Are we extremists?

I have a love-hate relationship with the word “extreme” and its derivations of “extremist” and “extremism.” Those words are being tossed around a lot in both politics and religion these days, usually in the negative.

Pope Francis spoke of extremism on his recent trip to Kazakhstan. “Let us free ourselves of those reductive and destructive notions that offend the name of God by harshness, extremism and forms of fundamentalism,” the pope said in an address to the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions. Such extremism, according to Pope Francis, stifles dialogue, encounter, and mutual respect among religions and can lead to injustice and persecution.

In politics, the “extremist” label is placed on opponents both left and right. Most notably, after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, any candidate who is pro-life is being targeted as an extremist by those who advocate abortion with no limits or restrictions, funded by taxpayers — a position that seems sadly extreme to us.

In faith, however, aren’t we called to love to extremes? To love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind and with all our strength, and our neighbor as our very selves? Doesn’t God love us to extremes, to the point of Jesus dying for us on the cross and showing us mercy time and time again?

In marriage, aren’t we called to love to extremes? To love and honor our spouses all the days of our lives, and be faithful in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health?

I’m extremely grateful for a long career in the Catholic press. I’m extremely proud of the staff of this newspaper. I am extremely concerned for the lives of the innocent unborn, as well as for women in difficult circumstances. I extremely love Jesus, the church, my wife, and our daughter.

Sometimes the middle of the road is a safe, reasonable place to be. But as Pope Francis consistently reminds us, disciples of Christ are often called to the peripheries, the extremes if you will, of society.

So the love-hate relationship continues. But don’t be surprised if, called an extremist, my reply might be “Thank you.” — Thomas J. Dermody

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