Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg speaks often of his religion—but he tailors it to fit his politics, and it focuses on works over faith
In our business a proverb about good news rarely gets the attention it deserves, but a journalist at the start of a new year will be wise to ponder how good news “refreshes the bones” (Proverbs 15:30).
So in late 2019 I began to list the good things overlooked in the mad dash to cover famine, persecution, and war. It’s a necessary exercise, a balancing act to restore perspective, because once you start looking for good news you find it, even in abundance.
For one, we are living in a time of remarkable advances in medicine. Anti-retroviral treatments are giving those with HIV/AIDS longer lives and less chance of spreading the virus. Since 2016 such therapy has saved about 1 million people from early death.
One of the most dramatic medical breakthroughs came in late 2019 with a new therapy for cystic fibrosis, a breakthrough so profound it brought doctors and researchers to tears. The new drug regimen targets the gene mutation causing the disease, and its effects are both immediate and long-lasting. A crippling malady that once killed most victims by their 30s, cystic fibrosis now can be reduced to a condition like diabetes, chronic but manageable.
Improving health leads to economic and other gains. On the economic front, a decade that began in recession and high unemployment has ended with strong job growth and the longest economic expansion in modern history. The year 2019 ended without realizing the inflation fears that began it, and U.S. stocks on average grew by 30 percent.
A decade that began in recession and high unemployment has ended with strong job growth and the longest economic expansion in modern history.
Such gains have global ripples. Africa, long considered the world’s problem child, in recent years has posted a higher rate of economic growth than East Asia. While the continent’s GDP per capita still lags all others, it is climbing at a new clip thanks to oil and mineral wealth and technology. Decades of dictatorships in Zimbabwe, Sudan, and elsewhere are passing away, hopefully paving a way for slowly emerging efforts at more democratic governance.
Out of Africa comes a heartening new focus on reckoning with rape as a weapon of war. The Global Survivors Fund launched in 2019 to provide trauma treatment and reparations for survivors of wartime rape. It’s the brainchild of Nobel Peace Prize laureates Denis Mukwege, a Congolese surgeon, and Nadia Murad, a survivor of ISIS slavery. It promises to bring together disparate groups with long-standing and legitimate concerns to protect the dignity of women and girls.
Last, and certainly not least, the growth of the Church universal is perhaps the most overlooked—and important—news story. I had the privilege of ending the year 2019 in a Skype conversation with two pastors, both converts from Islam, who are leading a church of similar converts in war-torn Syria. It is growing, buoyed by the very things that threaten it, terror attacks and the march of radical Islam.
Such new churches need trained leaders, and a new seminary in the region took 40 potential candidates through its first classes this fall. Nearly all of them are former Muslims eager to launch church congregations around orthodox Bible teaching. Everywhere I go in the beleaguered Middle East I meet new converts who testify of new life born from sorrow and suffering.
And that brings me to the questions worth contemplating as we begin 2020. Are we ready to embrace the suffering to come in the new year? And are we able to look beyond the bad-news headlines to find opportunities for helping neighbors and to glimpse more of the good news to come?