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The Value of Good News

Chaplain (Capt.) Michael R. Curtis

Chaplain (Capt.) Michael R. Curtis

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE -- Many years ago a research team conducted an experiment to see how many people would return lost wallets. The teams dropped wallets in the street and, after a few days, found out that nearly half of the wallets were returned. The rate continued at a regular pace until June 4, 1968, when no wallets were returned. That was the day Robert Kennedy was shot. The bad news demoralized people and temporarily broke the social bonds that tied them together.
   This team then pursued the relationship between hearing good or bad news and seeing the effect on moral responsibility.
   Their conclusion was that hearing good news tends to make us good and hearing bad news tends to lower our sense of moral responsibility.
   Their study raises the question about the pervasive power of the media and the strength, which it has to communicate bad news in intensely dramatic and insistent regularity. After all, the old journalistic axiom is -- good news is no news.
   Even religion sometimes has earned the reputation for being the purveyor of bad news only.
   Think back to the fashion of hellfire and brimstone sermons.
   Read the critiques of religion that accused it of creating obsessive guilt and neurosis in many people.
   It is quite true that religion, which should be the angel of good news, has sometimes lapsed into the excesses of sin accusation without the balancing of the good news of forgiveness.
   People hear bad news all week long. They come to church to hear the 'good news.' If the research the team cited is correct good news helps make us feel good, then weekly attendance at church and listening to the 'good news' in faith is an absolute essential for the hope of a morally responsible people in a bad news soaked culture.
   It is true that bad news may be heard at church inasmuch as the personal and social evils of the day may be raised. The difference is that the stories are told with a view to forgiveness and salvation and meaning.
   The daily tragedies recounted by the media solicit mainly sighs of "How terrible...How could anyone do a thing like that?....They must be mad....There is no sense in this." The commentators try to use reason and common sense to see hope and meaning.
   At church, however, the hope is in a person, in the loving presence of the God made man who turned a tragic death into divine meaning and hope.