October 2019 - Good or Bad?

Dear friends

So here's a question:

Are people basically good, 

basically bad,

or a mixture of bad and good?

A quick read of the international news and we readily get the impression that everything that could go wrong is currently doing just that. We know that bad news sells, but there also seems to be a lot of bad news available for reporting. A lot of what seems wrong in the world, even 'natural disasters', seems to be amplified in its effects by inequality, poverty and injustice. So perhaps people are basically bad and we have to live with the problem of evil in the world.

However: if we are to get behind the news, or perhaps simply look out of our own windows and around our communities, we will regularly butt up against kindness, generosity and compassion. This leaves us trying to explain the problem of good in the world – why does it happen and where does it come from?

Or perhaps we are a messed up, mixed up, jumble of good and bad in each and every person, community and society, often trying and failing to do the right, just and generous thing – a combination of both good and bad. And maybe, just maybe, our perception of the world is framed by the template we have developed in our heads and the expectations we have formed over time. The world around us, the thoughts in our head, even the scriptures that we might choose to follow, can be like trying to make sense of a jigsaw; one can try and piece it together in all sorts of combinations, and with some success create something coherent, but it fundamentally depends on the picture on the box that we are following. And sometimes we simply have an ugly, dark image to use as a template, and that is our responsibility.

There is a difference between the reality of the world around us, the sacred texts as they appear on the page, the ideas that pass through our brains, and the glasses we choose to wear with which to read them. Change the lenses to the 'people are basically good' setting and our perception will radically change. Read the news in the knowledge that reportage is already skewed in favour of the new, the extreme and the bad, and we will have already developed something of a corrective. And if we were to read our sacred texts, constitutions and inspirational sources with a framework which says that they should be based on a picture, a vision, of love, goodness and justice, to bigger lives lived generously, then it is a whole new, brighter world into which we walk.

Nick Bird

Your Rector

This letter from Revd Nick Bird appeared in the October 2019 issue of The Grapevine