Why So Serious(ly) Negative?

In his Academy Award winning performance as The Joker, the late Heath Ledger creepily brought us a character hell-bent on destruction, chaos and anarchy. He grotesquely asked his victims why they were so serious as he was about to carve a smile in their face…grim, really grim. Rather than being a true joker bringing laughter, mirth and positivity The Joker brought pain, conflict and negativity (to put it lightly).

Sometimes, when I am reading about religion from various sources in print or on-line I feel like all of us commenting on religion these days are like The Joker.

Sure, we care about religion. Obviously we have a passion for religion or else we wouldn’t be writing about it. However, I feel as though our passion for religion, and the free and unpersecuted practice thereof, brings us to the point of being far too negative in our writing.

Often we will knock this or that leader for their religiously ridiculous words or actions or others’ bigoted remarks. We decry those who strip individuals of their right to freely express their faith in ritual, custom and worship. And rightly so.

Yet, lately it seems that’s all that’s being covered when it comes to religion – the negative.

Most religious commentators are busy critiquing this view point or that person’s comments or stance. Almost every day, we hear news reports of one religious conflict or another. Through it all, our gloomy reportage, in my opinion, only perpetuates religious conflict, chaos and confusion.

By frequently highlighting the unfavorable aspects of religion we continually push people towards the increasingly popular view that faith itself is an adverse enterprise leading humanity down a detrimental trajectory.

I know…I mean, really know…that nearly all my colleagues in religious reportage do not want to engender negative views of religion. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be writing about the unfortunate aspects of religion’s dark sides including persecution of other faiths, limits of human rights and violence toward others. Why are we so serious(ly negative)? Because we want people to know what’s wrong with religion and we want people to act to transform it! Our goal is to encourage more people to understand the world’s religions, but if we seem to only focus on the negative aspects of such we actually turn people away from the whole project of religious understanding and transformation.

With that said, I am encouraging those out there in the blogosphere who write about religion to try and take a more positive tone when reporting about religious people, events and customs. Certainly, we should not ignore the troubling events that call into question the free expression of religion, but surely we aren’t pigeon-holed into reporting on those events alone!

Being one who tries to practice what he preaches I am going to make every possible effort to focus on the positive in religion over the next year, highlighting the peaceful rather than the confrontational, the constructive as opposed to the destructive and the liberating rather than the enslaving.

As I do so I will not don rose-colored glasses and ignore the reality of religious persecution, slavery and conflict prevalent in our world today, but I won’t allow myself, my blog or my readers to dwell on it to the point that we only encourage more of the same.

If we allow ourselves to get caught up in the negative aspects of religion then we will naturally be led to only see the negative and in doing so add to the chaos, the confusion and the conflict.

That type of response would make us all The Joker, parading around the world and pitting religion against religion, non-religion against non-religion and neighbor against neighbor.

So, for now, I’ll play the role of The Joker and ask “why so serious(ly negative)?” However, rather than being negative about it and cutting into those who report about the antipathetical, I will apologize for my contribution to the trend, endeavor to change my course for the better and encourage others to do the same.

That, in and of itself, may better express the Ubuntu spirit (a person is a person through other persons) and lead to better dialogue and discussion between those of different beliefs, customs and traditions.

To that end, here’s to another year of blogging here at Ubuntuspirit. As always, I appreciate your feedback, comments and critiques. Just don’t be TOO negative 😉



1 Comment

Filed under Religion and the Public Sphere, Religious Education

One response to “Why So Serious(ly) Negative?

  1. Tony

    The trend in religious reporting/blogging parallels that of regular news. I find that many media outlets focus too much on the negative and the tragedies and don’t focus anywhere near as much time/space on good news. Or, they confuse good news with viral videos/fluff pieces. Of course, we know why this is… bad news sells.

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