The Paris Terror Attack in an Age of Cynicism

The First Few Seconds
The tragedy of the terrorist attacks in Paris was before everyone’s face seconds after the events were first reported. Analogous to this technological miracle was the instant reaction of people everywhere through social media, as Twitter and Facebook exploded with comments from the concerned, the shocked, the angry and even the indifferent.

Soon after this a vast array of individuals changed their Facebook profile picture to display the French flag. This itself was followed by many declaiming against this image as being either racist in its nature since many non-white/non-Europeans are regularly murdered by terrorists, or being yet another example of the button-pushing do-nothing self-serving narcissism of taking a selfie with a tragic event superimposed on it.

It doesn’t even end there. The persons making these assertions were themselves soon in the dock, accused of being equally self-serving in that they were merely trying to separate themselves from the popular view so that they could gain the high ground and look upon the lesser beings who went along with the crowd- in other words, “The Sheep”, with derision.

This all happened in minutes. Not even hours, but minutes, and with some digging it could probably be proven that it happened in seconds. That’s a lot of high feelings in a short amount of time.

Nothing is What it Seems
What exactly is going on? It is important to note that the event itself seemed to fade into the background, replaced by the massed recriminations which interestingly had little to do with how people genuinely viewed what happened, or what must be done, or how this could be prevented in future. It seemed the real question was how questionable was the motivation of the people making their statements.

This is no small matter, and it is very telling about our cynical culture’s impact on individuals; it’s not the message, it’s what’s behind the message that counts, and in an age where a book won’t sell without “Secret” or “Hidden” in the title and conspiracy theories rule, nobody trusts anyone, or anything, anymore. I mean, what can a person talk about that isn’t either a sham, or will be immediately and loudly denounced as a sham? Without trust, all communication enters a kind of fantasy world of pointlessness, of dogs chasing their tails, of the Mad-Hatter and the Queen of Hearts alternately pouring tea and shouting for people’s heads to come off.

The Falcon Cannot Hear the Falconer
The professional classes to whom everyone turned to in the past can’t help because they are now considered as mere stooges for one side or the other. Anyone standing up for a principle based on some form of truth will soon be torn down by the host of cynics decrying the very concept that their can be a truth. The foundation of our culture has crumbled. There is only shifting sand to build anything on. As Yeats once wrote

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Yet We Have Convictions and are Moral!
Someone might reply that these sudden accusations of others motivations stem from passionate convictions about justice and rights, the hallmarks of our era. It is true that moral pronouncements seem to be everywhere spewing from every mouth. Ask a person their view on an issue and a condemnation of the opposing view comes thundering out; but ask WHY something is moral or immoral and one is likely to be greeted by a painful silence.

The Game of Right and Wrong
Are we not just playing at passion and morality? If we can’t give the simplest explanation of why we feel something is moral beyond “everyone knows” or a mere utilitarian “it works better for us this way”, then our moral choices become nothing more than preference- chocolate verses vanilla ice-cream. Here the cynic is like a wolf in the fold, capable of torpedoing anyone’s desperate attempt to cobble together a defense. It’s easy because there is no defense. There never has been. The shame of yesterday is the normal of today and the embarrassment of the future. All morality is subjective and therefore ultimately absurd. Justice and Rights become things that make us feel we are doing good, without knowing why, and tomorrow they might mean something else anyway.

You Have to Leave the Culture to be Renewed
The Christian is an outsider, even when living in one of the so-called Christian cultures as existed in the past, because no culture in history ever really accepts them, and they cannot accept any culture  without the deepest of reservations because they are all built on the shifting sand of human pride. Christians are “looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). This city, the Kingdom of God, is unchanging, unlike human attempts at subjective morality and truth. God is the standard by which we can measure everything. Christ is the Chief Cornerstone of truth.

In God there is no cynicism, only inquiry, and that totally free; He allows accusations against Himself so that He can better reveal Himself to His children, humanity. Nothing is hidden- there is no secret darkness in God. His perfection and the wonder of His life-giving character are unfathomable, but they are good all the way down, every layer. They can be trusted because unlike us, God never changes- He’s already as good as it can get.

To the Christian the terrorist attacks in France, Lebanon, Mexico and Iraq come as no surprise, although they meet them with a shower of tears. These are attempts by some to impose their ideas on others, in this case by despicable acts of violence that must be strenuously condemned and resisted. The attempts by individuals to impose their cynicism or their superiority over others through social media or any other means must also be resisted. Not through violence, but through standing on the only firm foundation- the Eternal God, the source of all truth. Although cultures are always opposed to God, individuals can be renewed and escape the spiral of meaninglessness by embracing the God who wants to embrace them.

Dennis Toufexis,
Director, Reasonable Faith Montreal chapter


Excerpt from Suggested reading: The Abolition of Man (C.S. Lewis)

The kind of explanation which explains things away may give us something, though at a heavy cost. But you cannot go on ‘explaining away’ for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on ‘seeing through’ things for ever.

The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles.

If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s