Back in early December, I was visiting my parents in the midst of what was considered a major ice storm in Dallas. Though it messed up most of our plans for that weekend, it gave me a rare opportunity to spend an extended amount of uninterrupted time with my parents. During that time, my mom and I talked about a time in our family’s past that wasn’t all that pleasant. It involved the church in which I grew up. It was a church my grandpa literally helped build brick by brick and a place where my parents gave years in service and love. It was a part of our family.
Without going into too many details, when I was in high school, the church turned on my parents. Wildly false accusations were raised against them. Long-time friends turned their backs on us. It got ugly. Eventually, my parents found another church, I went on to college, and we all tried to move on.
While we did indeed move on and dealt with much greater, more important challenges in life, that time for my family was a demarcation point in my own life. It marked a time that I no longer felt comfortable in the town where I grew up. After that incident, I began to view the world differently. Hope and trust in others was replaced with skepticism and cynicism.
This cynical worldview has stuck with me for quite some time. Even today, I have to fight it as my default disposition, especially when times get tough, which they often did in 2013. Sadly, I am fairly certain I am the rule rather than the exception. Cynicism is rampant in our culture. In politics, the left and the right are cynical of each other, and they both are cynical of the media while the media is cynical of them. The current polarization of our culture seems largely based on the cynical idea that if one disagrees with another on one issue, there is no other issue on which they should seek common ground. I sadly admit that I am just as big a part of this problem as anyone else.
Even within the Catholic Church cynicism is not uncommon. While the election of Pope Francis has brought an amazing and unforeseen amount of positive attention to a Church that needed it, there is an undercurrent of division among factions within the Church. As much as Pope Francis has tried to call a ceasefire in the culture war with society, the cultural and political divisions seem to be as present within the Church as they have ever been.
As the Christmas season winds down, I feel a clear challenge to confront my own cynicism. The message of Christmas is the core message of the Christianity: faith, hope and love. Living these three ideas leaves no room for cynicism. It is the antithesis of the Christmas message. This contrast is shown in the hope of the magi seeking to pay homage to the newborn savior versus the cynicism of Herod, who began the slaughter of the innocents to protect his own power from the child Jesus.
All cynics have their own reasons for their attitudes. Some, like me, have deep rooted frustrations that are often difficult to let go. More present circumstances might entrap others. Regardless of the circumstance, for those seeking the grace and peace of Christ as promised in the Christmas message, cynicism will always be a major roadblock until we find a way to be released from it.
As I mentioned last year around this time, I am not too big on resolutions for the New Year, but I do feel particularly called to work on letting my own cynicism go and truly embracing the hope of which the Christmas season reminds us in the year ahead. It will not be easy, but there is already so much cynicism in the world at large without someone like me, who calls himself a Christian, adding to it.