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Yesterday I read an article in my newspaper by one of the editors. She opened by saying “…there’s no denying that violence, murders, and crime do tend to make their way to the top of the news cycle, both in print and on TV”. She goes on to explain that she and her colleagues often get complaints about the prominence of bad news shown in their newspaper. She says the usual response to such complaints is “… we’re just giving them what they want.” Then she observes “Unfortunately, that’s a valid reply”.
I believe her. My informal observation is that most people are attracted by reports of bad news. Not just about violence and crime, but also about natural disasters, such as the typhoon in the Philippines last week, which at last count resulted in the deaths of at least 4,000 people and the total destruction of a number of villages. Then there was the recent bad news about the dysfunctional behavior of the politicians in Washington,D.C. The list of bad news could go on and on.
My cynical approach to this has been to tell myself and others that this proliferation of reporting bad news is a relatively modern trend, made possible by the developments in communications technology – especially the internet. You no longer have to wait for a 15 minute evening news broadcast to get the news. Today the news is available any time and every day – over and over again. However while there probably is some truth to that, this emphasis on bad news isn’t really something relatively new.
Consider the Bible. I understand that before any part of the Bible was written, it was passed on orally down through the ages thousands of years ago. It is not unreasonable to say that the oldest parts of the Bible go back as far as 4,000 to 6,000 years ago. That’s a good number of years. The Bible contains a lot of bad news stories. For example, right at the beginning there is a story about a young man who murders his brother. There are many reports of the violence of war, terrible natural disasters, including a flood which wipes out everything and everyone, except one family, some animals, and a boat. Then we read in great detail about the torture and violent death of Jesus. We read about people being stoned to death. We read about the reality of slavery, sexual immorality, discrimination against certain groups of people, and the suffering of the poor at the expense of the rich. The apostle Paul frequently criticizes the people of the church for their self-centered behavior.
Now you might be asking yourself, “what’s wrong with this guy Ray? He’s a pastor. He’s not supposed to be talking about bad news in the Bible. He’s supposed to be talking about good news.” And that is a good question. And here’s my answer. Despite all the bad news in the Bible, it is ultimately about good news. Good news in the midst of bad news. It’s about the hope that no matter how bad things are, there will come a time when there will be nothing but good news. Nothing but peace, love, and joy. The Bible is a book that assures us that in God’s time and in God’s way, that will be the way it is. The God-inspired writers of the Bible are honest and admit to the readers, then and now, that we are in the midst of bad news. But at the same time, they tell the ultimate truth – we can experience a foretaste of the ultimate good news, here and now. I know that’s the truth, because I have experienced good news in the midst of bad news. All during my life God has been fulfilling my hopes when they have been in accordance with God’s will.
One of my hopes in recent years has been that the news media would give me some of the good news in the midst of bad news. And God is fulfilling that hope. In fact, the point that the writer of the article I mentioned at the opening of today’s blog was making was that the newspaper wasn’t content with just reporting bad news. The newspaper was concerned with reporting about ways in which governments, religions, non-profit social service organizations, businesses and individuals are involved in helping prevent some of that bad news from happening again in the future. That kind of reporting is in itself good news. It’s one way in which God is fulfilling my hopes.
Another way in which I have become aware that my hopes for good news in the midst of the bad news are being fulfilled is that the news media are actually including more and more good news stories in their reports. I first became aware of this as I watched the ABC evening news on TV. The anchor person on this news report is Diane Sawyer. As with most news shows, this one usually opens with a story about bad news. However, she also looks for and reports some of the good news within the bad news. For example, in her reports about the results of the typhoon in the Philippines, she reports the bad news of destruction and loss of life that the people are experiencing. At the same time she also reports the good news of how the people are helping each other get through it all, as well as how the nations of the world are providing aid to the nation and its people. This is truly good news in the midst of bad news. It is hope being fulfilled.
Diane Sawyer also brings good news by honoring a “person of the week” every Friday evening. This is about persons engaged in serving others or making their way through some of the harsh realities (bad news) of life. Persons who are demonstrating good news in the midst of bad news. She also closes most newscasts with a good news story. Diane Sawyer and others are performing a great service for all of us, by intentionally including good news in the midst of bad news. They make an effort to find this good news. And I believe the more they do that, the more they are finding, and helping us to find, that no matter how bad the news is, there is always good news, which is a basic message that God gives us in the Bible. You just have to believe that, hope and look for the good news, and you will find it in the world, the nation, and anywhere, including in your own life. I believe this based on my own observations and experience. I believe that God, who promises to fulfill our hopes for good news, is using people like Diane Sawyer to keep that promise. And for all of that, I thank God.
Grace and peace, Ray Gough
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty Perez and Ray Gough