The expression, “pursuit of happiness,” can mean many things, and it definitely had at least one commonly-accepted meaning at the time Jefferson included the phrase in the Declaration of Independence that is almost unknown today, but I want to consider just one today in light of the following comment by William Penn:
“No people can be truly happy, though under the greatest enjoyments of civil liberties, if abridged of the Freedom of their Conscience as to their Religious Profession and Worship.” — William Penn, Pennsylvania Charter of Liberties, 1701
The First Amendment to the Constitution explicitly denies the “feddle gummint” ANY power to impede the free expression of religion. Nowadays, the feds are all over the place bending over backwards to accommodate those who want to eradicate any religious expression that does not agree with their own agendas from the public arena.
And Christians, of all groups, make it especially easy by having secularized their churches to the extent that they have little to stand on in protest of “feddle gummint” misbehaviors.
Let’s take Penn’s “Religious Profession and Worship” phrase to contrast to today’s churches. “Religious profession,” in Penn’s language, does NOT mean “professional religionists,” as in clergy. No, a “religious profession” is a declaration of one’s religious beliefs–to many, anathema in the public square. . . as long as it is profession of Christian beliefs. Anathema even to some who claim to be Christians. When Christians allow themselves to be cowed into silence about the substantive teachings of the church, they have denied their profession.
And what of worship? *feh* The weak, insipid, false view of worship that pervades churches nowadays is the direct result of churches becoming just another part of secular society, and just as secular as what is found outside the congregation. Confining a highly secularized “worship” to behind a church’s closed doors is simply a denial of worship, since true worship is behavior that pervades all of life.
Sidebar: The late 60s youth song, “Sunday’s Child,” about someone who was holier than thou on Sundays but lived like hell the rest of the week comes to mind, as does Fred Pratt Green’s, “When the Church of Jesus.” A snippet:
If our hearts are lifted
Where devotion soars
High above this hungry
Suffering world of ours:
Lest our hymns should drug us
To forget its needs,
Forge our Christian worship
Into Christian deeds.
Now, what “Church of Jesus” would allow “feddle gummint” bullying or naysayers’ whinnying to keep them from true worship? Those who do forfeit a happiness that it is their right to pursue. . . or eschew, as most do.
Yes, I’ve wandered around a bit and not really defined what this form of happiness is, but unless one is willing to pursue obedience to Christ, describing it will do no good.
19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
Yes, “all nations” (all people) means our own, and everyone we meet, whether they like us for doing so or not. Jesus did not say, “Go ye therefore into all the world and try to make people like you by never offending them.” No, in another place He warned that “the world” would hate those who followed Him. Get over it. The highest happiness, for the Christian, is not found in the approval of others–whether of his fellow Christians or outside the congregation of believers. It is found in trusting obedience (our half of the “fides covenant”).
Religious profession: telling others of your faith. Worship: living a life of trusting obedience to God.
And neither of those are genuine if confined only–or even primarily!–inside “church” walls.