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Posts from the President Vol 15

There are not many seasons of the year that bring out cynicism in people like Christmas. Cynics are people who make a practice of questioning the sincerity and goodness of people’s motives and actions. Since Christmas is a time of giving, love, and good spirits, cynics find in this most joyous of seasons a large field in which to sow their seeds of doubt and discontent. No doubt we all engage in a bit of cynicism at this time of year, but some people take special delight in pointing out the hypocrisy, or at least the downsides, of all this giving. They bring to the surface the inconsistency of people’s generosity and their tainted motives. They point out the real cost to the world of all those Christmas presents made in ways that actually degrade the dignity of people and work against the sustainability of the planet. I see this type of cynicism especially on the Christian websites that I look at fairly regularly.

Is cynicism a Christ-like response to people’s sin or even their well-intentioned but misguided altruism? Some scholars have said Jesus belonged to the school of itinerant cynic philosophers of the first century. I have found that usually those scholars are cynics themselves, fulfilling what Albert Schweitzer noted at the end of his book, The Quest for the Historical Jesus. He said when scholars try to discern what Jesus was really like, it is as if they look at the water in a deep well and see their own reflection.

My own study of the historical Jesus has led me to understand that Jesus rejected all the ancient philosophies, including cynicism. His approach to people’s foibles was genuine and straightforward. He recognized people’s sin and the possibility of their goodness. Matthew 5 records his words, “You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world.” Certainly Jesus’ prayer in John 17 was not that of a cynic.

So this Christmas I have determined to put away most of my cynicism and simply encourage people to be good. Following on Jesus’ comment that “where your treasure is, that’s where your heart will be,” I will practice and encourage generosity in hope that my and other’s hearts will follow.

Have a Merry Christmas!

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