I might be wrong, but I think Christianity has a lot of cynics. Too many, perhaps.
I believe that, because I am one of them and I notice there are a lot of people around the Internet who think like me. In fact, I make my living by writing books and blogs for them.
Now, I think many of us have good reasons to be cynical– especially the progressive version of a Christian Cynic™.
We’ve been burned. Lost churches. Shunned by friends. Pushed to the outside by families. We’ve ended up dishing out a lot of co-pays to therapists. For many, or even most of us, our spiritual journeys had some serious low points—and that certainly finds a way to manifest itself in a tendency to be overly cynical at times.
At least, it does for me—and I don’t think I’m alone.
But here’s another area where I hope I’m not alone: I long to be more than just a Christian Cynic™.
There’s a time and place for everything, and certainly a time and place for critiquing, rebutting, and disagreeing—but I want to be more than just a “resistance fighter” on the front lines of Christianity.
There are a million reasons why I long to be more than a Christian Cynic™, but chief among them is I have realized that there’s little risk in being cynical. It’s the safe move—it’s the move that’s sure to earn you plenty of high-fives, likes, and “amens.”
In fact, I think I noticed this years ago—that I could write a positive blog with new ideas and it would get shared a few hundred times, but if I criticized someone it would often get shared over 20,000 times in the first 24 hours.
Think about it. Do you think Matt Walsh or Franklin Graham would get nearly as much attention if they said nice things to people? What about us? Do we fall into that same trap?
While cynicism may be the safe move, it’s also the most taxing and uninspiring… and, I long to feel inspired again.
Maybe you do too, and you just needed permission to admit it. If so, consider this your invitation to say it with me:
I want to feel inspired again.
I want to be more than just a Christian Cynic™.
This past week I was fortunate enough to get to read an advance copy of Rob Bell’s new book, How To Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living, (which releases today!) and it came at the perfect time for me. In the book he addresses this issue of cynicism in a way that made me feel as if he had read my mail:
“Often, cynicism presents itself as wisdom, but usually comes from a wound. Cynicism acts as though it has seen a lot and knows how the world works, shooting down new ideas and efforts as childish and uniformed. Cynicism points out all the ways something could go wrong, how stupid it is, and what a waste of time it would be. Cynicism holds things at a distance, analyzing and mocking and noting all the possibilities of failure. Often, this is because the cynic did try something new at some point and it went belly up, he was booed of the stage, and that pain causes him to critique and ridicule because there aren’t any risks in doing that. If you hold something at a distance and make fun of it, then it can’t hurt you.”
In this one thought, I felt like Rob captured what I see and experience well—stories of pain and hurt (on the progressive side), and stories of fear and panic (on the conservative side) that have become understandably cynical.
But what if that comes at a high price for the cynic?
I see great hope birthed in and through the lives and stories of those I encounter in the Christian circles I run in—but I also see an unhealthy imbalance that seems to bend towards cynicism, instead of towards hope. I’m praying that it’s just a cycle, because in the early days it wasn’t like this.
Maybe we’re just all really tired. And wounded.
That’s understandable. Me too. There’s plenty of reason to be negative and cynical, I get it.
But, I hope that you long to feel inspired again. I hope that instead of Progressive Christianity becoming a branch of Christianity that’s overly known for cynicism and criticism that you’ll join me in returning to our roots of selling hope to outsiders—because selling hope to outsiders is where life is.
I mean, for real—the world needs us to do more of that.
We didn’t start out as part of the Cynical Tent™—we started out as a beautiful, hopeful one, and it can be that way again.
We have enough cynics in Progressive Christianity (and they have enough on their side too). We have enough bomb throwers and bridge burners. Each of those positions has been filled, and the stack of resumes of people wanting to be next in line is a mile high.
Honestly, we just don’t need any more Christian Cynics™ .
What we really need is more people selling hope.
We need people who do the messy work of peacemaking, people who tear down the barriers that stand in the way of reconciliation, and everything else that goes along with it– but also people who resist letting cynicism drive the boat.
Cynicism may sell to the masses, but hope is the only thing ultimately worth buying.
Sure, critique when necessary– but let’s be the people who offer hope-filled solutions.
Because Christianity doesn’t need more cynics— it needs more people selling hope.
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