Maybe I’m just getting old. Before I even celebrate my thirtieth bday my youthful idealism is waning. I feel like an old man in the morning time. My lower back is twisted in knots. A persistent cough has settled in my chest for weeks. Hemorrhoids and headaches flare up every other day.
I even holler “Slow down!” at the whipper snappers who screech by my front yard in their souped up fart mufflers (a good 30mph past the limit). I watch reruns of “Frasier” with my wife, and we would watch “Golden Girls” afterwards, but it comes on at 10:30. We’re too tired.
I’m only twenty-nine years old.
Maybe it’s because I spend most my days around teenagers filled up with drama, hormones, and general antipathy towards others.
Maybe it’s because the default mode of humanity is cynicism.
Hope is hard.
Not that all cynicism is bad. When we come into contact with some squishy doctrinal lite gospel or flavorless pop Christian trapping, disillusionment may be the order. CCM radio makes grumpy old men grumpier. And the line between “discernment” and worldly “cynicism” gets blurred among us.
But it rises up with every bad skit or interpretive dance. With every cliché ridden sermon on self-esteem or behavior modification. With every cheesy program or immaculate building campaign. The cynic manifests itself in a variety of ways.
Some of this cynicism can be healthy for the soul of the church. According to the great Pastor Spy, Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely must we be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and with ourselves …. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both.
When the ideal that anyone is perfect is squashed authenticity can be rebuilt in its place. Healthy cynicism/disillusionment grounded in biblical discernment can foster genuine relationships and community.
Anti intellectualism is real in some church contexts. But the pendulum may swing to intellectual elitism in other contexts. Either can be a scourge to authentic fellowship and love. What’s so interesting is both sides are prone to level “Pharisee!” charges to the other.
There’s hope for both of these shades of Pharisee.
Hope is the default mode of the new kingdom.
This optimistic Kingdom shows there may be a better way for grumpy old twentysomethings like me. Some call it “hopeful realism” or “redeemed cynicism.” It’s at the cross where cynics scoff at a God who would die in such a bloody spectacle. It’s at the resurrection where cynics get their unbelief turned inside out.
Where half empty cups over runneth.