Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Z: Zealot (A-Z Blog Challenge: Evocative words)

A card from a favorite game: Ascension
When we describe someone as a zealot, it's not usually a compliment. My imagination conjures up a picture of a wild-eyed, crazy-haired individual, proselytizing on the street with dubious coherence.

Enthusiasm is generally regarded as a good thing, but a person can go overboard, and zealots often do. Zealots are not content merely to love something with all their hearts, they want you to do so, too. They've got pamphlets and manifestos for you to read. They are evangelical.

Zealotry is often associated with religion or politics (which might actually be the same thing for some people). In any case, with big systems. Fanatic and cult are other words that you might hear tossed around with zealot. The suggestion being that zealots might be just this side of crazy.

In thinking about the word, I thought of Simon the Zealot. I'm hardly a Bible scholar, but I am drawn to Biblical narratives and Simon is interesting because I know so little about him. I remember his name from my foray into Christianity when I was fourteen or so.

He's one of the twelve. Different sources give me different reasons for his moniker. Some suggest that he is called zealot because he was a rigid adherent to Jewish law. Some that he was just really fervent in his following of Jesus. Others that he had been known as a political activist (zealot being a political designation) before signing on as an Apostle.

I wonder if the nickname was simply to distinguish him from other Simons, like I might say "Tall Michael" or "Bearded Michael" to indicate which of three men named Michael in the room I am indicating. Or was his zealotry his overriding feature? The first thing that others would notice about him?

His representation in the Bible is pretty much limited to the mentioning of his name in a list of apostles. He doesn't have any good lines or independent story lines. Whoever he was, what remains of him in history and legend is little more than this name, and, at least for me, curiosity.
This post is part of the Blogging from A-Z Challenge.


  1. Intriguing - hadn't heard of him before.

  2. The term "zealot" is often misused as well, especially by opponents of a particular belief system. For example, the fact I am a Christian, and would be considered an evangelical due to my convictions about Scripture, and my desire to see others share my faith, some would label me a "fundamentalist" or a "zealot." Terms like that are a good way of throwing up barriers, giving people an excuse not to even consider someone else's viewpoint. Yes, there are true zealots--those who insist on shoving their opinions and ideas down your throat whether you want to hear them or not. Those whose whole life is consumed by a cause, and can't relate to the rest of the world. But simply because someone has a worldview that disagrees with mine doesn't make that person a zealot.

    As with all words, these are words that should be handled with care.

    Well done for making it through the A-to-Z, Samantha! :D

    1. I agree. We humans are excellent at using language to box each other in and build walls. Luckily, many of us are willing to look at the world person by person rather than group by group.

  3. Great word - and I think you're right about religion and politics being close to the same thing. Awesome job completing A to Z!
    Marlene at On Writing and Riding

  4. Great word, and a very interesting post. I enjoyed your A to Z theme, you chose a lot of thought-provoking subjects. Congrats on finishing the challenge!