This one goes out to the sinner and the cynical

“We Weren’t Born to Follow”
The Circle
Bon Jovi

And really, they’re one and the same aren’t they? One of the main tenants of any religion is faith –  belief in something that one can’t see. For those of us who struggle with the symptoms of cynicism, it’s not just trusting in what we can’t see that is the issue. For the cynic, even trusting the seen and known can be tenuous.

I am a member of the cynical generation. Generation X was raised on Vietnam, Watergate, and the Reagan years. We watched the assassinations of heroes, a president resign, a space shuttle explode, and the fall of televangelists. We cut out teeth on cable and MTV and raised ourselves as our parents worked. We learned to trust no one, and no person or institution was stable or above reproach.

Cynicism is generally defined as a mistrust of anyone or anything that claims to be moral of have the right answers. Ironically, the first cynics were actually believers of truth. An ancient philosophical movement, the Cynics believed that there was only the model of virtue to uphold. Funny how the name of a group that held aloft the value of virtue gradually became the name for those who think that virtue and morals are impossible to achieve and look for the hidden agenda behind any good deed.

In contrast, the sinner is one who willingly disobeys moral or religious laws. But herein lies the rub:  in order to be a sinner, truly one must follow a belief system. We define our morals and values by some unit of measurement.  Whether it is dogma, karma, a governmental law, a physical law of the universe, or simply our own internal beliefs, we each have a compass that directs our way. When we stray from that path, or defiantly reject the rules set before us, that’s when we find the label of sinner applied.

Christians in particular like to employ the blaming of an evil entity for the sins of humanity. The Devil made me do it. Satan become the personification of all that would lead us astray. But Satan didn’t originally start out as the master of evil. Ha-satan, or The Accuser, stands in to challenge and test the faith. He was the adversary, the questioner. His role was to stand in response to God’s creation and ask the questions. Somehow the asking of the questions became the outright challenge of good.

I was lucky enough to have spiritual leaders who challenged me to ask the questions, to not just accept religion at face value. I was encouraged to determine for myself why a particular belief was important, or not. But the choice was in my hands, as part of the gift of free will that makes us human. Some people are not so lucky, and are expected to blindly follow whatever their religious leaders tell them is right.

So is there difference between sinner and cynic? I think both have a gift to share with the world. By questioning what is, and challenging the rules, they can teach us both what should and could be, as well as what shouldn’t. A humorous expression tells us that if you can’t serve as an example, you can stand as a horrible warning. Sometimes the cynic and sinner show us by example why the rules exist, or the necessary evils of institutions. But sometimes, just maybe, the act of defiance can show us that we can evolve to something greater. That maybe our relationship with our Creator can be expanded by breaking a few rules and not always trusting what is in front of us.

Be you sinner or cynic, or one and the same, this one is for you.