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:
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.
Here’s some good advice from Paul Martin. It’s not biblical. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true or that you can’t find the same advice in Scripture. Actually, I think God would say, ‘Yes and Amen’ to it. What’s more, I think it’s a great place to start if we want to make our Christian communities happiness hubs.
- Take a broad, long-term view of happiness: there is much more to it than immediate pleasure.
- Happiness is good for you, good for your children and good for society, so don’t be embarrassed about making it a top priority.
- Personal relationships are absolutely central to happiness and health. Be connected.
- Be active and engaged: throw yourself into meaningful pursuits.
- Look outwards, not inwards: focus your attention on other people and the world around you rather than dwelling on your own thoughts and feelings.
- Love unconditionally.
- A good education is one that fosters, among other things, social and emotional competence, communication skills, wisdom, resilience and a life-long love of learning.
- Let children play.