Jump directly to the content

I've Grown Cynical of Cynicism


Nov 7 2013
Complaining about the church, the government, the world at large? Over it.

In my 20s, you could have found me sitting cross-legged in a coffee shop, reading a real made-from-paper book with a dramatic title about economic inequality. Occasionally, I might've looked up at you to make clever, droll remarks about how the institutional church—and much of society—was missing the mark. Other days, I might've delivered a half-philosophical-diatribe, half stand-up comedy routine about the weaknesses of organized religion. And if you happened to jump in by highlighting your own list of social or religious flaws, we would've bantered back and forth like ESPN commentators until the coffee shop kicked us out at closing.

Add in the fact I was writing a book called Dear Church: Letters From a Disillusioned Generation, and I was pretty much the poster child for cynics toward religious institutions. It's probably no surprise to you that this first book sold better than my second one, even though the later one was warmer and more positive and better crafted. It's a testament to the preferences of our culture perhaps.

Let's face it. Cynicism is sexy.

Among many young people, cynicism has become a badge of pride. It suggests we have a certain sophisticated kind of intellect and dry, satirical humor, just like the witty sharp-shooters Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and all those late night guys.

Our cynicism meter soars when, say, Jimmy Kimmel poses fake questions, like "Did you watch the presidential debate last night?" and gets people on the street to go on and on about a fictional debate that never even happened. People are so full of it. These jokers can't be trusted, we cynics say with a wry smile that suggests we have a special insight about how the world works.

Politics, of course, provides the comedians with plenty of ongoing material. During the government shutdown, a Gallup survey found Americans were more cynical about government than ever before. (Only a record low 42 percent of Americans reported they had an even "fair" amount of confidence in the government's capacity to deal with domestic matters.) The shutdown led to heated political news commentary, irritated letters to editors, and a wealth of good old-fashioned and often cynical political cartoons.

Beyond politics, the almighty Onionpresents us with delicious headlines like "CEO Worked Way Up From Son Of CEO" or "Greatest Country In World Unable To Keep William H. Gross Stamp Gallery Open." Similarly, Gawker, which often offers a jilted and jaded take on pop-culture news devotes itself to pieces like "Royal Baby Wears A Dress, Is 2 Blessed 2 Be Stressed in New Portraits."

Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

Comments

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
Q+A: Why Letting the Dishes Go Can Save Your Soul

Q+A: Why Letting the Dishes Go Can Save Your Soul

In her latest book, Shauna Niequist trades “competition, comparison, and exhaustion for meaning, connection, and unconditional love."
After Childhood Abuse, How Can I Trust Others with My Kids?

After Childhood Abuse, How Can I Trust Others with My Kids?

I equip my daughters to protect themselves and their bodies in ways I didn’t learn to.
Too Many Transitions Can Traumatize Our Kids

Too Many Transitions Can Traumatize Our Kids

I know from experience what happens when children face moving, divorce, or other stressful life change—and how we can help them.
The 5 Truths Stay-at-Home and Working Moms Can Agree On

The 5 Truths Stay-at-Home and Working Moms Can Agree On

After interviewing 120 women, I saw glimmers of a truce in the Mommy Wars.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

The Truth About Living with an Invisible Illness

God sees me and my pain even when others cannot.

Follow Us

Twitter

  • Shauna Niequist opens up about 201cthe most rewarding change201d of her adult life https://t.co/sXsy7n5Sjb
  • Mmm... @Rachel_M_Stone takes us back with some church snack memories d83cdf6a https://t.co/P4cabltG2w
  • If you like your movies wonky, feminist, and a little preachy, Equity proves a compelling choice @alissamarie https://t.co/BZCN8fi2OE
  • RT @Jenpmichel: "Faith grows with strain and tension, even from the furnace of our own heart2019s fear." https://t.co/RENugj0bHR
  • @Jenna_DeWitt @sniequist Thanks for reading and sharing, Jenna! d83ddc95


What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
I've Grown Cynical of Cynicism