Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Faith and Theology On Smiling and Sadness

I don't spend many posts simply linking to other posts, since the blogroll usually directs interested onlookers where they might want to go. But I highly recommend reading Faith and Theology: On smiling and sadness: twelve theses. An excerpt of theses 2-4 is followed by my own posted comment below.
2. In the Protestant West today, smiling has become a moral imperative....

3. The motif of late-capitalist society is the stylisation of happiness, the cultivation of lifestyles from which every trace of sadness has been expunged... Our cultural obsession with health, happiness, and positive thinking is a secularisation of the evangelical church service.

4. The cultural triumph of the smile leaves behind a trail of casualties. Where evangelical churches theologise happiness and ritualise the smile, sad believers are spiritually ostracised....

Pretty provocative and onto something with which many of you will know I resonate. Head on over there and read it in its entirety and let me know what you think. Here is the comment that I left:

"This is a fantastic piece with its finger on an important truth, pointing quite piercingly in a number of appropriate directions.

When I was interviewed for ordination I expressed my passion for theology and the church with a certain melancholy seriousness and one of the interviewers accused me of not really seeming very passionate at all. I did not go into the etymology of 'passion', but kind of wish I would have.

Anyway, thanks for this. Despite my deep resonance with it, however, I do agree with some of the above recollections of joy. I am reminded of Chesterton's adage that today's priest, as the bearer of news that is good, might be needed not so much to remind the world that it is on the road to death but that it is not dead yet. But joy and 'happiness' are not the same thing."


Tony Tanti said...

I agree, I really do. I've been amazed (and even a little offended) in the past by hearing people pretend to be happy during suffering because they thought it was what God would want.


There is a danger of erring on the opposite side of this, as in assuming anyone who is happy is faking it. I'm sure many aren't. And some people really do have an ability to be happy despite life's problems.

There is also a danger of seeing sadness and suffering as spiritual or Godly in and of themselves.

Very interesting to hear about you being questioned for a lack of "passion" in your ordination interview. Passion has to be the most commonly faked emotion, especially in interviews. Good for you for being real.

Jon Coutts said...

I'm glad you said that because, whether he meant it this way or not, to my mind it was meant to be a provocative post exposing 'smiles' and 'happiness' for their perverted modes and uses rather than a moratorium on smiling all together. I think what I appreciate most are the theses I've highlighted already, and when I linked to this on facebook I also appreciated the reminders that smiling and sadness both have a place, and probably one without the other indicates a person out of touch with some part of life. Like most things, I guess, smiles are good, but false smiles or the cult of smiling are parasitic on that goodness. And I definitely grieve for the many who I think have been missed where evangelicalism has chosen shiny-happy for the sake of the gospel and thereby glossed over and ostracised a lot.

Brett Gee 英 明 said...

That is a very good article. I was telling my wife that I like it when someone writes something that is the Truth, but to a lot of people sounds like the exact opposite.

This world need more genuine relationships.