Wednesday, August 29, 2007

    Happiness and Religion

    Before church on Sunday morning, I like to read the paper and drink my cup of tea. Last Sunday, this article caught my attention: “Survey links happiness, religion among youths.” The first few lines of the article state, “Among America’s young people, godliness contributes to happiness. An extensive survey by the Associated Press and MTV found that people ages 13 to 24 who describe themselves as very spiritual or religious tend to be happier than those who don’t.”

    The article also notes that “when it comes to spirituality, American young people also are remarkably tolerant—nearly seven in ten say that although they follow their own religious or spiritual beliefs, others might be true as well.”

    I get the sense that the researchers were surprised by their findings. But, as an individual who constantly works with youth, I’m not really surprised at all. I think it’s true for adults, and youth, that if you have a sense of grounding, a sense of understanding, a spiritual sense that you were created by a God (not by a society consumed by material wealth and greed) then you are going to be a happier person.

    I also am not surprised that youth are tolerant of other religions. It’s evident to youth at a young age that there are many religious and spiritual practices. A common question I get is: How should we understand other religions? This is my answer: I know God best through Jesus Christ. However, I have to believe that the God I know best, as disclosed through Jesus Christ, a God of love, would not limit himself or herself to only one group of individuals. I believe strongly in the ecumenical movement and the recognition that all faiths are called to work together to achieve God’s presence in this world.

    How about you? What are your thoughts on this article?



    john heasley said...

    The problem I have with ecumenism, is that it can declare that there is more than one truth. The fact biblically is Jesus is the only way to God, not just a way. You can not have conflicting truths. I do not believe that God limits himself to a small group, we can limit him by allowing the spread of untruth. I love and want to understand others, I want to show them Jesus, so they can know the truth and be saved. I hope I did not misinterpret the jist of your post, sorry for the long comment

    Brian said...

    I turn to scholar Marcus Borg who agrees that Jesus is "the way" but then he asks "What WAY is that?" He concludes it is the way of dying to an old way of life and being born into a new life centered in God's justice, peace, love, forgiveness, etc. Given all that, Borg argues, the "way" Jesus proposes is a "way" known in almost all the major world religions. It is simply talked about with different language. This is not to say all religious are the same. Rather, that many share this same call to a different "way."

    john heasley said...

    But Jesus also says in the same bit of scripture, no one comes to the Father except through me. That means no one, you can not have more than one truth, you cannot have karma and redemption through Christs sacrifice, the rituals of islam, do not marry with grace. It may be harsh, but its the truth, Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and when asking what way that is, Jesus very clearly states in the Bible.

    Brian said...

    Good points, John. And if I understood everything in scripture to be the literal words of Jesus, I would likely subscribe to that very understanding that you articulate. However, my Christian background, which I will guess is different from yours, would suggest that the words we have in that text may or may not be Jesus' actual point of view. But whatever it is, it is filtered through the perspective and agenda of the writer of John's gospel and his community. As I understand their particular historical situation, the passage makes great sense. But for me, to take the passage as literal does not, given my social and historical location.

    john heasley said...

    I have not commented on your last comments because in all honesty I felt really concerned. I read your wonderful description of the coolest communion, with excitement, but as a final comment, and I mean it. I just want to tell you honestly what disturbs me. From your post and only from that, as I do not know or have spoken to you guys, I feel that declaring freedom through Jesus, through His sacrifice, through the remembering of what He has done for us, is cheapened if you can then say, well its ok if you don't accept that, there is always islam, budism, tree hugging, spiritualism....., and secondly if I can not believe the word of God passed to me from one of the disciples of Jesus, what parts of the bible can I believe or quote to defend myself, or grow, or learn. By stating the human influence, you take away the manual for living, for finding and acknowledging Jesus as king. My favourite verse is John 3:17, I will always believe that is from God,it is a basis for how I live my life, as it was 2000 years ago. I have read so much crap as a non christian, which I now have thrown back at me, it upsets me so much how the world has managed to corrupt our view of Jesus, in the same way the church has often distorted the way we see Him. I still look to him, He is the guy, the only way. God bless, please take these comments from an honest heart. Thanks.

    Brian said...

    Thank you again for taking time to share your thoughts and reactions. Our dialogue speaks to the diversity that exists within the Church. I respect your view of Christianity, particularly in the way that it speaks to you and has been positive for your life. Just to clarify -- I would not say that it's fine for people to believe whatever they like. I cannot honestly say that there is truth in Buddhism or Islam or any other world religion, simply because I do not know enough about them to make such an assertion. Conversely, I also don't know enough about them to declare that they are of no value or will not lead one to God. I can only speak for Christianity -- a faith I've spent my life studying and trying to follow. I feel that I can only speak to my own personal experience. For me, Jesus is the way. I share that experience with others in hopes that they will find God through that way as well.

    Additionally, it seems that we do not agree on the value of the possible human influence on scripture. In my understanding, the human interpretation I see in scripture in no way cheapens it or lessens its truth or value. In fact, for me the scriptures seem to indicate that God works through humans, and the created order, most especially in the person of Jesus. So, for ME, scripture is a human interpretation of our encounter with and attempt to understand experiences of God in the world.

    All that said, I do understand how my view of scripture and the faith as a whole would appear to be incompatible with your practice and understanding of the faith. I hope that does not mean we cannot still learn from one another and continue to be in conversation.