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I read with interest the recent news that the coalition government intend to measure our happiness and discover the GWB (General Wellbeing) of the UK (Read here: BBC Website and here BBC: Website). Of course, this isn’t a new idea for David Cameron (read here: BBC Website). The only difference is that now he is in power he can have a go at implementing some policies to see if it’s possible to gauge the happiness of the country.

A couple of years ago, I brought out a book looking at the Fruit of the Spirit and how they relate to our contemporary context (A Permanent Becoming). In the chapter on Joy, I suggested the postmodern pursuit of happiness and the Christian idea of joy actually have far more in common than we often realise. At the end of the chapter, I mused on the idea that churches should be seen as happiness hubs within our communities given that so much of the research on what makes people truly happy can be found in a Christian theology of Trinity, personhood, creation and eschatology. Here’s some of what I wrote:

Happiness Hubs

One of the Psalmists says this: Your people are wonderful and they make me happy.i

Is church the first place you go to look for happiness?

Lots of people I know think Christians are joyless, when in reality, we should be leaders in the pursuit of happiness. We need big advertising hoardings outside our churches saying ‘Happiness is Here!’

But that means the church has to walk the road that leads to happiness. We need to become living signposts for people to follow towards the Good Life. The elements that produce happiness should be at the centre of our Christian Communities.

People are genuinely looking for a happiness that lasts. So let’s tell them that they can find it with God, through God’s Spirit, within the Christian community, and not play games by pretending that happiness is a worldly pursuit, while we have something altogether better, called joy.

The pursuit of happiness is a legitimate biblical, theological and sociological objective.

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This morning on BBC Radio 4, I listened to one of the most moving, fascinating, inspiring, challenging, life-affirming stories about faith that I think I have ever heard. So moving it has made me break my online silence to share it with you!

The programme told the story of Identical twins, Elizabeth and Caroline, who came from a home where religion was never discussed, but who both came to strong faith commitments – and that’s why the story was so fascinating, for Elizabeth embraced Islam, while Caroline became a Christian. They discuss candidly and movingly about how this has changed their relationship as twin sisters. If that wasn’t enough, it is set against the backdrop of their mother, who shares neither faith, and is dying from terminal lung cancer.

Listen here: Two Sisters, Two Faiths

NB: Get yourself a box of tissues – you will need them unless you have a heart of stone.

November 2010
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