot because they will never negotiate. It is a badge they are proud to wear. Zealots in conflicts with each other will either battle until the death or until the other is destroyed, marginalized or disregarded as having any validity or power. Enemies are to be destroyed. They are evil because they oppose the righteousness of the zealots' crusade.
There are those who lose the path by seeking sin in others
They will point out the perceived failings and weaknesses of others
In the context of their perception of sin they have done far worse
For their judgment and righteousness embraces the two greatest sins of all
Only those who see themselves fit to judge others would be judged
Only those who claim righteousness will be held accountable
For their failings have opened the gates for Chaos
Any who would judge another or perceive themselves as righteous
Bear responsibility for the corruption of the message
They are the agents of Chaos
--Second Convergence 14
There is more glory is punishing the victimizer than there is in protecting the victim. We tend to be obsessed with making certain those who do wrong to others are punished while only giving a nod of pity to their victims. Does locking up the "wicked" achieve anything aside from creating a criminal subculture within the context of society itself? Does it stop mans' inhumanity towards man? Does it actually increase it and in some ways glorify it? Violent criminals are not that different from suicides in that they have generally reached the point where they see no better path than the one they have chosen to take. Some may do it for fun, or for sport, but they are the spotlighted minority. Determining why certain individuals lose their respect for the rights of their brothers and sisters is crucial to resolving the patterns, but this is hard to do within a society where judgment and righteousness is the norm.
Is the punishment of past deeds more important than moving a person beyond those deeds? I am reminded of the story of Jesus of Nazareth, who took as his disciples and friends, Levi the tax collector, a known cheat and swindler, who became Matthew, and Simon the Zealot, who had very likely been a murderer, or at least an accessory to murder. Instead of judging them on their past deeds and punishing them for those deeds, he offered them a fresh start and a new life and forgave them. This is one of those things religious zealots have a tendency to brush under the carpet.
Our society teaches a certain mode of defensiveness that involves being able to justify your actions, no matter how wrongful those actions may have been. As a deeply flawed human being, I do this far more often than I am comfortable admitting to myself. We have trouble admitting that we are ever wrong. We often need to be cornered and put in a position where we have no other choice but to accept the blame for something we have done. At that point a new choice arises, do we remain within the patterns that brought us to this point or do we seek a new path?
Zealots are never wrong. Ask any of them and they will defend what they believe to the death. As the world grows progressively smaller, we are put in closer contact with alternative belief systems and cultures that conflict with our own culture and beliefs. This contact produces the tendency to assert ourselves as superior and those who are "different" as inferior and in need of our guidance. Some zealots temper their zealotry with what is known as "tolerance," a term that tends to make me groan with profound frustration. To "tolerate" means that you will step off. It doesn't indicate acceptance of another as equally valid, it intones a sense of superiority to another while agreeing not to step on any toes or do anything to offend the person you are "tolerating." Tolerance is cowardly zealotry. Tolerance bred "political correctness," the most underhanded and cowardly form of zealotry known to mankind.
The zealots are righteous in the quest to fulfill Chaos
Each will justify the calls to anger and retribution in their own way
They have reasons that are justified and righteous
And once each and every side becomes unwilling to yield
They will have fulfilled Chaos
And the War of the Zealots will never end
For each will seek to incite the other to continue
For the conflict is no longer about the message
And although it masquerades as such
At its heart is the corrupted message of Chaos
--First Convergence 7: 5-14
How can we move beyond the need to assert our sense of righteousness, remove the masks we wear to avoid offending those we "tolerate," and become truly able to accept and love our brothers and sisters as they are? Can we still protect one another from harm, and protect ourselves from each other without lowering ourselves to the lowest common denominator of an eye for an eye?
"And still they choose Barabbas."
The books of Convergence are from the series of documents I have translated with the assistance of Anastasia Christina.
The road goes on forever, and the story never ends.