The Dangers of Cynicism

I commend to you a piece by David Frum in the March edition of the Atlantic Monthly, "How to Build an Autocracy".  Frum is a former speech writer for George W. Bush and in this article he points to the dangers facing American democracy today.

Frum does not envision a fascist take over which would persecute the innocent, rather he sees the powers of the state being used to protect the guilty as they accrue money from the public.  He sees parallels in the Philippines, Hungary, and Poland.  Frum asserts, "A would-be kleptocrat is better served by spreading cynicism than by deceiving followers."  The heart of cynicism is the assertion that self-interest is the only real motivator of human beings.

Yoyo (you're on your own) philosophy runs deep within our national consciousness.  Whether it stems from a libertarian or anarchist root, such views are not Christian.  While Christian theology affirms the reality of selfishness (that is what original sin is about), we do not view this position as a good. Rather, Christian ethics demand that actions and policies be evaluated on the basis of how an action or position affects others.  Christianity demands that we practice love and compassion toward others, especially the alien and the poor.
The temptation in light of this bombardment of bad news, bad actions, and hype is to withdrawal into our private world and its concerns.  This is the heart of cynicism.  By leaving the public space, our common life is abandoned to be used and manipulated by forces and principalities which exploit the poor, those on the margins, and the planet.

I understand the need to pace ourselves and to fast periodically from the news and social media. One can only absorb so much alone.  I want to challenge us to remember that we belong to each other and to Christ; we are not alone.  By listening to and caring about the needs of others we inoculate ourselves against the plague of self-aggrandizement.  Loving God and our neighbor gives us power and purpose to live a good life together.

The Reverend Lisa Hunt | Rector