What’s it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live?
What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give? Or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are kind, Alfie, Then I guess it is wise to be cruel.
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie,
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
– Burt Bacharach (1928-2023) and Hal David (1921-2012), from “Alfie” (1966)
Those who first created the Christian religion, early in the fourth century CE, put no stock at all in advancing human happiness. You can tell how little the Romans cared for making people happy by the way their armies ruthlessly destroyed every form of Christianity then extant that did not conform to the Romans’ own narrow concept of Christianity as it was designed at the First Council of Nicaea in the year 325 CE. Oh, no. And then for most of the rest of Christian history, making people happy has sadly been the last thing on the minds of those who were working to advance the Christian religion! In fact, now that we mention it, those early widespread Christian massacres led to my Thomas’s first, tentative attempt at breaking the conversational ice with me one morning in the summer of 2015. This was not long after my Thomas had first announced himself to me through a medium. And then he had pressured me into channeling Liberating Jesus. So our first open interactions were not what you might call easy or friendly, his and mine. But I guess that once that first compulsory task of channeling Liberating Jesus had been completed, Thomas decided that since we were going to be occupying one body for the rest of my lifetime, perhaps now we ought to work on becoming friends.
It was very early on a late-May morning. The sun was just rising, and we were sitting at my kitchen table, sipping coffee and watching the sharply slanted sunlight taking over my backyard, coming in from the right through the trees. I was becoming used to hearing a distinctive voice in my mind from behind my left shoulder. Since my husband is not an early riser, I would have seemed to you to be sitting there alone.
But I was not alone. Thomas was saying to me from behind my left shoulder, sounding dreamy and almost romantic, “Does this remind you of the morning when we first met?”
“We met?” I said to him in my mind. “What are you talking about? I don’t know when we met. Did we ever meet?”
“Of course we met! Don’t you remember? The Romans had massacred a Christian village. You were the teenage son of the chieftain. I found you just as the sun was rising.”
He talked on in that soft and dreamy voice until I began dimly to remember what he was talking about. I had been badly wounded. He had been a grizzled old giant of a man who had been badly wounded, too, in defending the village that now lay destroyed around us, and littered with dead and dying people. He found me just at dawn. He held me until I died in his arms. Then later that same morning, he died as well. He took me back with him to Jesus in the astral plane, and he told me as I sipped my coffee and watched the sun rise on my modern backyard that although I would have no memory of it now because of the amnesia that we accept when we enter these earth-lives, I have been a part of Jesus’s circle of friends ever since that ancient Roman massacre. So, I have been Jesus’s friend for almost two thousand years? That was what he was trying to tell me? And I have been Thomas’s friend ever since then as well.
But Christianity, tragically, has not followed Jesus at all! The religion has taught just sin and our certain punishment for sin, while Jesus has taught only love and forgiveness and happiness in our certainty of God’s love and care. How can the religion have gone so completely and so hideously wrong, and for so long?
Even to this day, Christianity has given no attention to the promotion of human happiness. But Jesus, throughout His ministry, really talked of little else but how to ease the painful struggles of human life! Jesus wanted people to be happy, as He still wants us to find happiness in these lifetimes as we can, despite the fact that our lives on earth are difficult, and are meant to be difficult in order to give us the negativity that we need to push against in order to grow spiritually. Repeatedly we see in the Gospels Jesus promising us joy as a result of His coming. I have always especially enjoyed the following passage from the Gospel of John, which is the most spiritual Gospel. Although what Jesus might have known of childbirth during His life on earth, I cannot imagine. But I think what He was referring to here was the birth of His spiritual Way, and the fact that the Romans might not like it to begin with, but nevertheless He would guide it and care for it from the astral plane, and He planned for it to succeed wonderfully. Which indeed it did, for three hundred years, until the Roman Emperor Constantine much later on had his ruthless way with it.
Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you that you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy! Whenever a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore, you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one is going to take your joy away from you. And on that day, you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.” (JN 16:20-24)
“Ask, and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full.”
Please read that passage from John again. That is the very essence, the sum total and the entirety of Jesus’s mission and His message on earth! Those words in one variation or another are in the Gospels from Jesus over and over again. That is what Jesus’s teachings on forgiveness and love amount to. That is what Jesus came to bring to us. So it is simply incredible that Christianity as the Romans designed it and as it still is taught to this day is such a flat-out dour and depressing religion, built as it is around sin and shame and guilt, when Jesus says these beautiful and uplifting words in the Gospels over and over again! Our daily happiness mattered to Jesus then, and it still matters very much to Jesus now. For us to be happy each day of our lives matters to Him so much, although to see the religion that the Romans designed three hundred years after Jesus’s ascension, that thought is almost inconceivable to us. No, the architects of Christianity cared less than nothing about human happiness. They built a Christian religion so harshly negative that it is difficult for people who have been Christians ever to believe that the Being they know as Jesus the Christ came to make people happy! Even though in the Biblical Gospels we find Him repeatedly saying things like, “I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly” (JN 10:11). The religionists entirely ignore His words, and instead they beat their ugly guilt-based drums that emphasize our hopeless sinfulness and the dogma that Jesus had to die such a horrible death on the cross as a sacrifice to God in order to redeem us from God’s judgment for our sins. None of that religious nonsense is, nor has it ever been true!
