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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:
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.
My good friend, Jason Clark, pastor of Vineyard Church Sutton, and Blogger over at DeepChurch, is going to be doing a series of talks about the Fruit of the Spirit, drawing on my own work, which he is very flattering about.
So not only is this one of the only books on the Fruits of the Spirit, it’s focus on the mundane of life, compared the the thrills of consumer society, and and hype of much of the Christian life and church, is refreshing. But it’s not a jeremiad, rather a revolutionary call to a way of life so intrinsic to the Christian Faith, yet so easily missed in our attention deficit world.
Back in January I recorded my first ever interview to be released as a podcast. Well it has finally gone live over at the Nick and Josh Podcast. Do check it out, but also take a look around the whole site as there are some fascinating interviews to be heard.
There are, of course, many reasons why one would want to write, but here are just two . . .
1. The Bridge, a community church in Hinckley, Leicestershire, have just finished a series of talks and discussions based around my latest book, A Permanent Becoming. What an inspiration to see how my work can be adopted and adapted by others, and what a privilege to be Read the rest of this entry »
Given the current context, the recent publication of the National Accounts of Wellbeing from the New Economics Foundation couldn’t be more timely and more fascinating (see HERE; HERE and HERE). There is increasing political interest in such research and indices of human wellbeing and the role these should play in policy making. That’s one reason why I felt the need to flag up such things in my book, A Permanent Becoming, and hopefully play some small part in waking up the Christian Community to the central role it can play in such things.
Though I write specifically about happiness here, the relationship to issues of wellbeing are the same.
Wake Up Call
The search for happiness has a long history.
One ancient Greek Philosopher said something like, ‘No one ever pursues happiness as a means to something else.’ By which, he meant that while you might go after money, or fame, or sex because you think they will bring you happiness, you don’t go after happiness to get . . . well you don’t.
The point is this: the pursuit of happiness is core to who we are. It’s one of the things that all human beings do. Happiness is a uniquely desirable Read the rest of this entry »
Just received notice of this review of A Permanent Becoming – could one ask for anything more?
Alan Mann, what are you doing to me?
When I invited Alan to tell me about his new book, when I designated that book UKCBD ‘Book of the Month‘ for September 2008, little did I realise what I was letting myself in for. It’s rare for a Christian book to choke me up to the point where I am unable to continue reading for fear of being reduced to a blubbering wreck in public. On reflection, it’s not rare: I don’t think it’s ever happened to me before. On the tube, no less, travelling to and from work. Three times already, for God’s sake, and I haven’t even finished the book yet!
If you’ve read Alan’s introduction to the book then you’ll already know what it’s about: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (always ‘humility’ in my mental list) and self-control. The ‘fruit of the Spirit’ as described by the Apostle Paul (or whoever wrote Galatians: I honestly don’t give a fig about that). A list of what Alan himself describes as rather mundane virtues: the qualities we expect of our grannies, but not exactly cool or radical enough for today’s young people, or even someone like me, desperate to deny the onset of middle-age.
So, now that the Summer is over and the nights are drawing in, why not get yourself a copy to read?
‘In our secular world, becoming a Christian is almost synonymous with becoming a ‘worse’ person, and someone less than ‘human’. Through a beautiful and compelling exposition of the Fruits of the Spirit alongside a rediscovery of the true humanity of Jesus, Alan Mann explores how life in Christ is in fact the only way to be truly, deeply and fully human in the face of our microwave, quick fix culture.’ – Jason Clark, Senior Pastor, Vineyard Church, Sutton.
Given that the intention of the book is to suggest that our formation as human beings towards Christ-likeness is an ongoing process that takes place within the mundane and ordinariness of life, it seemed rather incongruous to restrict my reflections on this to printed media, which once published remains the same, and merely reflects my thinking at the point of writing. It felt much more appropriate to have something dynamic and opensource, so that others could share their thoughts, aspirations and insights about a path we are all on.
Anything that I post on A Permanent Becoming, will also be posted here, but comments and input will be restricted to that particular blog so that it remains an opensource on the subject.