In Orthodox circles one often hears about the dangers of what Fr. Seraphim Rose called the "correctness disease." While Fr. Seraphim's brilliant insights are spot on and need to be taken to heart by Americans coming to Orthodoxy, the concept itself has been cheapened in modern times by the those who try to distinguish the "level-headed" and "moderate" mindset of themselves over the uber-evil and triumphalistic inner attitude of the converts or traditionalists.
"Zeal not according to knowledge" (Rom. 10:2) is certainly to be avoided, of course. But it makes me wonder--would the first few generations of Christians (most of whom were converts themselves) have had the heart to be martyred the way they were if they did not, in some small way, have an "ugly convert syndrome" toward paganism (or, like St. Stephen, toward Judaism)?
I get the feeling if we met some 2nd or 3rd century Christians in the flesh, some of us would be pretty embarrassed by the saint's zeal for the Church, for Christ, for the Truth. I'm not sure whether that says more about us or more about them.
Here are two amusing examples of this from church history:
* St. Polycarp tells us that the apostle John once went to the public bath in Ephesus and found inside a Gnostic teacher named Cerinthus. John ran out crying, "Let us fly, lest even the bath-house fall down because Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is within."
* Polycarp himself once met the infamous heretic Marcion walking down the street. Marcion hated the creator-God of the Hebrews and, to get rid of Him, had tossed out the Old Testament and much of the New and rewrote the bits he kept. Marcion asked Polycarp, "Do you know me?" and Polycarp answered, "I do know you. You are the firstborn of Satan."
Do you think these denunciations were said with a wink and a twinkle in the eye, or with sober conviction? Or, what seems more likely given the nature of the saints, both?