Cynicism Toward My Christian Neighbor

Now, when we spend time talking about loving our Christian brothers and sisters, I think we may all have to make a confession.

It is popular in the church today to be cynical about the church. So much of contemporary writing and speaking within Christian circles in America reflects the value that it is cool to be cynical about the church.

We slam those stiff, retro believers who don’t understand how we are called to love those different from us with HIV/AIDS or who are struggling to save the environment or who are democrats instead of republicans.

We mock those medieval believers who idiotically supported the Crusades which was one of the most stinking smells in the history of the church for how it lacked true love toward the neighbor.

But in doing so, we often sin by failing to love our Christian brothers and sisters. We set up a straw man of who they are and we beat it and burn it. We slam them in the name of self-righteousness about loving others. We say we love but we fail to love.

We say we follow Jesus but we miss the new command he gave: love your brothers and sisters and then the world will know my love.

4 thoughts on “Cynicism Toward My Christian Neighbor

  1. I went to this Southern Baptist Church while I was in Dallas for my internship. It was the first time in my life I felt liberal. It was cool to be liberal. I sat in the back with black band t-shirts and hair styled to look like I had rollled out of bed looking like a rockstar. I tried very hard to make it look like I wasn’t trying hard. I knew I was in for it when I walked in on the 3rd of July and everyone was waving American flags to the song God Bless America. I never thought of this song as a hymn. During the sermon, the pastor spent 5 minutes talking about the right to carry a gun. I don’t think I remember anything else he said that summer, but I remember he talked about guns. I remember thinking that I know understood completely why Texan’s were crazy: Southern Baptist Churches in the Antebellum period.

    But I remember something else that pastor did. During that very same service he made it a point to honor all the veterans in the congregation – specifically ones that just came back from Afghanistan and Iraq. They actually had plaques, saying “Thank You For Your Service” from the church. At that point I remember thinking that perhaps these people were onto something. And I thought about the fact that even though I sat in the back every day and tried to find ways to break the evangelical dress code I don’t think a week went by when some member didn’t specifically come up and welcome me to the church. They often asked my story and if I went to the University of Dallas. Sure this community had their rules, their stars, and their dots, but I think they had something else as well. Somehow I think they were struggling through the whole “how do we love other people” question . . . just like I was.

    That’s why I find I like hymns too, because I read this poetry and I feel like someone decades (or in some cases centuries) ago struggled like I did. I sing sing “O Come and Mourn” and wonder if that artist saw the same stone-hearted ceremonies I do and thought it was important that we take days like Good Friday to mourn the fact that our world is broken. “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul” makes me feel that my tired feet ache just like the pilgrims that walked this journey before me. This poet had an openness to them about worry, doubt, and fear that was probably just as rare then as it is now. And those messages that have traveled down from long ago made me thankful for that squire who gave his life running around on the battlefields of the crusades. He thought what he was doing was right – whether it was or not is up to God. Nevertheless Christians everywhere learned something from his endeavor. Just like we learned from the Inquisition, the Reformation, the Witch Trials, and the Great Awakening. Whether ugly or progressive, mistakes or elightenment, they were still very human . . . and as long as God’s family continues to learn from the saints of the past, and those around them . . . I think we might be headed in the right direction.

    Thanks for the thought . . . and for letting me reflect.

  2. I went to this Southern Baptist Church while I was in Dallas for my internship. It was the first time in my life I felt liberal. It was cool to be liberal. I sat in the back with black band t-shirts and hair styled to look like I had rollled out of bed looking like a rockstar. I tried very hard to make it look like I wasn’t trying hard. I knew I was in for it when I walked in on the 3rd of July and everyone was waving American flags to the song God Bless America. I never thought of this song as a hymn. During the sermon, the pastor spent 5 minutes talking about the right to carry a gun. I don’t think I remember anything else he said that summer, but I remember he talked about guns. I remember thinking that I know understood completely why Texan’s were crazy: Southern Baptist Churches in the Antebellum period.

    But I remember something else that pastor did. During that very same service he made it a point to honor all the veterans in the congregation – specifically ones that just came back from Afghanistan and Iraq. They actually had plaques, saying “Thank You For Your Service” from the church. At that point I remember thinking that perhaps these people were onto something. And I thought about the fact that even though I sat in the back every day and tried to find ways to break the evangelical dress code I don’t think a week went by when some member didn’t specifically come up and welcome me to the church. They often asked my story and if I went to the University of Dallas. Sure this community had their rules, their stars, and their dots, but I think they had something else as well. Somehow I think they were struggling through the whole “how do we love other people” question . . . just like I was.

    That’s why I find I like hymns too, because I read this poetry and I feel like someone decades (or in some cases centuries) ago struggled like I did. I sing sing “O Come and Mourn” and wonder if that artist saw the same stone-hearted ceremonies I do and thought it was important that we take days like Good Friday to mourn the fact that our world is broken. “Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul” makes me feel that my tired feet ache just like the pilgrims that walked this journey before me. This poet had an openness to them about worry, doubt, and fear that was probably just as rare then as it is now. And those messages that have traveled down from long ago made me thankful for that squire who gave his life running around on the battlefields of the crusades. He thought what he was doing was right – whether it was or not is up to God. Nevertheless Christians everywhere learned something from his endeavor. Just like we learned from the Inquisition, the Reformation, the Witch Trials, and the Great Awakening. Whether ugly or progressive, mistakes or elightenment, they were still very human . . . and as long as God’s family continues to learn from the saints of the past, and those around them . . . I think we might be headed in the right direction.

    Thanks for the thought . . . and for letting me reflect.

  3. My professor mentioned something in one of my classes that speaks to this somehow…he basically said that something that we don’t realize as evangelical Christians is that there is something fundamentally wrong with the Church today that is divided. We don’t realize that the Church, with all of it’s divisions and sects today, is not TRULY the Body of Christ as Paul had articulated. And this problem is something we need to take seriously.

    He argued, and I would agree, that if this is to change, the church must take seriously the role of confession in church practice…both personally and corporately. We have no right in the church to point out the problems of others if we cannot seriously discern and acknowledge our own faults and weaknesses…

    Cynicism, as you have pointed out, Matt, has invaded our church, particularly amongst younger generations. I think at the root of cynicism is pride…an inherent ability to see the faults of others but to fail to acknowledge that we, too, are sinful.

    As such, I think the church today must define itself as a body that takes seriously the role of confession within church life.

    A very good post, I think. It brings up a lot of different issues within the church today. Just thought I’d be a part of the discussion…

  4. My professor mentioned something in one of my classes that speaks to this somehow…he basically said that something that we don’t realize as evangelical Christians is that there is something fundamentally wrong with the Church today that is divided. We don’t realize that the Church, with all of it’s divisions and sects today, is not TRULY the Body of Christ as Paul had articulated. And this problem is something we need to take seriously.

    He argued, and I would agree, that if this is to change, the church must take seriously the role of confession in church practice…both personally and corporately. We have no right in the church to point out the problems of others if we cannot seriously discern and acknowledge our own faults and weaknesses…

    Cynicism, as you have pointed out, Matt, has invaded our church, particularly amongst younger generations. I think at the root of cynicism is pride…an inherent ability to see the faults of others but to fail to acknowledge that we, too, are sinful.

    As such, I think the church today must define itself as a body that takes seriously the role of confession within church life.

    A very good post, I think. It brings up a lot of different issues within the church today. Just thought I’d be a part of the discussion…

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