Is the Gospel of Bobby right? Is “don’t worry; be happy” our best spiritual guide? Specifically, is this advice really part of Christianity’s core message?
According to “Almost Christian,” millions of teenagers think it truly is the Gospel. For many American teens, Christianity has morphed into a consumer-driven, self-involved kind of religion. Author Kenda Creasy Dean calls it Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD), as I described yesterday. (Scroll down on the right to see earlier posts.)
One of the guiding beliefs of MTD, as summarized by Dean in her new book, is personal happiness and positive self-esteem. ”The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.” In pursuit of happiness, she argues, God is used “instrumentally, as an invisible tool.”
So, maybe Bobby McFerrin had it right with his wildly popular a capella tune, “Don’t worry; be happy.” Bobby got the idea for the song from a poster with this four-word saying. The poster quoted Indian mystic and sage Meher Baba, who often used the saying, according to various sources.
But this phrase was Meher Baba’s shorthand for a longer—and more meaningful—expression. This is the full saying: “Do your best. Then, don’t worry; be happy in my love. I will help you.” The sage’s full saying adds responsibility to happiness—an element that has faded in importance with MTD. For many Christian denominations, Dean finds, “moral responsibility”—helping others, social justice, and transformation—are almost absent for young people.
Does this square with what you observe?
Do teenagers in your faith tradition embrace “Don’t worry; be happy” as the central goal of life?
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