26 June 2013

Post-cynicism: make a personal commitment, make a change

Postmodern, postChristian..... postcynicism?

Sojourners' CEO & author Jim Wallis after a speaking tour promoting common good, "Skepticism is a good and healthy thing, I told every audience. Be skeptical and ask the hard, tough questions about our institutions — (political and financial). But cynicism is a spiritually dangerous thing because it is a buffer against personal commitment. Becoming so cynical that we don’t believe any change is possible allows us to step back, protect ourselves, grab for more security, and avoid taking any risks. If things can’t change, why should I be the one to show courage, take chances, and make strong personal commitments? I see people asking that question all the time.

But personal commitment is all that has ever changed the world, transformed human lives, and altered history. And if our cynicism prevents us from making courageous and committed personal choices and decisions, the hope for change will fade. Along the way, I got to thinking how the powers that be are the ones causing us to be so cynical. Maybe that is part of their plan — to actually cause and create more cynicism in order to prevent the kind of personal commitments that would threaten them with change.

And this is where faith comes in. Hebrews 11:1 says it best, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” My personal paraphrase of that biblical text, “Hope means believing in spite of the evidence, then watching the evidence change.” Faith enables us to act in hope, despite how things look, and that’s what can help make change finally occur and change how things look.

Instead of fighting the conservative/liberal wars, some of us can find common ground for the common good...
Instead of blaming each other for poverty, some of us could together create the opportunity and fairness that can end it.
Instead of having the endless ideological arguments about the size of government, some of us could focus on the biblical purposes of civil authority to protect from evil, promote the good, defend the vulnerable, and solve our problems with all the other sectors of society — including the faith community.
Instead of continuing the old culture wars, some of us could commit to the absolutely essential role of parenting our children, which would most change culture.
Instead of becoming so focused on ourselves and our own group, some of us could extend the definition of who our neighbors are, as Jesus asks us to do, even globally to those who make our cell phones! Together, we could attract a new generation of young people by helping them create the social movements around justice issues like human trafficking, climate change, or the morally unacceptable worldwide rates of deadly poverty and disease.

Finally, some of us could start a new movement for democracy that would help take the power of money out of politics. And for Christians, some of us can raise the most fundamental question of all, “Who is this Jesus and why does that matter?”

Follow @JimWallis on Twitter.

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