Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cynicism

The Lord has been rooting into the dark crevices of my heart lately and using my wife and Paul Miller's A Praying Life to do it. Self-awareness is always a painful affair - I'm more content to be 'other-aware'. Which is why cynicism has been the perfectly insidious companion for me.

Masquerading as my humble opinion among equals, cynicism allows me to perch above reality, offering objective critiques of its pitiful participants. Cynicism is a knowledge that obscures reality. To see past everything is really to see nothing at all as C. S. Lewis would warn.

I set out to judge institutions (e.g. culture, christendom, church). But institutions means people. And people mean the God they serve. Asking what good can come from Christendom?, can't help but ask what good can come out of Nazareth?.

I used to think the opposite of cynicism was naivety. Now I know its intimacy. Miller remarks, cynicism is "too aware to trust or hope". My 'keen awareness' keeps me arms length from real people with real struggles (who are actually a lot more like me than I care to admit).

My last defense of my sin is that the church needs cynics; it needs people like me who are sharp, insightful, and willing to call her on her faults. A cynic feels like he's in the thick of body life, mourning, striving, thinking; he's really on the bleachers. He's calling plays at the TV from his armchair to teammates he's never gotten to know.

In reality the church needs prophets, pastors, and friends, never cynics. In short, she needs real people. She needs me to speak, and pray, and confess from the midst of my own failings and longings. And I need her.

5 comments:

Julie said...

This morning I read Exodus 1-3 and noticed how God re-introduces himself to Moses and the Hebrews and Pharaoh as "the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob", "your God", "the God of the Hebrews".

He doesn't just say "the God of mankind", he names names because he is God of real people.

The one being in all of time who sees what's really going on, who really is over and above everything, who deserves to be cynical, is the antithesis of cynical.

He casts his lot with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and with the Israelites - who are all a mess.

Now he casts his lot with Christians who are all a mess.

Doesn't he know that this hurts his reputation? Doesn't he want to stand at a distance and point out our flaws and hypocrisy to other people and roll his eyes and throw up his hands?

No, he doesn't. He loves us. He wants to walk with us.

For me to be cynical is to be in direct opposition to the character of God. It is to portray a false god to my brothers and sisters in Christ and to a watching world.

Oh Father, please forgive me.

P.D. said...

Great post, very piercing. I wrote something a while ago about the difference between cynicism and skepticism. I think cynicism is doubt that comes from objective knowledge... Skepticism is, when possible, an acknowledgment that we never know the whole story; the precursor to faith.

Julie, I was wondering about this as I read your comment what about when Paul says why take the Body of Christ and join it to a prostitute? Paul's language of church discipline seems to imply that Christ's reputation is at stake... thats a question, not a rebuttal.

david gentino said...

You're right PD, there is a duality in understanding Christ's "reputation". In salvation he draws prostitutes and tax collectors to himself, and in Corinth's case, calls them sanctified, saints, guiltless, and in fellowship with Christ.

As his bride he longs for intimacy and warns Christians who resist.

So Christ rejects cynicism (stand-offish critique) and naivete (blissful unawareness) in his pursuit of us.

Jon Furst said...

Good post David.

I remember when Cliff Beddell told our Romans class that the Church already has one Accuser and doesn't need us to do it. That always stuck with me.

jim thompson said...

amen, brother. that PRAYING LIFE is really good.

Share