Monday, May 12, 2008

A new bit of applied theology published today by a group of Christian MP's, in what seems to be a 2-pronged effort:

- to look in detail at what we mean by 'wellbeing' and quality of life, and provide an explicitly Christian response and content to the debate.
- to demonstrate that Christians can say positive things in the public square, to counteract our public image of just being opposed to stuff.

Report in the Times, and comment by Ruth Gledhill. Here's an excerpt from the blurb on the report:

Despite unprecedented levels of legislation, welfare and material wealth in the UK, this country faces significant challenges about human well-being that politicians alone cannot solve. This report sets out some of these challenges and concludes that the absence of certain key values is the primary cause of so much discontent.

Our solutions do not involve more law or higher taxes but rather a call to re-examine the decisions taken in every sector of society in the light of crucial life-challenging principles.
These principles are set out as five defining questions:

  • Does my action encourage people to develop positive relationships in their families and
  • Is my action socially and globally responsible?
  • Does my action promote a climate of trust and hope?
  • Does my action promote self-esteem and respect for others?
  • Does my action encourage people to fulfil their God given potential?

This report sets the challenge of applying these questions before any new action is taken. This document does not form a call to arms, a summons to muster around some new set of top-down policies. Rather it is a call to hope, an invitation for all stakeholders in our nation’s future to something new, something fresh, a positive, hopeful working towards a brighter future.

It's a realistic and refreshingly positive bit of work, as well as an extended theological reflection on 'love your neighbour as yourself'. A healthy society is more than one that is either prosperous or physically well, just as there is more to a healthy church than one which is outwardly 'succesful'. In fact both the report, and the recent literature on growing healthy churches (also here), work from the same premise: if you focus on health, the other results you're looking for (whether a better and happier society or a growing church) happen as byproducts.

The link between happiness and faith has been noted by, among others, Richard Layard, and the Royal Economic Society.

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