"Unapologetic Theology: A Christian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation" is the title of a book by my beloved theology professor and friend, the late William C. Placher. It is also now the title of this blog, a place where I hope to add a Christian voice -- God knows, not "the" Christian voice, but "a" Christian voice and not just any old voice, but a distinctly Christian voice -- to the pluralistic conversation going on about just about everything.
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Tis’ the season for making
At least for those of us
who welcome (and need!) a reason for making a fresh start, the beginning of a
new year is the High Holy Day of Resolution-Making.
Again this year, like
previous years, I’ve thought about making all the normal, predictable
·Lose ten pounds.Well, actually more like fifteen pounds,
since I’ve been conducting an experiment on myself since Christmas Day: to never
say “no” to a Christmas cookie, chocolate, or glass of egg-nog, on the theory
that I will get so sick and tired of sweets that I will be ready for and
actually welcome salads, skim milk,
and raw vegetables in 2012.(This “binge”
theory, by the way, has, as far as I know, absolutely no basis in any
scientific research. And it probably horrifies ever y nutritionist,
psychologist, or dietician out there. And
come to think of it, it doesn’t really even work: I just end up missing all
that stuff even more. But it has made
the past five days a lot of fun!
·Exercise more.I like
to run, but because we all tend to stick to doing what we like, this resolution
really means adding things that I don’t like, such as stretching (I’m about as flexible
as a Tea Partier negotiating on taxes) and strength training (it is
embarrassing, at the bench press, to have my starting point be the bar, alone,
with a goal of actually getting to add, you know, weights at either end…)
procrastinating (which has been my goal since 1978; I’m getting to it…).
more money.(This resolution is actually
very easy: now with two sons in college, we have gone from eating out about a
week to splurging about once a week on something that does not involve Ramen
But again, this year, like
the past few years, I’ve had a strange experience on my way to making my
And that’s this.I’ve asked myself: “Wait, are those
resolutions, even if you could keep them, really going to make you--or the
world--a better person or place?”
And so – while keeping
these resolutions at some level – I’ve been inspired, once again, to make
different kinds of resolutions. Ones
that, to the degree I can keep them, will “scatter joy.”
And so – again – here are
my thoughts about making “scatter joy” resolutions:
First, we make a
distinction between joy and happiness.
Joy can be found in all
Joy is an inside job.
It has virtually nothing
to do with our external circumstances. People can be full of joy in prison, or
hungry, or broke, or even while going through great personal tragedy.
Happiness, on the other
hand, is tied to circumstances. It’s dependent on externals.If the day is going well, we “feel happy,”
but all it takes is someone to be rude to us or something going wrong, and our happiness
That’s why changing our
external circumstances in the hope that doing so will “make us happy” is
foolish. A change of circumstance is no
guarantee of happiness.
So the secret to joy is to
realize that joy is available to us.That joy is a gift from God planted deep within our heart, but
It’s accessible to us when
we recall not just WHO we are, but WHOSE we are: children of God. Beloved
sinners. Imperfect, but treasured
Joy is accessible to us
when we cultivate “an attitude of gratitude,” looking for things in each day—each
hour—for which we can be grateful.
it sounds— perhaps the easiest and most effective way to access joy is
by simply smiling.
You might want to try it:
Smile more often. Or at least realize the degree to which your
“default mode” has become a slight frown, a tense, serious, look. And then pause.And smile.
Why? Because, as Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist/Christian
philosopher has written,
“Sometimes your joy is the source of your
smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.”
For Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that this year. What I'm fasting from this Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
(Let me be clear: that does not mean giving up news or otherwise burying my head in the sand: it means staying informed while finding ways not to get pulled into a downward spiral of feelings of numbness and helplessness; it means giving up unproductive feelings like hopelessness and resignation and taking on visible behaviors like giving encouragement and taking action.)
It means making visible -- here, on my blog, and even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories…
So for Lent, I was thinking of doing the typical fasts: fast from Facebook and take up reading, fast from petty vices like overindulging in sweets and alcohol and take on moderation, yada yada yada.
But I'm re-thinking that.
Now one of the things I'm thinking about fasting from during Lent is discouragement. That means cutting back on what is so often the source of discouragement, which is a tendency to gorge on, or dwell on, bad news.
That would mean taking on encouragement: to make visible -- even on Facebook -- the good.
Because the problem is -- to paraphrase the community organizer Rich Harwood -- a lot of times we see "good news stories" as being quaint -- they are tossed in at the end of the news as an inspiring story, or put in the style section. But stories of good things happening -- people coming together to do things, is not a touchy-feely, feel-good story, but something affecting real change.
So for starters: I'm inspired by the leadership example of…