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Origen, one of the early church fathers, was a man whose greatest ambition in life was martyrdom. In fact, Origen’s father, Leonides, was killed while in prison. Origen — not quite 17 — made plans to join his father, so they could be tortured side by side. But tradition has it that Origen’s mother hid his clothes to keep him from leaving home.

Never fear. Origen found other means with which to prove his faith. He sold the family library and emasculated himself, dedicating the rest of his life to teaching, philosophy, and comforting those in prison.

Except Origen’s acts weren’t viewed as extreme (unless you count the fact that he was extremely popular with students). So how might today’s extremists appear to future generations? And what might those generations think of those we accept as normal, successful and commendable?

how might today’s extremists appear to future generations?


  1. Ian Propst-Campbell

    Often today we call people extremists when they attempt to force their beliefs on others or perform acts of violence in the name of faith. Or, on the flip side, we call people extremists when we fail to, or refuse to, understand the nature of their beliefs.

    From what you say here, though, Origen seemed less concerned about forcing his beliefs on other and more concerned about being completely committed to his faith. In other words, the objects of his extremism was himself, rather than others. I find that admirable. I think as Christians, we are called to be extremists: extremists in love, in compassion, in self-discipline, in service, and sometimes in self-denial. This sort of extremism does lead to violence, an inward violence against anything inside ourselves that isn’t love. Origen must have taken pretty literally Christ’s exhortation to cut off any parts of one’s body that lead one into sin.

    That being said, I may hang onto certain parts of my own body at least a little while longer.

    • ericmuhr

      I like your list of extremes a lot better than some of the other lists I’ve seen.

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