HOW typical it has become to hear good news ``finished off'' in conversations or in press commentaries with such sentiments as ``...but it can't last,'' ``...but it's too unrealistic (or naive or easy),'' ``...but there's a catch.'' We've grown so used to questioning automatically most positive developments -- from marriage relations to international relations -- that we may not even realize we're denying good news a fair hearing. Yet that's exactly what cynicism does. The last year or so, on a relative scale, has seen a virtual rush of encouraging news. Considering the surprising shifts within the Soviet Union and the changes that are bringing long-sought relief from fighting in such places as Iran and Iraq, Namibia and Angola, there's cause for gratitude. Even the desire for improved conditions and for greater recognition of individual freedoms evident in such places as Burma, Poland, Chile, Mexico, and South Korea portend good. Still, as a well-respected foreign affairs columnist recently noted about such favorable changes:``It seems too good to be true.... Not surprising if many are looking for the traps now. But there are also traps in what the American sociologist David Riesman called the `gullibility of the cynical,' a belief that everything is a plot and nothing is sure but evil.''1
It's true, of course, that positive indications are not always indications of genuine good and that we do have to be awake to the trap of accepting ideas or solutions or ideals that may appear worthy but aren't really good at their core. Yet we also have to be alert -- perhaps even more so -- for the trap of assuming that evil is some kind of certainty while good is untrustworthy and frail. We need to be sure that we aren't doubting and dismissing good merely because it's good.
``But why not?'' anyone might ask. ``Look around. Good very often doesn't seem nearly as powerful or substantial as evil.'' A Christian Scientist might ask the sincere questioner to look again at the premise of such a judgment. Like all Christian denominations, Christian Science acknowledges God to be good. But it also sees good as God, Spirit -- good as infinite, always present, all-powerful, as the very nature of reality. It is on this basis that the Discoverer of Christian Science and founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, asks the readers of her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures to be willing to challenge the assumed validity and authority of evil. She writes: ``If thought is startled at the strong claim of Science for the supremacy of God, or Truth, and doubts the supremacy of good, ought we not, contrariwise, to be astounded at the vigorous claims of evil and doubt them, and no longer think it natural to love sin and unnatural to forsake it, -- no longer imagine evil to be ever-present and good absent?''2
The cynicism that automatically looks with suspicion on changes for the better -- around the corner or around the world -- is not free of fear, because it begins by assuming that evil is the only sure thing. In total contrast Christ Jesus' teachings invite all to ``believe the gospel'' or, literally, the ``good news'' that God is All and is good, which he shared and lived and healed by. His teachings are anchored in the sureness of good, in its absolute reality and the consequent ephem-eralness and ultimate unreality of evil. It was these spiritual facts that gave Jesus the ability then, and give us the ability now, to acknowledge and accept the reality of good, to experience and embody it. This is what also allows us to release doubt in the presence of genuine good as well as to discern danger or deception when what we perceive is not truly of God.
When the newspaper column quoted earlier first appeared in print just a few days before last Christmas, it was hard to ignore some parallels to a timely and familiar Bible passage. In it, an angel, or spiritual intuition, speaks to the shepherds at the time of Jesus' birth: ``And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.''3
Obviously, harboring skepticism in the face of good news is not a new thing! And clearly the ``good news'' the shepherds received and the good we may hear or read about daily are very different. But, like the shepherds, we can accept the good tidings we hear about by first heeding the instruction to ``fear not,'' and then continuing confidently in the knowledge that good must finally succeed, for good is what's real.
Every time we opt to doubt ``the vigorous claims of evil,'' we shift the balance of power in the world that much more toward what is right and good, and open the door to breakthroughs in the search for permanent peace. Every time we place our trust in the supremacy of good, God, we bolster honest motives, help quiet reactiveness and skepticism, and encourage wise choices wherever efforts are being made to find just resolutions to conflicts. This helps the world, and us, to shed cynicism and subservience to evil, and makes it possible to welcome whatever genuine good news comes our way.
1Flora Lewis, The New York Times, December 21, 1988. 2Science and Health, p. 130. 3Luke 2:9, 10.
BIBLE VERSE Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper. II Chronicles 20:20