In the beginning, God saw that it was good! These simple words, in the first chapter of Genesis, show a loving God affirming the goodness in all creation, delighting in bringing something out of nothingness and loving the results. All of the words attributed to God in scripture aren’t so optimistic, but these are the first words. This is how it SHOULD be!
One of the dangers of a zealous faith is becoming so committed to your vision of how things should be that you forget to see the goodness in what already is. A pessimistic lens not only clouds your vision to the goodness, but it feeds a judgmental mind and heart. It seeks out people and events that are not in tune with your own world-view in order to criticize, diminish, and demean them. It is the classic strategy of attacking another in order to build yourself up, or to rationalize your way of thinking and acting.
We see this zealous pessimism on both extremes of the trad-lib scale, in both the church and in the world. Traditionalists in the church can be so committed to their preferred style of worship and doctrinal interpretation, that they feel it is their divine call to criticize all others. In their criticism, they vehemently hurl accusations of unfaithfulness and unorthodoxy. Theirs is the right way. Theirs is the only way.
Liberals are just as capable of zealous pessimism. In our eagerness for reform, we often fail to stop and see the good that is worth keeping in our tradition and culture. In our anger at the inequalities, scandals, and bullying power games, we are quick to throw a blanket of judgment over all our leaders and the institutional structure in its entirety.
We need to see the holiness in optimism, in stopping to acknowledge God’s grace and gifts given freely and generously to all. Holy optimism is not being a Pollyanna, closing your eyes to anything that is evil or makes us uncomfortable. Sadly, sin IS present in the world and we mustn’t go through life with blinders on. We need to stand up to injustice and work for change. But, we must also remember to look at the half full glass with the eyes of our God who delighted in the act of creating. And, with that same delight, we can raise the glass in a toast to all that is good!