We are often told that we need to hear the “good news” of the gospel. After looking at The New York Times online this morning, I believe we need this good news more than ever.
Here are some of the headlines and by-lines we are starting our day with:
“Tea Party Pick Causes Uproar on Civil Rights”
Rand Paul, the Republican nominee for the Senate in Kentucky, suggested that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was too broad.
“Padded Pensions Add to New York Fiscal Woes”
Errors, misunderstandings and wishful thinking are piling hidden costs onto New York’s pension system.
“Asian Stocks Drop Sharply after Big Fall in U.S. Markets”
Uncertainty over sovereign debt, financial regulation and a halting economic recovery drove markets down across Asia on Friday.
“Fed Governor Says U.S. Could Feel Europe’s Pain”
Daniel K. Tarullo, a Federal Reserve governor, laid out for a House panel how Europe’s debt problems could cross the Atlantic.
There’s often bad news in Sports:
“Rays 8, Yankees 6: Rays Again Dig a Hole Too Deep for the Yankees”
The Rays victory at Yankee Stadium completed a two-game sweep and doubled as a clinic of slugging (four home runs), opportunistic baserunning and robust pitching.
Entertainment and the Arts of course reflect the tone and mood of the day:
“FILM: World Events Rumble at Cannes”
At the Cannes Film Festival, directors are addressing real and often calamitous issues, like the financial crisis and religious fundamentalism.
“MOVIE REVIEW-‘SOLITARY MAN’: Yes, He’s a Jerk, but There’s Something About Ben”
In “Solitary Man,” Michael Douglas plays a liar, cynic, compulsive womanizer and all-around jerk.
But the Editorial and Op-Ed sections are where the negativity knows no bounds. Here’s a sample from today’s Op-Eds:
“Lost Decade Looming?”
America definitely isn’t Greece, but it is looking more and more like Japan. Inadequate recovery, not deficits, is the big problem.
“The Story of an Angry Voter”
The appeal of the Washington outsider will yield to familiar divisions without a viable centrist alternative.
“The Academies’ March Toward Mediocrity”
A football scandal at Annapolis illustrates how our service academies have lost their way.
These headlines tell us a great deal about our society. Now I am definitely not one of those people who believe that the world is going to hell and that we are much worse off than we were 30 years ago, 75 years ago, 150 years ago. What the newspaper is telling us—in this edition and in every edition—is that the same old sins of greed, bigotry, pride, selfishness, and disregard for those less fortunate that Jesus spoke about are still very much with us. Our sins are not new, but the seismic impact of our obsession with telling them and hearing about them has left the Richter scale.
We like disaster, we love scandal, we are addicted to conflict. While we may indignantly claim otherwise, we are all judges, critics, and gleeful spectators at the crucifixion or at the spectacle of gladiatorial combat. And it usually matters not whether the combat is personal, local, or global. What we do not recognize is our own responsibility for much of what we read in the paper or see on TV; we fail to acknowledge our own greed, our own bigotry, our own selfishness. If we were not so hungry for oil, perhaps the disaster in the Gulf might not have occurred. If we weren’t so very greedy for material goods, our economies might be more stable. If we weren’t so lustful or cynical or untruthful, maybe we wouldn’t need to make movies like “A Solitary Man” and then have critics marvel at how well Michael Douglas has learned to play a jerk.
What is wrong with good news? It takes consciousness. Living consciously means being aware—aware of the love that God has showered on us and on this earth, aware that we have been given the flowers, the trees, the blue sky, the snow on the mountaintops, dogs, cats, birds of all kinds and colours, and the beautiful beings we touch every day: our husbands, wives, coworkers, the bus driver, the Starbucks barista, the elderly man crossing the street because we have stopped to let him do so. Aware that our getting angry at the guy that cuts us off in traffic might just become tomorrow’s bad news, aware that it doesn’t really matter whether the Yankees beat the Rays because the game is beautiful no matter who wins, aware that whatever conflict is taking place in the world is a reflection of the conflicts in our own lives because all conflicts begin for the same reason: unconsciousness.
I don’t have to read The New York Times online every day (and next year they may start charging for it, so I likely won’t), or the Huffington Post or cnn.com. But at some point during the day, I am going to encounter the same negativity. And I cannot directly help the two courageous men in Malawi who were sentenced to fourteen years of hard labour in prison because they declared and physically expressed their love for each other. I can only acknowledge and try to fulfill my own purpose in life: to be conscious, to be aware.
How do I create good news in my life? By recognizing that, as Henri Nouwen says, I am the beloved child of God. By recognizing that I am not what I do, I am not what I possess, I am not what others think of me. If I am conscious of God’s love for me as expressed in every aspect of my life, whether it is the flowers in my garden, the pleasure that the food I prepare gives to others, or the ever-changing morning scenes as I walk the dog at 5 AM, that consciousness will inform my life every day and the love that I feel as a child of God will radiate outward to the people in my home, to the people behind the fish counter at Safeway, to the readers of this blog.
If I—and every one of us who calls himself or herself Christian—were to sit quietly every morning and read prayerfully the famous passage from 1 Corinthians, we would be filled with good news and protected from bad news:
“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”