When You Say ‘Radicalization’, What Do You Mean?

The 1910 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica uses “Mahommedan Religion” to describe what we now call “Islam.” Times have changed so much that my 2016 spell-checker thinks even the spelling of “Mahommedan” is wrong–both times. Here’s how the entry opens,

“The Mahommedan religion is generally known as Islam–the name given to it by Mahomet himself–meaning the resigning or submitting oneself to God. The participle of the same Arabic verb, Muslim (in English usually spelt Moslem), is used for one who professes this religion. The expression “Mahommedan religion” has arisen in the West probably from analogy with “Christian religion”, but is not recognized as a proper one by Moslem writers.”

(As a grammar refresher, a participle is a verbal adjective. In English, it is usually an “-ing” word: running, walking, or in this case, in Arabic, Islam (“to resign/submit [verb] to Allah”) becomes Muslim (“resigning/submitting” [participle] to Allah”).

Before getting to radicalization, I want to take one moment to call your attention to the name change–or how no one says “Mahommedan Religion” anymore. My point is not to romanticize the past, but instead to suggest that we can benefit from the admission that there has been a change. And not just a change in names, but in the way we write–a change in our methodology. That little paragraph is very observational. The writer merely recorded what was going on. The writer was very honest. He admitted, “We say ‘Mahommedan Religion’, they say, ‘Islam’.” (period)

I cannot speak for you, but to me that kind of honesty feels as refreshing as a new pair of wool socks on a snowy winter morning in the Rockies.

On the whole, though, like the American prize-fighter Muhammad Ali demonstrated, I fully support letting each person decide their name. This should be no surprise considering the theme of my last two posts. At the end of the day, I just want to be able to swap stories and ask what you mean if I become confused.

And I am confused these days.

See, we hear the word radicalization more and more. In my social circles, I seem to be the only who is confused by this word.

By my thinking, radicalization is a distinctly non-Christian word. By my thinking, radicalization implies some form of neutrality at an earlier stage. And by my thinking, followers of Christ–those of us filled with the Spirit of the Living God–know that there is no such thing as radicalization. Instead, we believe that there is redemption. For we believe that all have sinned–even the terrorists.

There is no neutral–not in our story at least. I certainly was never neutral. I have only ever been in motion. And I think no matter what story you have believed up to now, you have only ever been in motion too.

I have been moving forward or backward or left or right my entire life. It was never a question of “should I move?” or “should I grow?”, but “which direction?”

Cars have neutral. People–not so much.

You want to use the word radicalization? That’s cool. But can you please tell me what it means? Because as of this moment, I can’t seem to ground your word except in relation to redemption. And redemption only comes from the blood of Jesus Christ.



  1. noelleg44

    Hadn’t really thought about it, but these “radicals” were never neutral to begin with – you are right. In talking about Islam, the radicals were just believers to begin with, but were pulled to the violent side of their religion. Not sure what words you’d use to describe that!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. gmgoetz

    Great post Pete. So true, that redemption comes from the Blood of Jesus Christ. Everyone is on the move in one direction or another. There is no status quo, or neutral, or standing still in a “religious” life. In Christianity, we should continually be moving closer to our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ, as we grow to be like Him. If we are not growing closer to Him, we are falling further away. By that I mean, we need communion with Christ, time with Him in prayer and reading the Bible to stay close. Apart from that we drift away from Him, as we allow other things to interfere.
    Every “religious” belief that does not look to the True, Triune God, Father, Jesus Christ who is the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit of God, is moving away from God continually.
    But there is an answer for each person, regardless of who, or where they are in life. The Spirit of the Living God is still calling out for all to come to God, through the human birth, death, resurrection, and promised return of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only Saviour of all who call upon Him in this world. God’s plan of Salvation is available for all, because Jesus Christ paid the price for the sin of all. We each just have to accept that we are sinners, realize Jesus paid the price for each of our sins, and ask His forgiveness. Hallelujah!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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