The events of July 2016 deepen the social gaps that have become a mark of the 21st century. In an increasingly absurd dialogue of violence, the fighters are radicalizing. Some become religious fanatics, others nationalists. Some become terrorists, others xenophobes. What is constant is the spiral of resentments. On the other hand, the disarming spectacle of political imposture continues. Trump and, more recently Erdogan, are in the forefront.
During periods with so many events to comment on, it becomes easier to notice that the objectivity of media analysts, who largely influence the masses, is becoming more and more the equivalent of cynicism, and this is not a criticism. It is a simple finding that shows that opinion leaders feel compelled to acknowledge the shattering of the myth of progress, that of the goodness inherent in the human being, or that of the leaders’ clean hands.
The problem is that, informed by sources other than the press—including our own experiences—we become haunted by the thought that a majority, if not everybody, has hidden motives and we gradually become unable to believe in honesty. This helplessness becomes part of everyday life. We end up living in a permanent effort to not be deceived, and the lower we are in the social pyramid of control, the more our mental health is affected.
The cynicism that suggests that the world cannot change because people do not change kills idealism, cuts off wings, discourages proactivity, and eliminates both belief in the existence of meaning and faith in God. A correct interpretation of biblical anthropology is congruent with the cynical view: human nature is utterly depraved, and this is the most honest explanation of the state of affairs in the world.
In biblical language, we are “slaves to sin”, unable to act differently. Nevertheless, it is at this point that an important difference between cynicism and the Bible occurs. The latter says that people, even if they cannot change by themselves, can be changed with outside help.
But how does the biblical perspective of trust in change help us when confronted with the Islamist danger? How does it put an end to terror? Does it urge us to turn the other cheek, to give the fanatics the opportunity to kill some more children, while we pray for a change in their violent nature? No way. Acts of terrorism require immediate measures to defend justice and to prevent future attacks.
The biblical perspective, however, shows its value when it is placed next to the quasi-permanent cynicism that blocks the search for long-term solutions, for intra- and intercommunity reconciliation.
The reality is that few people still believe in changing the world or fighting for this change. Most of those who do are young idealists, who, in time, become cynical. Alongside them are the few who sincerely believe in the existence of a God who gives meaning to life and the world.
However, this is not religious or Christian apologetics, because, unfortunately, most religious or Christian people and their institutions do not always have transparent motives. The few I describe here are the people who, through the purity of their motives and perspectives, are capable of true miracles (not supernatural or mystical), which are born when they manage to convey hope, trust, and give a helping hand to those who also have a deep desire to change.
I have met such people, people who know the world they live in, yet do not endorse cynicism. With this kind of attitude, they resemble Jesus, the One who—though He knew the hidden motives of all—did not cynically respond to that reality. On the contrary, the publicans and sinners, the robbers and the criminals, the profiteers and the traitors, found in Jesus a reason to believe that they could change. According to the Bible, this was the only way these pariahs could find change.
When compared with Jesus, it becomes clear that a cynical Christian needs healing himself. Their cynicism is a sign of helplessness or, in biblical terms, of unbelief. As one who was more aware than anyone of the deplorable state of the world, Jesus did not hesitate to state, however, in many ways and in various forms, that people can, must believe in and act for change, because “everything is possible for one who believes”. His words were not a motivational slogan, but the expression of an absolute truth that completely changed the rules of the game.
Faith is the answer to cynicism. A faith that is neither naivety nor superstition, but a transcendent reinterpretation of reality. This is what enables us to see the world as it is seen through God’s eyes. This is the solution that every idealist, every peace promoter, be them an atheist, imagines. A realism devoid of self-illusion, doubled by a lucid and bright perspective, which would open the way to change. The good news is that such a road exists. The bad news, for a society that abandons God because of Christian hypocrisy or its own hypocrisy, is that we will not really find Him without the faith that heals our perceptions and inspires our actions.