Finding joy while fighting injustice

To Mary Clark Moschella, joy is a countercultural phenomenon.

“Got joy?” might be a way to paraphrase the theme of this book by Mary Clark Moschella, who teaches pastoral care at Yale Divinity School. It’s an important question. More than one skeptic has wondered why God’s redeemed often look so dour.

Moschella notes that the subject of joy is “conspicuously missing” in many mainline churches, seminaries, and divinity schools. This absence is partly rooted in appropriate sensitivity to suffering and injustice: “In situations of great suffering, no one wants to encounter the ‘cheerful Christian’ saying, ‘Have a good day!’” As a preacher, I often found myself struggling with this dilemma at Christmas. Just when we’re ready to proclaim joy to the world, an airplane is blown out of the sky, leaving hundreds of families shocked and bereft. Or a terrible auto accident two days before Christmas gut punches a community and haunts its carols of joy.

But joy is so central to our scriptures and to the life of faith that Moschella is not willing to relinquish its importance and promise. She argues for reclaiming the centrality of joy in the life of faith, understanding it as “a counter-cultural emotion and a spiritual path that can strengthen our resolve to transform unjust social arrangements.” She cites Wendell Berry’s counsel, “Be joyful, though you have considered all the facts.”