Declaration – Part Three (Pursuit of Happiness)

What did the Founders intend when they included the pursuit of happiness as one of the three named rights endowed by God on mankind?

The phrase itself has been perverted over time to mean something akin to the American Dream, which has been perverted itself to mean everything from achievements in life, family, wealth, home-ownership, and anything else a politician can dream up that sounds good in a sound byte or a newspaper byline.  It has been used to justify social programs that alleviate personal responsibility from the individual.  It has been used to justify progressive taxation where wealthier individuals are taxed more intensely than less wealthy ones.  I imagine the Founders would be incensed were they still alive to find out how this phrase had been bent, twisted, and misused over time.

What is happiness?

the quality or state of being happy.
good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.
Happiness and joy differ from person to person.  I might find great happiness in watching my sons grow up and watching my wife catching up with an old friend, while someone else might find great happiness in reading a new book, or taking a hike through the wilderness, but is that joy?  Joy is the source of happiness.  What is your joy?
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Why did the Founders specify the pursuit though?  Were they acknowledging that they sought to establish an earthly government, not a heavenly one? Were they acknowledging that true joy on earth is only found in Christ?
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Joy transcends happiness.  Happiness is temporary and can be blotted out when times get tough.  Time and time again, Americans have proven to have extremely thick skin.  We suffered through a terrible civil war that decimated the country, we fought two world wars were millions perished, suffered economic recessions and depressions that had the potential to be just as deadly, and we persevered against totalitarian socialism when we stared down the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Were any of those happy times?  No.
Can we look back and find moments of joy sprinkled throughout? Yes.
Happiness is externally dependent.  It relies on pleasure from the fulfillment of desires and wants.  Joy is internally dependent.  It is found in the love in your heart.  It is found through the Spirit of God and the hope we have in Christ alone.
The Founders may have even intended for these rights to be recognizable as follows:  life (in Christ), liberty (from sin through Christ), and the pursuit of happiness (or joy, which is found in Christ).
Tell me again that we are not a Christian nation, all I have to do is point to the Declaration and show you that it is divinely inspired.  Thomas Jefferson may have been a deist and believed that it was impossible to know God, but it seems to me that God greatly influenced Jefferson’s text and blessed this country through and because of it.
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  1. Pulpit Freedom « freedomsbrushfire
  2. Declare « freedomsbrushfire

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