I began reading Bradley Wright’s book Upside: Surprising Good News About the State of our World. In light of COVID, rioting, instability, anxiety and unrest, I was ready for some good news.
Wright is a Christian sociologist who I first was introduced to in his previous book, Christians Are HateFilled Hypocrites. . .and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media (and written a review of it here). I have constantly recommended it. His perspective and re-interpretation of data (and exposure of faulty/false perceptions) is desperately needed in fresh new ways.
The foreword by John Ortberg got me excited about it:
The good news about bad news is that there is not nearly as much of it to go around as you might think.
The bad news about good news is that good news doesn’t tend to sell. Everybody wants to get good news from the doctor and their boss and their (choose one) therapist/stockbroker/fantasy football league commissioner. But it turns out that articles which indicate that the economy should run along OK or that rivers are relatively clean don’t tend to sell newspapers, which means they don’t tend to get writers promoted, which means they don’t tend to get written.
People go to conferences that warn about dire situations.
People buy books that say the world is falling apart.
Bad news has probably always had this pull. Paul Revere didn’t get famous by riding around saying: “The British stayed home. Go ahead and sleep in tomorrow.”
But living in the information age (or perhaps more accurately the Anxious Information Age), we seem to get bad news more often, on more channels, in high def.
For a variety of reasons, folks in the evangelical Christian community are often seem to have a particularly sharp appetite for bad news. Authors and speakers who can document that the younger generation is about to lose their faith, or that churches are about to lose their congregations, or that the nation is about to lose its soul, never seem to run short of listeners no matter how shaky their case may be.
The gravitational pull of bad news is a problem. Like the little boy who cried wolf, the purveyors of doom can eventually lose all credibility, so that when bad news really does happen no one is listening anymore.
But there is Good News. Bradley Wright has written a terrific book.
The good news about this book is that it is not based on optimism. Its based on reality. It turns out that much of what gets repeated as bad news is often based on bad data. 90% of all statistics in the media are both negative and inaccurate. (I just made that up. But I’ll bet there’s a bias in that direction.)
Brad is an academician, a bona fide believer, and a highly engaging writer. He has a passion for all people—particular for people of faith—to think well and honor the life of the mind and treat statistics with discernment and not to chronically alarmist.
He wants to help us quit mistaking negativity with thoughtfulness.
He wants to help us stop mindlessly passing on pessimistic diagnoses that either neither helpful nor accurate.
He wants us to actually be aware of and celebrate good news that is spreading on multiple fronts.
–Crime is getting better (but we think its getting worse)
–we are working less and playing more (but we think we’re playing less and working more)
–Poverty is going down
Two thousand years ago, a book began to be widely read whose core was summarized as euaggelion—good news. Not dysaggelion.
We, of all people, should be able to recognize and celebrate and express gratitude wherever we find it.
For all good news is God’s good news. And to ignore it, hide it, minimize it, or distort it is neither mentally healthy nor spiritually sound.
So take a deep breath, turn the page, and get ready to be happy.
There’s SO MUCH good news out there. The best news, of course, is that God is in control, that God loves us, and that He offers forgiveness and life to all who come to Him in faith through Jesus.
It must be our sinfulness and the world’s brokenness that draws us to gasp and wring our hands over bad news. Our attention is drawn to the awful like a hapless rowboat on the precipice of a whirlpool. There’s more to life than extolling the bad, though. There’s good news. Hope, love, joy, peace are constantly manufactured by God for our discovery and enjoyment.
I need help to rip my gaze away from the disconcerting to the hopeful. I want to be a problem solver, a peace maker and a proclaimer of positive. In addition to faith, prayer, scripture and submission, I’m positive about Upside being a help in my journey.