Does being religious help you to secure a good life ? Many people might define that being prosperous in one's life is having plenty of money in the bank, a house and car that is paid for, possessing financial resources that allow one to travel, pursue further education or to buy and own more technology. There is not a whole lot of discussion regarding how improving the life of your soul or inner life is a prescription for the good life.
Recently at Yale Divinity School, New Haven, CT there was a discussion between Yale Theologian Miroslav Volf and columnist David Brooks regarding what constitutes a healthy life. Miroslav Volf agreed on at least one major point: In today's world, people are "thirsty" to find deep meaning in their lives. David Brooks and Miroslav Volf share thoughts about a 'good life' Yale News - 1 day ago
People are yearning for something more than possessions or chasing relationships that may or may not become permanent. Joni Mitchell observed well:
" You could have been more,
Than the name on the door,
Of the thirty-third floor
In the sky;
More than a credit card,
Swimming pool in the backyard.
(Arrangement from Ladies Of The Canyon, 1969)
Miroslav Volf argues that religion allows people to flourish; people realize that they are tied to humanity as a whole. He argues:
"I think religion offers a sense that your life is not primarily about yourself," he said, adding that religions challenge believers to think about something larger than oneself and "to give us something that is transcendent." He said that this was especially important in today's market economy, in which in a desire for consumer goods leaves humans "running faster and faster to stay in the same place." Religion can serve as a counterculture to capitalism, which, Volf said, has eroded and even destroyed the flourishing of people as a global whole."
So if we are not saved by the market economy, by endless increases in the Dow Jones average, where might our sense of purpose and contentment arise?
Miroslav Volf emphasizes the following:
He told the audience that there are three main components of a good life: a sense of peace derived from knowing that one's life is going well in terms of its circumstances, including physical well-being; "life being led" -- or a need to act on behalf of oneself and others; and the sense that life "feels right" or good. In the Judeo-Christian traditions, he said, these could be summed up as "peace, righteousness, and joy."
So the good life is not measured by praying that I will get that choice parking spot at the mall, or that my religious faith will translate into me acquiring a massive amount of money ( i.e. Creflo Dollar ). Last year, Rev. Dollar asked 200,000 people to invest $300 in his ministry so that he could purchase a G650 airplane valued at $60 million dollars. The Atlanta-area minister is seeking donations for "our goal to purchase the G650 airplane."
David Brooks has argued that today's world has witnessed a "secularization" of religion, in which "increasingly, religions are being pushed to become less religious" and more focused on individual prosperity. The more religions become "servants" of economic and political systems, he said, the more "they betray their original character" and teachings. Instead of religion, Brooks emphasized morality as a component of a good life. ( Yale News )
Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam and others are repositories of the good life. Faith focuses upon not only your life but also upon the lives of others. Living in faith means that we live in covenant and commitment to one another.
Our faith can generate a life that is productive, alive, meaningful and with purpose.
May it be so for all of us now and always.