The Present State of Affairs
This week on my mind.... I sense overwhelming cynicism in our world. I’m convinced some North Americans have misinterpreted being critical for critical thinking. In all of our educational aims to develop stronger critical thinkers and more educated, logical intellectuals, perhaps it’s only made us more readily find fault. I bring this up because I see it in our Apostolic/Pentecostal (A/P) culture, and as writers trying to convey who we are to the world, it’s a problem.
“Can any good thing come out of [insert organization acronym]?”
Previously I have bemoaned the critical nature of our A/P generation and how cynics (who usually aren’t exactly setting the world on fire in their own home churches) just love to roll up their sleeves and find fault with the latest idea, initiative, or project of their organization of choice, and even the people of that organization. (Here's the original post if you want to read my full rant.) I’m not saying the church is absolutely perfect in every way, but when all we do is focus on the negative…? I believe a lot of it is downright generational and educational snobbery, and as a young educated Apostolic, I am not afraid to call us on it as well as challenge: perhaps we should get over ourselves. I include myself in the challenge. I fear cynicism. I fear finding fault with everything in the church. I fear that human tendency in myself and in our A/P culture at large. Besides the unity issue, if we don’t genuinely believe there is a value to what we believe and practice, how can we communicate it convincingly to others? Won’t our sarcasm and cynicism undermine our sincerity?
Why It Matters for Writers
It’s already hard enough to create a believable, multi-dimensional “good guy” character in literature. Human nature loves the bad guy. Think of Shakespeare’s rogues, Poe’s villains. So when you’re writing a story about a character transformed by Christ, how can you make him/her a believable good person in our corrupted, evil world that suggests good people can’t be real? (Instead most "religious figures" come off as hypocrites/fake/corrupt. Think of fiction’s many examples—especially from the work of Graham Greene and Flannery O’Connor.)
So challenge #1 - If we already have that literary challenge, how much more complicated is it when we add in our own cynicism? I think there are genuinely good Apostolic people (thanks to God’s grace). But how do we present those seemingly unrealistic characters to a world struggling to believe in good? Do we really believe it ourselves, and are we capable of talking about it without turning sardonic?
With so many different subcultures (rural, urban, ethnic, progressive, traditional, etc.) within our larger Apostolic/Pentecostal culture, it’s been almost impossible to pinpoint our identity—not doctrine but an archetype of who we are (lifestyle, shared cultural traits, etc.).
So challenge #2 - How we will sell a believable “good guy” Apostolic character in our fiction if a)we ourselves don’t know who this believable Apostolic good guy is for lack of defined A/P identity and b)we can’t describe him or her genuinely without turning to sarcasm?
Who are we and how do we learn to genuinely communicate that to our world minus layers of sarcasm and cynicism?
Currently reading: On Writing by Stephen King