Cynicism is a sickness

“Though there is indeed a great deal of disenchantment with God these days, “Christian” cynicism seems most often directed toward the church.  As an untidy conglomeration of imperfect people from all walks of life, the margin for human error in the church is quite high, isn’t it?  We are a dysfunctional family of sinful siblings, repeatedly failing and injuring one another.  Christians must constantly nurse in-house wounds.  Thus the descent, whether immediate or gradual, into cynicism.

So many believers have now slid into those dark pits that cynicism is becoming vogue in many Christian circles as a self-identifying trademark of a new spirituality-the edgy spirituality of the jaded.  Since cynicism is emerging as a hip new way to be “spiritual,” religious disenchantment is often hailed as a spiritual virtue.

Cynical Christians are therefore situated on the fringes of Christian fellowship.  Their position on the margins allows them to be close enough to the church to (often amusingly) criticize its mistakes while maintaining a degree of allegiance to Jesus (who harangues against the established religious leadership of his day become favorite Scripture  passages). Cynics praise themselves for taking the red pill of “reality,” and then they stick it to “the Man” by unplugging themselves from the “matrix” of the institutional church.

But who does the Christian cynic “stick it to” if “the Man” is Jesus himself or the church he died for?

Such questions expose cynicism as potentially misguided and dangerous.  Cynics have been wounded, or at least frustrated, and their edgy spirituality is the spirituality of those whose spiritual wounds and frustrations have become infected, when their brokenness has soured into bitterness.

Cynicism is a sickness.

Excerpt from Faith Without Illusions by Andrew Byers.  Highly recommend!

Is Craft Beer Appreciation Masking Alcoholism?

As a craft beer enthusiast it’s easy to go overboard.  At least in Portland, with it’s 50-some breweries, there are new exciting beer releases on a weekly basis surrounded by fun events to promote them.  We won’t even start with the festivals.  There are too many beers being released to ever be able to sample all of them, but it’s not difficult to want to try.

If you’re a craft beer lover in a beer paradise, it is easy for your enthusiasm to lead to trouble.  I think Michael Tonsmeire (my favorite beer blogger) is right when he wrote:

“I also worry about alcoholism masquerading as craft beer appreciation, just because I am physically capable of drinking 3/4 of a liter of 13% ABV Imperial Stout over the course of an evening (containing more alcohol than in a six-pack of Bud Light), doesn’t mean it is a good idea!”  (aka. the Mad Fermentationist)

I worry about the same thing.  It’s such a brilliant disguise!  It’s easy to see when someone is drinking 12 Coors Light in an evening, much more difficult to detect when you’re just having a few 10% beers.

As a homebrewer and someone who loves to try new and unique offerings, I intentionally try to keep things in check.  The last thing I want to do is build up a dependence on alcohol or NEED to drink a beer everyday to get by.   I want to be able to enjoy beer and receive it as the gift from God that it is.  As my friend Jeff pointed out last weekend, it’s also important not to foster a false sense of guilt if everything IS in check.

So here are some questions that regularly go through my mind.  I’d encourage you to ask yourself these questions as well.

Is alcohol affecting my physical health?  Is it difficult to sleep?  Am I gaining weight?  Is it difficult to exercise?  A few weeks ago I had a stomach issue due to acid and my doctor told me to stop drinking alcohol and coffee for two weeks while I was on some medication.  I was relieved that it was more difficult to not drink coffee.  The beer thing was no problem.  But apparently alcohol is really hard on your stomach (as well as other things) which was a good reminder that my intake has many consequences that I should consider.  I need to watch what I drink for the good of my overall wellbeing.

Can I afford the alcohol that I’m buying?  As beer quality increases and styles like sours become more expensive due to the extensive aging (20 or 30 dollars a bottle!), it’s increasingly easy for beer to make us financially irresponsible.  If buying beer makes it financially tough in other areas of your life or families life, it might be time to take a step back.  There are regularly very rare beer releases (like Logsdon Farms Peche N’ Brett or Pliny the Younger) where it is easy to just put it on your credit card because “it’s only one night each year where it is available.”  But how many of the rare beer releases can you realistically do that for?  There’s something in “very limited supply” coming out every week.

Do I drink every night of the week?  This one is more personal because I could (and others can) easily drink one or two beers a night all week and it wouldn’t be a problem.  But for myself, I’ve recognized that I don’t need to and probably shouldn’t for health and financial reasons.

Am I regularly or often getting drunk?  I’m not in the business of drinking to get drunk, in fact, in the few times that I have been drunk in my past, it was an unpleasant and undesirable experience.  I’m honestly not sure what the appeal is in this motivation for drinking.  This is why it’s a good idea to have a limit in mind and stick with it.  Each person must figure out what that limit is for themselves.

Am I asking alcohol to do something that only God can do? This is an important question for those who are following Jesus.  Am I relying, depending, counting on alcohol to soothe me, to give me rest, to give me relief, etc. all of these things that we should be depending on God for?  Beer can easily become a crutch in life that we need and rely on instead of the one who invites us to come to Him for rest.

A practice that I’ve done a few times in the past is to give up alcohol for Lent.  Other than the spiritual reasons for doing so, I’ve found that’s it’s a good “reset” on my alcohol intake.  As the year goes on, it’s easy to get to a place where you’re trying something new or drinking something every night.  But fasting from it is a way to communicate to your body, spirit, and mind that it’s not an entitlement, but a luxury, a gift that should be received with gratitude and thanksgiving, and there is someone else we should be turning to and relying on each day.

 What other questions do you think are beneficial?  

Summer Reading List

I like to spend summers reading a little more fiction than normal as well as outside of what i normally read (pastoral, theology, bible).  All of these are titles that have been recommended from a variety of trusted friends.  What are you reading this summer?

The World is Not Ours To Save – Tyler Wigg-Stevenson

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead – Brene Brown

Salvation on Sand Mountain; Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia – Dennis Covington

The Secrets of Happy Families – Bruce Feiler

The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society – Lesslie Newbigin
Am I the only one in the universe that hasn’t read this?

Endurance; Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage – Alfred Lansin

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz

Mink River – Brian Doyle

Thin Blue Smoke – Doug Worgul

The Divine Conspiracy – Dallas Willard
Going to reread this for a summer discussion group. LOVE this book.

Every Good Endeavor – Tim Keller