Trouble in Paradise

This morning was one of those rare days when I woke up and didn’t have a topic in my head for today’s thought. I sat down at my computer and clicked on xfinity, and within seconds I saw a barrage of articles about religion, and none of them were good news. The title of today’s thought is tongue in cheek, because there often seems to be so little good news about religion on my news feed. Here is what I saw in the first minute: a judge in N. Carolina dismissed a lawsuit brought by 36 United Methodist congregations to disaffiliate with the denomination. An opinion piece called “Christians: Pastors who don’t know God.” A Time opinion article called “Keeping Faith after Leaving Religion”. An article about the Florida legislator who authored the “Don’t Say Gay” bill pleading guilty for COVID fraud (have you ever met a virulent anti-LGBTQ person who wasn’t some kind of “christian”?). Trouble in paradise indeed. It’s a wonder that anyone goes to church at all, isn’t it?

And yet, we do. It’s the reason I wail against the typhoon of dysfunctional christianity almost every day. It’s why congregations like mine take the risk to become Open & Affirming. It’s why voices like Brian McClaren and John Pavlovitz and Rachel Held Evans (may her memory be a blessing) are necessary. I have long whined about how the media tends to show only bad news, especially about religion, because good news, as they used to say, doesn’t sell advertising. Like rubber-neckers on the highway, we seem drawn to suffering and stupid behavior as a form of entertainment far more easily than we are drawn to good news. And while we say that we love to see the underdog win, it feels like people often prefer to see the “bad” people lose. It makes us happy, for some reason, to watch those we disagree with go down in flames.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I am just being manipulated by the media and the internet to believe that there is more bad than good in the world. Maybe the last two decades have been an anomaly and things really are great. I’ve been wrong before (once or twice). So, prove me wrong – send me your good news. I can change the names to protect the innocent, if that is what you choose. I can tell the story with aliases and fictional towns, so you won’t feel like you are bragging. I think we all want some good news; we all want people to cheer for. There will always be trouble in paradise, and there will always be plenty of people willing to cause it and promote it. But good news? That can be hard to find. Will you help me with your good news stories? I’ll be right here, waiting.

Prayer – For the good news and works and words that are all around us, we give You thanks, God of joy and victory. Help us to chip away at the trouble we see with words of encouragement and love. Amen.

Today’s art is called “Goodness” by Alireza Mohebi.