Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

Christianity Doesn’t Need More Cynics: It Needs More People Selling Hope

 

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™.

Screenshot 2016-03-08 08.26.36This 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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Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

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18 Responses

  1. I like the thrust of this article. However, we don’t “”need more people selling hope.” We need more people giving it freely.

  2. I was a little shocked by this post – I’m interested in progressive Christianity partly because I see it as the antithesis of cynicism. You gave me some food for thought.

    Devoting myself to the two greatest commandments Jesus provides has inspired me to revisit my identity, values, and life at their most fundamental levels. Working to understand those commandments and how they can inform my life and my relationships is a source of great joy for me.

    Prior to my recent baptism (just last year), I struggled with a picture of Christianity that inhibited me from embracing and understanding the gospels in a way that I found fulfilling. That picture included assumptions about what “real” Christians believe – I was delighted to find that my assumptions were inaccurate and was helped by many writers and some fellow church members and pastors in feeling comfortable enough to explore what Jesus and the Holy Spirit communicate. Quite a bit of it was labeled “progressive” – frequently pejoratively, but not always.

    I pray we all may allow the Holy Spirit to guide us to be inspired, rather than cynical, in our journey as Christians; thank you for this post.

  3. Just got around to reading this piece and found it uplifting. I am guilty of being cynical at times but honestly have to say that the reason why I read so much of the progressive Christian blogs (even though I am no longer Christian) is that I find most of them to be a breath of fresh air and very positive. I feel they often keep my cynicism in check!

  4. You’re just not going to answer my question are you Ben. I’m not surprised since you have done that before, but still, coming from the guy who once said he wanted to “ask the hard questions” why not answer a few.

  5. Benjamin:
    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.

    Ronny to Benjamin:
    What needs to be kept firmly in mind, is that in the end, God/Love wins! 🙂 And that true, not for just a percent of the human race; but for every last person! 🙂

  6. Thanks for this Benjamin. I’m working on not letting my sarcasm run point for my cynicism. Every time I lose focus on Christ and get caught up in mere criticism the cynicism in me (which I usually categorize as realism) sneaks out. The only way to overcome the negative spirals of the negative is to focus on the positive of hope in Christ–the promise of eternal resurrection life in Christ is the only hope worth hoping in.

  7. Negativism sells newspapers. Hope holds people together. Which one matters more? Maybe we need to get into what “matters more” means.

  8. “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.”

    1) How have you measured this?

    2) So you have had your cathartic time of expressing your cynicism and now you want the rest of us to stop being cynical.

    Yours A Cynic

  9. Glad to hear this. When you talk about Jesus’s message of love and hope I have to say I feel like we have some common ground. It’s when you start your rants about guns and Christians being “too patriotic” ( not to mention your occasional cherry picking of the Bible, but lets not get into any of that now), that I have to really dig in and make sure my head doesn’t explode with anger. Hopefully this is a new turning point.
    -your brother in Christ, Andrew

  10. As a ‘progressive evangelical’ (IF a label would ever fit neatly onto my coat pocket!), I can say that cynicism DOES exist on both sides, and also in me. Chiefly in me, for I AM ‘the chief of sinners’ – yes, I shall join you on this pledge, for I am tired of cynicism, and most tired of my own! 🙁

  11. Good post Benjamin. Timely. I have noticed, though, when you write positive articles that are not typically divisive and controversial, much less people seem to offer their comments and personal input.

  12. “..returning to our roots of selling hope to outsiders—because selling hope to outsiders is where life is.” I love this, thank you. I think in place of cynicism we can encourage spiritual discernment, and always focusing on hope, love and peace. Staying grounded in our faith while healing the wounds that cause cynicism and deep seated fear in the first place.

  13. yes! IMHO one can’t sell something one doesn’t have but as a matter of fact I do have hope but I’m not selling it I’m being it. I don’t have the kind of hope(TM) that’s for sale at any price. I have hope in the Lord that comes from a lifetime of experience, practice, friendship with a God who is a person who is being there for me no matter what & has literally rescued me from death many times in my 64 years. If others see his presence In me (& very few do by the way!) I suppose they are inspired to see it because I have become an agent and they are in need of knowing him as I do themselves. in this way their hope resonates with mine. others can not buy my hope because it’s free to anyone who has a need that cannot be grasped with a concept but must be seen with the eyes of one’s heart that have been opened by suffering the loss of all hope in one’s own abilities & recognize one’s hopelessNess and powerlessness to control outcomes that confer advantages on oneself, one’s family, one’s tribe or nation earned by one’s own effort or agency. many Christians I encounter here on the blogs are cynical. I wonder if it’s because they are going through their grief and loss stages. cynicism may be a stranglehold or a launchpad depending on how someone is invested in their control freakiness. IMHO giving up one’s agency that one has known all one’s life and depended on to move through one’s life is about the hardest thing one would ever do or attempted to do. when one has been addicted to a Christian religious cult (pick one) IMHO one going through detox is at risk for a mental, moral, spiritual and physical breakdown and it feels like one is dying because one has conformed to a false image and has taken on a persona that has given one some narly character flaws.

  14. Thank you for this Ben. I agree. I do know that most people do have a tendency to share, like and high-five those articles that deal with what a person isn’t and being generally cynical. I see a lot of wounds on both sides of the Christian tracks. This is why so many evangelicals draw their strength from the Charisma side of Disqus. They feel good about themselves because they are not sinners like those who sit smugly on the Patheos side. But, where do we draw the line? Sure, it is good to know that I am not as bad as those folks over there are, but it is very taxing on my soul to not remember why I got in this fight to begin with. Without remembering our first principles of who we are, then all we ultimately are is defined by those on the other side — just a bunch of cavemen throwing huge rocks at us.

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