I was out shopping at one of my fave home décor stores when I paused to read this piece of quote art. It resonated with me so deeply I just had to capture it with my Iphone. A little googling revealed that this gem of a quote is from word artist, Anna Quach.
Hope rejects cynicism. I love that and I need to hear it right now. Because right now I am tempted to be overrun with cynicism with everything in my world. With the American political scene where presidential candidates sling oppositional research at each other as strategy and the one with the biggest campaign budget is rumored to win. What happened to campaigning with bold vision and fearless leadership? With pummeling right into the controversies with an unapologetic point of view (hello,gun control) rather than ambiguity and vague platitudes transmitting over the nightly airwaves?
I’m not only on the verge of becoming a cynical American but also a cynical ex-churched woman. I don’t want to be and God knows I’ve been fending off the demons of pessimism concerning all-things-church for a number of years now. But ever since releasing my book, Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church, I am receiving reports on a weekly basis of women who have been betrayed, abandoned, misguided and mistreated by the faith communities they have loved. Just yesterday I spent an afternoon with a strong woman of faith who after years of service and contribution to her spiritual tribe, was pushed out simply because she pressed her leadership to reexamine they’re complementarian stance towards women. By the end of it all, this woman of valor was marginalized and accused of being ungracious and divisive…simply because she spoke up and pushed for private dialog with those in power. Her reputation has come under fire and treasured relationships have now unraveled, simply because she had the audacity to speak up against the injustice of inequality that is hurting the women (and men) of the community she loved and nurtured.
I admire the hit she was willing to take for the sisterhood – for justice!– yet it also fuels the hungry troll of cynicism that lies in wait under the bridge in my psyche.
There are other reasons I hover at the edge of hopelessness about Church. The emphasis on power, control, and image disillusions me. The institutional church, in all shapes and sizes and colors and sounds, has become a mirage of community to me and I wonder How Can I Remain a Christ Follower When I Do Not Want to Be in Church???
My friend, Kathy Escobar, blogged about this recently. She describes the saving grace she found from the hounds of cynicism with this outlook:
i have decided that a much healthier place for me to land is what i call “hopeful realism”, accepting things for what they are in a more realistic way while being open to possibilities. - kathy escobar
That helps, and honestly I hope–yes, HOPE–- that I will be able to resist the wave of cynicism that threatens to swallow me whole. Cynicism breeds hopelessness, and if I completely lose hope in the collective presence of people of faith, well.…than what?
Hope is the dream of a soul awake.
This last sentence in the quote sign is a little candle in my world of dark. Though it would be the most simple thing in the world to do, to completely let go of my association with the phenomena known as Church, with all it’s destructive, demeaning, oppressive and power-driven patterns, yet truth be told I am busted. There remains in me a persistent, relentless strain of hope that despite the effed-upness of this institution, there is underneath all the systems of beliefism and image-enhancement, a wild beauty of a woman who is aching to emerge into her true self. The church is people and the church is Me. Systems come and go, like seven-headed snakes that grow another head when one is cut off. My cynicism is like a seven-headed snake, too. I try to end the angst with all-things-church only to end up with one more damning piece of evidence of why the way we do church isn’t working for me anymore.
I wish I had a nice, tidy way to end this post. I love happy endings. I like that Kathy has landed in her shelter of hopeful realism, and I hope to join her there someday soon, but today I am in the wild barren lands without a compass or a map. I was told there was an oasis just over the hill, but the more I walk, the hotter it gets and what I thought I found turned out to be a mirage.
Church has let me down over and over again. And since I broke up with the IC (institutional church) a few months ago, all the old grievances are surfacing, much like they do when an old married couple finally calls it quits.
I know I have some soul work to do, some hurts to heal and some disappointments to let go of. And I will. I am determined to come out of this on the other side. I want that hopeful realism that Kathy describes. I want to live undefeated in the possibilities of what can be rather than in the sorrow of what is not.
That is my hope.