Christmas is the season of good news, right?
“I bring you good news,” said the angel to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus.
The angels proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he favors.”
Had not Mary earlier said that God would lift up the lowly, fill the hungry with good things?
Had not much earlier the prophet Isaiah forecast a messianic reign when the wolf and the lamb would live in harmony?
The Christian Christmas tradition is about proclamations and promises of good news – hope, peace, love and joy: the themes of Advent.
So, where is the good news?
Seldom is it found in the newspaper. It is even rarer on cable TV. “If it bleeds, it leads” is a long-standing media rule of thumb.
Our primary sources of news offer a steady drumbeat of bad news: terrorist attacks and terrorist attack warnings; ISIS death counts from airstrikes in Syria; police shootings – shootings of police across the U.S.; worldwide demonization of political opponents; starvation in South Sudan; smog in Beijing; anti-refugee outbursts in Tennessee; persecution of Christians in Myanmar.
All this bad news may make us believe no good news exists.
But we know good news exists, especially if we define news more broadly than simply news stories and opinion columns.
We know personally people of faith who strive to uplift their neighbor, to offer a word of encouragement, to show mercy, to deliver justice.
We know churches and other faith organizations seek to build up the common good, as illustrated in an EthicsDaily.com news brief.
The problem is not that good news doesn’t exist. The problem might be the platforms, the mediums, through which we get our news and information.
Certain delivery vehicles are built on a negative, adversarial, conflict model, such as newspapers and cable TV.
Social media, on the other hand, favor the positive, according to a computational social science study.
“Our results confirm the so-called positivity bias. That is, that humans on the long run tend to favor positive content, good news,” one of the two computer scientists of the study said.
The article reported that they found that “social media users like to spread happiness and excitement much more than pessimism or dejection.”
I wondered if Facebook was, indeed, a source of good news – granted Facebook has its share of rants, partisan slams, ideological postings.
Here’s what I’ve seen recently on my Facebook page:
Missionary D’Anna Shotts posted joyful, colorful clips of Hausa women in Nigeria singing and dancing – one at a conference for pastors’ wives. When was the last time – first time – you’ve seen pastors’ wives dancing at a Baptist conference?
Johns Creek Baptist Church pastor Shaun King posted photographs of a full house for a Christmas special.
Alia Abboud shared photographs of a Christmas event for Syrian refugee children in North Lebanon. The Lebanese Society for Education and Social Development, a Baptist organization, participated with the Chaldean Church in supporting the celebration.
Azar Ajaj posted a photograph of a lighted Christmas tree in Nazareth, a good reminder of vibrancy of the Christian community in Israel.
Boykins Baptist Church pastor Skip Irby shared photographs of a Christmas parade.
Some posts spoke up for interfaith engagement efforts. A number of posts showed photographs of abundant, scrumptious meals at holiday parties.
Is Facebook a better vehicle for good news than other traditional information mediums? What about social media in general?
Truth is that we don’t know – yet. But I believe – hope – folk want, need more uplifting accounts.
EthicsDaily.com has sought to share good news. For example, we’ve published a column series on the church’s role in producing social capital – accounts of the positive contributions that houses of faith make to society.
Bottom line, however, is that we need to do better telling the good news, appealing to our better angels – all year long.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. Follow him on Twitter at RobertParham1 and friend him on Facebook.
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