The 40 day period of preparation leading up to Easter is upon us. The Lenten season is intended for us followers of Christ to slow down for introspection and reflection upon our sinfulness. It is a time when we “bury the Alleluia” until Easter Sunday morning.
One of the things that usually occurs around this time of year is that people say they want to “give up something for Lent.” It’s an effort to deprive oneself of something as a means to test one’s discipline to live life without it. Giving up sugar, chocolate, and Diet Coke are among the items that are sacrificed.
To be honest, I didn’t make an official decision about what to give up. However, I’m leaning toward giving up cynicism for Lent. However, it was a close call. I thought about embracing cynicism for Lent.
It’s far too easy to become cynical in our country these days. We look at our politics and wonder “what in the world is going on!?” It’s hard to find a voice of sanity among the people in Washington. You can find any number of talking heads to contribute to your cynicism and personal political persuasion by tuning in to your favorite cable news channel. Hope is short supply, and fear is growing like Kudzu.
Politics isn’t the only thing to be cynical about; religion offers it’s share of opportunities. I’m not Southern Baptist anymore, but even I am concerned about what might happen to Russell Moore who heads the ERLC. He has the audacity to speak truth to power, and is criticized for having views that are not sympathetic with the majority of the denomination. It’s disturbing.
A week ago I attended a lecture by Ben Simmons at Missouri State. He was the keynote speaker for Black History Month for the campus. The lecture was entitled, “Race, Law Enforcement, and Faith Based Racism” This son of a Baptist preacher lamented that “the white American church has never repented of slavery and racism.” He also noted that during the early 1900s that lynchings took place on Sunday mornings, sometimes before worship was to occur. He said it was hard to imagine hanging a black man and then going into a church building to sing about and hear about Jesus. The church had divorced its theology from social concerns.
I came away from that lecture hall filled with students of all races and backgrounds thinking about the disconnect between what the church says it believes and how it implements those beliefs. That’s a big reason there is so much cynicism directed toward the church.
Lent gives us pause to reflect on such things. It should create a hunger in each one of us for a deeper understanding and relationship with Jesus Christ. One of the ways we can start is by remembering his words, “More blessings come from giving than receiving” (Acts 20.35 CEV).
We all have our reasons to be cynical, and no I’m not talking about a healthy skepticism that doesn’t believe anything and everything you hear. I am, to a certain degree, talking about how we can diminish this narrative of “fake news” and come to know what the truth is when we are confronted by it. I do want to be part of a people who “walks in the truth” so the world will know there’s an alternative, more positive approach to life (3 John 4).
And, to be sure, I’m not talking about giving up humor for Lent. That’s the only thing that can get me through this malaise I see and read about on an almost daily basis. But, I do want to be more mindful of how my own words and actions can hinder or help those around me. I want to be more discerning about how the political and religious landscape is polluting my own spiritual development.
The gospel is still about faith, hope, and love. Let’s use these next few weeks to slow down, embrace these qualities, and allow them to make a difference in how we treat others. May God help the church to be the antidote for an overdose in cynicism this Lenten season. We can start by practicing gratitude. It’s pretty much impossible to be grateful and cynical at the same time.