Gary Horton | Happiness IS the Goal

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor

This is regarding David Hegg’s April 7 column, “Your Happiness Can Hurt You.”

I’ve read Mr. Hegg’s columns for years now, with the response usually ranging between agreement and motivation to disillusionment of Hegg’s assumption of moral superiority bestowed on him by his organization. Mr. Hegg believes he speaks for the “almighty” – and thus has divine authority to tell you and me what to think and how to act. In his latest column, he crosses lines using his version of God’s will to denigrate our Catholic president’s faith and standing.

Says Hegg, “Freedom, as defined as the ability for the individual to do what ‘makes them happy,’ is called chaotic anarchy. Freedom is never about the individual’s desires but the many putting aside personal desires to conform to a mutually agreed standard of behavior.” 

A “mutually agreed standard of behavior.” How handy for a paid preacher to keep his flock in tow! Don’t think too much for yourself; don’t follow your happiness – follow my definition of “mutually agreed” behavior, my rules, my religion, instead.

Mr. Hegg overlooks that America was founded for our “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” Of course, society requires rules, laws and norms. But in our government, “by, for and of the people,” our rules, laws and norms are set by citizens in the United States, not by preachers attempting control of who we are and what we do. 

We live in a world of too much sadness. Our world needs more happiness, not less. We need to find more personal satisfaction and joy, not less. We need more acceptance of all our diversities, and less corporate-religion artificial guilt banging in our heads. Yes, yes, we all need mindfulness, self-control, self-awareness, prudence, thoughtfulness, kindness, motivation, goodness. Yes, we all must be lawful. But in a world with hundreds of diverse religions teaching their faithful all kinds of diverse and often strange things as absolutely right, we need less of them authoritatively telling the rest of us we’re absolutely wrong. 

We all got stuck on this Earth without any choice in the matter as to where we landed, to whom we landed, our gender, our health, much of our abilities, and pretty much our everything. We had no free choice as to any of it. As such, here we all are — and let’s celebrate whatever happiness we can achieve, given the diversity of our births. Provided, of course, that the happiness we seek is helpful, beneficial, lawful, healthy, and hurts no one.

After his aggrieved assault on individual happiness as a fatal flaw in our nation, Mr. Hegg twists his faith column into a political Trojan horse, launching into an attack on Joe Biden’s personal faith for Biden’s support of Trans Visibility Day, which happened to coincide with Easter Sunday. I agree with Mr. Hegg; for some folks, these are bad optics. Still, Mr. Hegg magically reaches into Joe Biden’s mind like some sort of “god talks to me-empowered fortune teller,” discerning that Joe Biden isn’t really a Catholic, and President Biden doesn’t think that “the first fetus in Eve’s womb was a person.” Does Mr. Hegg understand just how strange this phraseology sounds to modern ears? And does Mr. Hegg understand he can’t judge another man’s faith without playing God himself?

Mr. Hegg must remember when the Baptist Church (and much of America) was historically anti-Catholic overall, and Joe Biden would have been rejected out of hand simply for his Catholic faith alone. Catholics were “different” than the Protestant majority and not to be trusted. John Kennedy faced this bigotry. I’m glad that’s largely changed and we’re all playing together a bit more nicely. Yet here, as if falling on old habits, Joe Biden’s personal faith is minimized and judged defective in a column simultaneously strangely speaking of “first fetuses in Eve’s womb.” This statement alone is proof positive we need less religious coding and judgement and more acceptance. We need more introspection and less outside condemnation.

Mr. Hegg writes many uplifting and helpful columns. Many are enlightening and motivating. We benefit by being uplifted toward good and helping our fellow man and woman. But this time, emotion got the better of Mr. Hegg, and unfortunately, he sounded like just another angry faith-based know-it-all instead of the thoughtful pastor he usually is.

Gary Horton


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