Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Be happy...because we tell you

I have to confess to being rather cynical about the government's latest campaign to encourage happiness. http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/markeaston/ If they are serious about it perhaps they should appoint Ken Dodd as the 'Happiness Tsar' and issue everyone with a tickle-stick. I wonder if there is some ulterior motive in encouraging happiness, such as taking the strain off the NHS? But the Pensions Department might think the opposite as happy people tend to live longer and that puts more strain on the pension funds. (That's why the Church of England Pension Fund is stretched - retired clergy tend to live longer than anyone else.)

To promote happiness by its measurable benefits is rather like the arguments in favour of promoting music in education: it can be shown that involvement in music is beneficial to social and intellectual skills, as well as to the health. But shouldn't the reason for being involved in music simply be to bring pleasure to the soul, as JS Bach said: The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul. It's a pity that music has to be justified in schools, and to the Arts Council, these days by its measurable benefits.

Jesus had something to say about happiness (or 'blessedness') but it seems quite at odds with a modern agenda for personal happiness:

Happy are those who know they are spiritually poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!

Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them!

Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised!

Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!

Happy are those who are merciful to others; God will be merciful to them!

Happy are the pure in heart;they will see God!

Happy are those who work for peace; God will call them his children!

Happy are those who are persecuted because they do what God requires; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!

Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. (Matthew's Gospel - Good News Translation)

It seems to me that true happiness can only be found when there is a fundamentally good meaning to life which, as far as I'm concerned, is only found through the abundant life that Jesus has to offer those who come to him in faith.

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