Christian Moderate Optimism for 2014
An attitude is fundamentally a mental position towards what reality has been, is, and is about to be. It is the inner disposition of the mind as it is shaped by our feelings and thoughts about life and how to respond to life. All the choices, actions and consequences of our lives are shaped by our attitudes. Furthermore, all attitudes towards life are either positive or negative, or in other words, all attitudes are about whether the cup is half full or half empty.
I am concerned at the beginning of 2014 about our basic Christian attitudes to life and God’s creation. In terms of the cup being half filled or half empty, God has not created us to be “the cup is half empty” people. If we truly understand the meaning of the incarnation at the beginning and the end of the day, we are “the cup is half filled” people. The perception of life as always being half full is what I mean by an “attitude of rational and emotional moderate optimism”
A Christian attitude of moderate optimism means that we should see the cup of life as always being a little better than just half filled. We should see the cup of life as always being moderately filled in all the events and situations of life.
I found it most interesting to learn that the cancer victims who have the best chance of recovery approach their treatment with a moderate level of optimism. Facing the problems and suffering of life with an attitude of moderate optimism makes a lot of sense. Just because a person is an optimist does not mean that one cannot at the same time have common sense. A false high level of optimism is to have no doubt whatsoever that a cure will happen.
At the other extreme is the negative skeptic who doubts that anything will work. The moderate optimist believes that if they remain positive and make a sincere effort to work with the treatment, then God will take care of them. The point is that a Christian lives as a moderate optimist in all situations. Jesus came so that we might know that God offers a life where He wants us to know happiness and face life always with moderate optimism. The Psalmist teaches, “This is the day that the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” The Psalmist doesn’t say that I will be happy tomorrow if this and this happens. No matter what is going on in our life, we must face life as a moderate optimist.
I read recently a study from the University of Pennsylvania conducted by neuroscientists who were studying how Americans perceive God. The study gave me reason to ponder rather seriously the perception of God in our society, and I began to realize that there is a need for a discovery of the authentic Jesus of the Gospel. Approximately 34% percent of Americans perceive God as an authoritarian who is a God who prefers to demand and punish. He is a God who also intervenes in this life to punish the wicked and save the believer. This authoritarian God allows a satanic force to move throughout the world and attack the non-believer. Twenty five percent believe in a critical God who makes heavy moral and faith demands on people but does not really engage in supportive loving relationships with people. It is as if the critical God rules from afar by sending us critical and negative emails. Third, 12% believe in God as being a type of distant cosmic force that we cannot know personally, and this God does not intervene directly in our lives. Finally, it is only 23% who believe in a loving, benevolent and non- judgmental God who wishes for us to be happy and live a life of moderate optimism The remaining percentage are hard-core atheists who have no interest in the question of God whatsoever.
It is no wonder that we have so much division and problems in America. The problems of the nation and individuals living with negative attitudes come from a belief in the authoritarian, critical and distant God. No, in 2014 we must pray for the awareness and understanding of a benevolent God guiding our Episcopal community and our personal lives on a journey of moderate optimism.