Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Absurd Pursuit of Happiness

Today I read this article: The Pursuit of Happiness in Perspective by Darrin M McMahon. The premise is that our modern society has gained an altogether unhealthy obsession with "happiness." McMahon sees examples of this phenomenon throughout modern life. What was particularly interesting to me was the underlying idea (which he hints at in his conclusion) that happiness cannot be attained directly. Instead, we must believe in a purpose for our existence which will in turn make us happy. To me, at least, this is an example, evidence, of God's creation. We are creatures who cannot find happiness in the pursuit of happiness but only in the pursuit of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

McMahon also suggests that nearly all major modern religions have pandered to this obsession; Why become a Christian? Why because you'll be happy of course! Are you unhappy with your current life? Live a fulfilled life (I.E. happiness) with Christ! Anyone who has spent time in or around the Church has heard or read statements similar to these. Notice how uncomfortably related these words are to a diet pill ad: Are you unhappy with your current life? Live a fulfilled life as a thin person! Or perhaps a dating service: Are you unhappy with your current life? Live a fulfilled life with that special someone!

It's true. I am more joyful, more fulfilled as a follower of Christ than when I was not. But McMahon's accusation about the modern Church cannot be ignored. One outcome of my faith is joy, but to isolate this one effect and represent it in the same manner as pharmaceutical companies sell diet pills is to trivialize Christ's work on the cross and to reduce my personal relationship with Christ to the equivalent of mystical Zoloft.

In reality, my walk with Christ often times involves suffering, in fact, it always does. Suffering, sorrow (HE was a Man of sorrows. Consider that for a moment.), persecution, etc. We must be conscious in our language, witness, and articulation of the Gospel so that unbelievers like McMahon will see the Christian faith not as another "option" in the narcissistic quest for happiness, but rather as Truth; a Truth that demands our all, even our happiness--for a time.

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