…there were radios. Sitting on a shelf of our bookcase at home is an old Philco Transitone radio. I remember it sitting on top of the kitchen counter alongside the coffee pot and beside the wooden rocking chair where Papa would sit after the evening chores at the barn. Eventually, I am not sure when, it stopped working and was tucked away in a closet, forgotten but thankfully not discarded. I salvaged it years later and now keep it as a nostalgic and sentimental reminder of a simple farmhouse and two hardworking grandparents.
My grandmother told me that they purchased the radio right after electricity, thanks in large part to Franklin D. Roosevelt, was made available in rural Putnam County. The year was 1941 and the radio was their first major purchase of an electrical appliance. According to my research the purchase price was $12.95 – about $198.34 today, which for dairy farmers was an extravagant price. This luxury allowed my family to listen at nights to the Atlanta Crackers baseball team. (If you have never heard of the Atlanta Crackers baseball team then you are probably not from Georgia or you are under 40 years old). I am sure they also listened to morning farm reports, daily news, and social events happening around the state. Maybe they even listened to a little music, although I do not have a memory of hearing music come out of its Bakelite shell.
I am writing this particular article on December 7, so I am wondering if they learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor by way of that radio. I have this faint memory that my grandmother said they did not hear about the attack until several days later. Less than a year later my grandfather’s brother would be drafted, and later was killed in action in Germany. I like to imagine that they learned of the war’s end by that very same radio, but I cannot be sure. Throughout its lifetime bad news and good news was heard from that little brown box with its dusty speaker.
Bad news and good news. At its best the role of the church is truth speaking which includes bad news and good news. We proclaim that all is not right in this world just as all is not right in our own personal lives. We cannot, should not, sugar coat what is bad. Alfred Delp, a martyr within a Nazi death camp, wrote: “…woe to any age in which the voice crying in the wilderness can no longer be heard because the noises of everyday life drown it – or restrictions forbid it – or it is lost in the hurry and turmoil of progress – or simply stifled by authority, misled by fear and cowardice.” (The Prison Meditations of Father Delp) I need to add that these very words were penned on scraps of paper and smuggled out of his prison cell by way of laundry. He knew first hand the bad news that should not be suppressed.
The bad news of this world, however, is not the only news and neither is it the last news. The voices of Gospel proclamation remind us that God has more story to tell and that story has creation in mind. It is the Good News in a bad news world. It is the light in the darkness. Yes, there is darkness, this much is true. What is also true, even truer if that makes sense, are the words: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5) These words sustain from generation to generation. When the box on the shelf speaks of wars and death and turmoil, we are painfully reminded of humanity’s brokenness. Yet the bad news is not the only news and it is not the last news.
Hope, peace, joy and love to you and yours,