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Teddy Roosevelt Afraid of the Zeal

[Theodore Roosevelt's mother] Mittie had found he was so afraid of the Madison Square Church that he refused to set foot inside if alone. He was terrified, she discovered, of something called the "zeal." It was crouched in the dark corners of the church ready to jump at him, he said. When she asked what a zeal might be, he said he was not sure, but thought it was probably a large animal like an alligator or a dragon. He had heard the minister read about if from the Bible. Using a concordance, she read him those passages containing the word zeal until suddenly, very excited, he told her to stop. The line was from the Book of John, 2:17: “And his disciples remembered that it was written, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up."

- David McCullough, writing of the boy Theodore Roosevelt in Mornings on Horseback (Simon & Schuster, 2001), pp. 105-106.

People are still afraid of zeal in the church.