Occupy Wall Street. Facebook rants. Moving back in with our parents. All telltale signs of our generation, motivated by one overriding attitude: cynicism. Our generation isn’t quick to trust, especially those in power. We love sarcasm. We’re not hopeful about the future of our country or our careers. And maybe our cynicism is inevitable.
It’s hard not to feel sour and disillusioned when our sports heroes are caught taking performance-enhancing drugs, when our political leaders have proven themselves more interested in re-election than keeping promises, when Wall Street bankers can avoid prosecution for stealing billions of dollars and when pastors who preach family values are exposed for having sex with everyone except their wives.
Cynicism has permeated our worldviews and even crept into our churches—the places where hope should be most present. Lately, it’s hard to find a follower of Jesus who hasn’t been swept out to sea by the rip current of cynicism flowing through our culture.
What’s particularly interesting is how cynical we’ve become about the Church itself. It’s common to see Christians roll their eyes or smirk when the topic of Church comes up in conversation. It’s as if we’ve lost confidence in the ability of human language to carry the freight of our disappointment with it. Sure, we might attend a church service now and then, but we would sooner fall out of an airplane than say something positive about it.
Trawl the Christian blogosphere and you’ll see what I mean. We parody the “shoot” Christians say, produce spoofs of modern worship services, Instagram pictures of the smarmy things people post on church signs and ridicule the stuff Christian culture likes.
Don’t get me wrong; these caricatures of the Church and Christian culture are often funny. I mean, really funny. And what’s the harm? As G.K. Chesterton said, “It’s the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.” But our satirization of the Church feels relentless, and the cover we take behind the “just kidding” defense only works for so long before the veil frays and the gauzy silhouette of our cynicism becomes visible.
This brings us to a dilemma: Jesus loves the Church. Scripture says He died for her. So how can we love Jesus yet feel so cynical about His Bride that we tirelessly ridicule her like she’s the subject of a Comedy Central roast?