Cynicism (Part 2): The Danger of Naive Optimism

“The opposite of a childlike spirit,” writes Paul Miller, “is a cynical spirit.”  Miller explains that cynicism is a subtle, yet all-to-common prayer-killer, “a tone that permeates our culture, one of the master temptations of our age.”  Yesterday, we examined the groundless formula of cynicism, in that it’s root is not genuine faith, but naive optimism.  Today, Miller clarifies the threat of naive optimism and the movement within our culture from naive optimism to cynicism:

The movement from naive optimism to cynicism is the new American journey.  In naive optimism we don’t need to pray because everything is under control, everything is possible.  In cynicism we can’t pray because everything is out of control, little is possible.

With the Good Shepherd no longer leading us through the valley of the shadow of death, we need something to maintain our sanity.  Cynicism’s ironic stance is a week attempt to maintain a lightehearted equilibrium in a world gone mad.  These aren’t just benign cultural trends; they are your life.

So what’s the danger anyhow?  Why is it important that we understand how cynicism affects us?

At some point, each of us comes face-to-face with the valley of the shadow of death.  We can’t ignore it.  We can’t remain neutral with evil.  We either give up and distance ourselves, or we learn to walk with the Shepherd.  There is no middle ground.

Cynicism is the air we breathe, and it is suffocating our hearts.  Unless we become disciples of Jesus, this present evil age will first deaden and then destroy our prayer lives, not to mention our souls.  Our only hope is to follow Jesus as he leads us out of cynicism.

In the next two days, we’ll examine Miller’s six cures for cynicism.

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Caleb Gallifant

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