Oct 2, 2008

Positive or Negative?

By Elwood McQuaid

People who make their livings as editorial writers, news analysts, and commentators on contemporary trends and events are on the horns of a dilemma. On the one hand, society yearns for communicators who, in the words of a ditty from another era, accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. On the other hand, journalists are supposed to tell the truth.

At what point does one stop soft-pedaling the negative aspects of the world we live in? Even some professional agencies that counsel publishers of magazines, newspapers, and other media-related materials are evidencing a penchant for pleasantries rather than cold, hard facts. They consider conservative commentary to be harsh and believe some Christian publications offer excessive doses of theological application that fall outside the politically correct standards of the “me generation.”

All this, of course, is nothing new. Those conversant with the history of the Old Testament prophets can observe the pattern. There were always two groups of advisors in the courts of Israel’s kings. One was the gaggle of insiders who secured their positions with bewitching tales and prognostications of good things to come, regardless of the sullen realities that stared them in the face.

The other was the small band of pestiferous prophets who refused to play the game. They dared tell their kings the truth about the consequences of the monarchy’s actions and the future of the nations. These men were scorned as purveyors of negativism, and they were dealt with accordingly. For their trouble they were castigated, slapped around, and sometimes incarcerated in what passed for the slammer. When in their king’s presence, they were often enjoined to put on a happy face and be positive. Gloom and doom were forbidden.

In reality, the conflict was between truth and wishful thinking. Or worse, between truth and a calculated commitment to spinning the facts to secure the short-term illusion that all was well.

There was, however, a defect in the smiley-face mentality. It is the same defect that exists today: When you ignore the truth and convince the masses that nothing bad can happen, you are blindsided when the inevitable occurs.

What’s troubling about this self-indulgent, delusional, carefree culture is that it dumbs things down at the primary level and then destroys its proponents at the secondary level.

For example, we have been told recently that the problem with the English language is the English language. It’s just too hard to master. So, say the “experts,” some changes need to be made. And what are these prospective changes? Well, for starters, we must allow language proficiency to rise from the lingo of the streets and television cartoons, thus bringing usage into a more accommodating sphere. Otherwise, for heaven’s sake, language would only be valued as a tool with which to articulate thoughts clearly at a level that would generate respectability in any circle in the English-speaking world.

You may have noticed of late how many reporters and television personalities grossly violate the rules of grammar. We must ask ourselves if we finally aspire, as a society, to descend to a system of grunts, pushes, and pointing as our basic means of communication. If so, we are doomed.

The cogent point is that there is a necessity to maintain balance in presenting the facts and to offer a proper perspective of the consequences we will face if we ignore or minimize the threats to life in our time. We cannot immerse ourselves in a cult of positive belief that life is all about feeling good and being satisfied with ourselves, our circumstances, and our financial status. Incidentally, that is the palaver often peddled by some people (religious and otherwise) for their own gratification and profit.

Neither can we become fatalistic pessimists, seeing everything through a prism of catastrophic annihilation. In a world of imperfect human beings, there is good news, and there is bad news. And pleasant or not, we cannot immunize ourselves with ignorance or indifference.

We are God’s appointed stewards of the present and, above all, of the future for those who follow us. That fact translates into the lives of our children, grandchildren, and all the generations to come. If we make a wrong turn now, it will put them in serious jeopardy.

We all know that there seems to be an overload of negative events and influences assailing us. However, the situation cannot be properly addressed by criticizing the messengers. It’s the whole truth that will set us free; and, in biblical terms, we are only witnessing what we were forewarned will happen—both the positive and the negative. You can’t have one without the other!