From The Pastor At St. Paul's UCC, Freeburg, IL

Signers Of The Declaration Of Independence – Real Men

There’s an email going around entitled “The Price They Paid”, ostensibly about the fate of the signers of the Declaration of Independence – the story purports to recount the incredible losses and hardships each signer endured. According to the story, every signer was essentially a martyr.

Well, I have an interest in this since I’m a direct descendant of John Adams (my mother and her sister were Adams’s and have the genealogy going back to John). The Snopes article below provides the actual history of the signers, and it’s quite a mixed bag. No super heroes, no martyrs. (for more brief bios on the signers, go here).

As the Snopes article points out, even John Adams and Thomas Jefferson recognized “that the act of transforming the American Revolution into history placed a premium on selecting events and heroes that fit neatly into a dramatic formula, thereby distorting the more tangled and incoherent experience that participants actually making the history felt at the time.” We want our heroes, not our history! It was for that very reason that Adams and Jefferson, near the end of their lives, wrote numerous letters to each other setting straight the real history of the Revolution.

While watching the HBO special on John Adams, I was struck that little physical or emotional makeup was used – there were discolored splotches on Adams’ head, and he really was not very nice to his children; Jefferson came off as aloof and more than a bit arrogant and something of a priss; Franklin was an opportunist and womanizer. None of this is to deride or tear down these mean. All of it is to say that they were men, real men with real faults. They were not superheroes or martyrs.

It’s so hard to accept the doctrine of total depravity. We do so want our heroes, and we’ll make them up out of history if we have to. Because there’s something in us that wants to believe that our hero is right there in us, waiting to come forth in the right circumstances.

Christianity teaches that our hero is not in us, but comes from outside of us; that each and every one of us is a splotchy, selfish sinner including Jefferson, Adams, you and me. And that when goodness and glory occur in lives such as ours, it’s because of a God who works by putting “treasure in earthen vessels”, not because we’re heroes.

So this Independence Day, can we put aside our hero worship, and remember our absolute dependence on One (and only one) who sets us free?

I do commend the article below – may it bring you a greater appreciation of how a real God works in real history through real men.

Essay outlines the fates of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

The Price They Paid
snopes@snopes.com
Sat, 04 Jul 2009 15:00:00 GMT

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