Friday, August 30, 2013

Thoughts on Positive Thinking

Happy Arcadia - Konstantin Makovsky

There's a certain stream in secular society that seems to have found it's way into christian literature and christian culture at large. It's the child of the Romantic movement, the sister of Postmodernism, and stems from all the cultural upheaval that took place in the mid 19th century. The best name I have heard for it, is the 'cult of Happyology'.

This movement has had many forms: it was there in the occult movement of the 19th century, the hippie movement of the 60s, the weird cults of the 80s, the modern self help movement, the prosperity gospel, and so many more!  But they all boil down to one basic motto. Think happy thoughts! Think happy thoughts, and the world will get better! It will! Because, if all that reality boils down to is your personal experience, then the core of reality is centered in your thoughts, and if those thoughts affect reality, then the best way to change it is to think happy ones.

This changed our mindset dramatically. We now view 'positive' words as inherently good and 'negative' ones as inherently bad, regardless of whether or not they are actually true. Praise becomes something inherently good, and criticism something inherently bad.  That's why every child needs a trophy. That's why if we don't have anything nice to say, we shouldn't say anything at all.

However, this sort of thought has no place in christian writing. If you look to Holy Scriptures (which I think all christians agree is the ultimate piece of christian writing), you will not find this blissful, uber-happiness that you find in some 'christian' literature (Pollyana anyone?). You won't find that the most faithful characters overcome their struggles through thinking 'positive thoughts'(Job wasn't positive, and look how he turned out). That's not to say we don't need to write about hope, but God should be the source of that hope, not the cult of positivity. Happyology should have no place in our novel.


  1. I think that the happiness cult is a reaction to the modern and postmodern thought that only dark thought are deep and worthwhile. If you look it school reading it is all depressing stuff because that is "literature" so some people seek to balance by going to the other extreme.

  2. I think it's creepy and brainwashy. UGH! The only appropriate setting that I can think of is a dystopian one, almost like Brave New World. (e.g. "I'm SO GLAD I'm a Beta. I don't have to work hard like those Alphas. And I get to wear green! I LOVE green. I don't like that nasty brown that Deltas wear. Ugh! I would hate to do that awful, awful, dull job that Deltas do. Let's not even talk about those ugly, stupid Epsilons! I'm SO GLAD I'm a Beta...")

  3. Whilst it's definitely been overused and stretched, what you call the 'Cult of Happyology' does have Biblical merits. Phil. 4:8 comes to mind, chiefly. Such concepts Jesus preached as, 'ye shall have whatsoever you sayeth' and concepts of not worrying but trusting God for things all have positive elements, but the positivity without foundation in Christ is where people generally go astray.