It’s easy to be cynical. As a 20-something, a woman, a Christian, it’s almost feels natural.
When I meet other 20-something Christian women, I find that we all tend to share this common trait, to some extent. We obsess over our bodies, and we tend to be cynical. These are just some traits we have, and they’re not good, but they’re there. Sorry, other 20-something Christian women, but I’m one of you, so I’m allowed to make that statement (right?).
I can rattle off so many ways I’ve fallen into the trap of cynicism lately, without even thinking too hard about it:
– I visited a megachurch and found myself feeling a mix of anger and “ughhhhhhhhhhhhhh” (a feeling we don’t have a word for in the English language) by some aspects of the service I didn’t like.
– I watch the Bulls and get annoyed that Derrick Rose hasn’t returned yet. (What’s the REAL reason you’re not coming back, dude?? What are you not telling us?)
– I see political situations unfolding that give me so little hope for our leaders.
Recently, Cult of Clair attended a Derek Webb concert, and while we waited for the show to start, we started talking about our faiths and some recent church/Jesus-related issues. I shared some recent experiences I’d had that were making me feel jaded about the church.
Fellow Christians saying/doing things I found frustrating, pastors saying things I didn’t agree with, church services not going the way I thought they should. You know the drill…
By the end of the discussion, I said something to the effect of:
“I don’t WANT to be cynical, but I feel like I HAVE to be.” (In other not-very-nice-but-what-I-was-thinking words, “I don’t want to be cynical, but some of these annoying Christians leave me no choice!”)
Cut to midway through Derek’s concert. He played a couple of songs from a new album, including one about cynicism.
Derek is known for being a somewhat controversial/stirrer-upper voice in the Christian music scene. He has criticized certain aspects of American Christianity and he even used the “s” word in a song once, and no, I don’t mean “sex.” So, it makes sense that many jaded Christians have connected with him. For instance, when they find themselves frustrated by how closely some Christians align their faith with their politics, they find comfort in Derek’s message. However, he told the audience that, over the years, many jaded Christians have shared that they appreciate his music, because they’re cynical about the same things.
This startles and upsets him, though, because he doesn’t want people to use his music as an excuse for their cynicism. In fact, he said he doesn’t want people to be cynical at all.
As soon as he said this, I thought to myself, “But, um, Derek… you can’t mean that we should NEVER be cynical! What about that church or that politician or that worship song? You know the one!”
But then he said something that just smacked me in the face. He said, as Christians, we have faith that everything will be made new one day, right? (Yes.) So, we must be hopeful, not cynical.
Yes, bad things will happen. People are jacked up, the world is jacked up. Things that are annoying – or downright terrible/tragic/inhumane – will happen. And because God loves the people these things happen to, we must care deeply and seek justice, here and now – before Jesus comes. We can’t ignore that call.
But if we really, truly believe that everything will be made new, there’s no room for cynicism.
Cynicism means having no hope that something can or will change. And if we believe everything WILL change someday, we just can’t be cynical.
Is this hard? Absolutely. My natural inclination is toward cynicism. But I’m seeing cynicism in a new light now. I used to think being cynical meant that I was a critical thinker (read: the issue behind the issue was that I thought I was better than others), but slowly I’m realizing it’s more a reflection of my lack of hope.
And I want to be a person of hope.