Dusting Off the Declaration

Pauline Maier opens her history of the making of the Declaration of Independence, the most sacred of these documents, with this vivid description of the rotunda of the National Archives. In Maier’s eyes the shrine where the documents are displayed resembles nothing so much as the awesome, gilded, pre-Vatican II altars of her Catholic girlhood, raised three steps above where the worshippers assembled. The whole shrine seems to belong in a Baroque church somewhere in Rome. On the altar’s surface are spread out the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but at the center of the shrine, held above the altar in what looks like a tabernacle or monstrance, is the most holy document of all—the Declaration of Independence. Every day hundreds of believers file by the altar looking up reverentially at this document, “as if it were handed down by God or were the work of superhuman men whose talents far exceeded those of any who followed them.”

In her research she uncovered at least ninety different declarations of Independence that Americans in the colonies (later states) and localities adopted between April and July of 1776, most of which have been forgotten under the influence of our national obsession with the Continental Congress’s Declaration of Independence.

In persuasive detail Maier demonstrates that these many addresses and declarations had numerous precedents in English history, the most important being, of course, the English Declaration of Rights of 1688-1689. The seventeenth-century English Declaration had a particular significance for Americans in 1776 because it not only formally ended the reign of James II but justified that outcome by making a series of accusations against the King. Many Americans, including Jefferson in his preamble for the Virginia constitution, used the English Declaration as a model and sought to bring the same kinds of charges against George III as had been brought against James II.

The Temptation of Jesus, Mercedes edition

Superbowl Ad, 2012: Mercedes-Benz 1 , 2

Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,

‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Then the devil showed him the new Mercedes CLA, and all the fame and glamour that it would bring, saying, “Sign your soul over to me and all this is yours.”

As Jesus was carefully considering the devil’s offer, he saw the CLA’s price of only $29,900 and said, “Thanks, I think I got this.”

  1. The original version of this ad featured a song from the Rolling Stones – “Sympathy for the Devil”, a first-person account of the devil at work throughout history (video)

  2. One interesting tidbit: Willem Dafoe, the actor who plays Satan in this ad, also played Jesus in Martin Scorsese’s film, The Last Temptation of Christ