It is no wonder any more that Christianity is dying. As recently as 1990, 90% 0f Americans were Christians. That percentage had already declined to 80% by the year 2000. And in 2022, just 64% of Americans still identified as Christian. That percentage continues to drop rapidly. For my part, though, what I notice is how far down on the happiness list the most traditionally Christian countries fall. It should not be so, of course, when Jesus Himself makes such a point of teaching happiness! But to this day, the religion that carries Jesus’s name simply does not care one fig about the happiness of the people who are its parishioners. Not when Christianity remains so obsessed with sin and guilt and shame and punishment.
Perhaps, my dear ones, it is time that I come out to you as a modern oddity. Even though I am otherwise a normal third-generation American who seems to have successfully melted into our melting-pot, by reason of the fact that there was still a thriving Danish expat community in Massachusetts less than a century ago, every one of my ancestors came from Denmark around 1900. Genetically I am a purebred Viking, which is something that I have enjoyed throwing at my husband on occasion throughout our marriage, whenever it has seemed to be necessary that he be reminded of the sort of fierce, wild thing he married. My parents raised me to be proud of being an expat Dane, a native of such a minuscule but nevertheless fiercely independent country which managed to save nearly all of its Jews from the Holocaust. And I learned to be especially proud of that particular bit of history when I was barely a toddler. I could say the word “Jew” before I could speak in sentences. When my younger daughter lately took her family to the Holocaust Museum in DC, she was dumbfounded to discover a whole room devoted to the Danish rescue effort that she had been hearing about for her entire life, but that I guess she never had quite believed. I have taken of late to keeping a Danish flag on my desk, with a picture of my Danish farmer immigrant grandparents.
On happiness indices, Denmark and Finland routinely rank as the two happiest countries in the world. (Here is a short film about Denmark and Finland, if you have the time; it’s quite wonderful.) In fact, all the Scandinavian countries generally rank at the top of world happiness indices. Billionaires claim more attention, but it seems that having more money actually does not make people happier. Instead, the more money you have above a certain modest amount, the more it complicates your life and the more dissatisfied you become. The fact that these cold and dark countries which actually look down on the accumulation of excess wealth are generally rated the happiest worldwide still mystifies people. But it really shouldn’t. Less actually is more.
I have come to believe that Danish happiness may be in some part genetic. It is difficult for any of us to know how other people feel about life on a daily basis, but as I was working on this blog post after Thomas had chosen the topic, I came to realize that my own happiness set-point always has been quite a bit higher than are most people’s happiness set-points. It used to irritate many of the boys that I knew in college that I was always happy for no reason. And I, in turn, can recall feeling confused by the fact that most other people were not happy all the time. What was there for them to be not-happy about? I can see now that my constant cheerfulness is a reason why my husband likes to be around me, because he finds it harder to be always cheerful. I guess I never really had thought about any of this. And my grandparents, the Danish subsistence farmers whose picture I keep on my desk, also had my Danish happy gene. They never had anything in their lives except family, which meant to them that they had everything. I should have thought about this much sooner, that there are so many people who find it hard to be happy. But oddly, it just never before in my life has occurred to me that I cannot recall ever having had even one truly unhappy day.
And so does our beloved Jesus seem to have this same high happiness set-point. With Him, of course, it cannot be genetic! No, with Him it is a deep and abiding love for people as individuals, a joy that He takes in each human being, a deep desire for each of us to be living in a rich and mutually satisfying love for one another as we go about our days, living always without the least sense of guilt or shame, without even the smallest feeling of sin to ever weigh us down; and without fear of course, without any anxiety, and knowing only the joy of perfect happiness in living in deep harmony with one another. That is what Jesus wants for each of us! So what Jesus teaches is a pattern for living on such a high spiritual level that human joy is absolute.
Abraham Lincoln said that most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be. Which seems to be just simple common sense! And it gives is a pretty low bar, perhaps. But it does give us a place to begin.
As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above, Alfie, I know there’s something much more!
Something even non-believers can believe in.
I believe in love, Alfie. Without true love we just exist, Alfie!
Until you find the love you’ve missed, You’re nothing, Alfie.
When you walk, let your heart lead the way.
And you’ll find love any day, Alfie, Alfie!
– Burt Bacharach (1928-2023) and Hal David (1921-2012), from “Alfie” (1966)