In honor of the 4th of July, I want to share with you an interview with a top American history scholar, Dr. Raymond Fitzmyer:
Divine Life: Happy 4th of July! What are you doing to celebrate the birthday of our country?
Raymond Fitzmyer: Well, of course nothing really happened on July 4th, 1776 – it is just a date the early American community later chose to represent their feelings of tolerance towards others.
DL: So I guess you are not doing fireworks?
RF: No, I’ll just be listening to NPR as I usually do most evenings.
DL: So you are an expert on the Declaration of Independence. What do you think is the greatest strength of Jefferson’s famous work?
RF: First of all, Thomas Jefferson didn’t write the Declaration of Independence. It was written by the Jeffersonian community over the span of about 50 years and didn’t take its final form until about 1830 CE. In fact, some of the latest critical scholarship is even questioning if there ever was such a person as “Thomas Jefferson”. Most likely, the figure of Jefferson simply represented the early American community’s desire to be tolerant of England.
DL: Well, what do you think is the greatest strength of the “Jeffersonian community’s” famous work?
RF: The Declaration of Independence was formed in an ancient culture, so of course it contains all the biases and antiquated notions of that ancient culture. For example, it talks about “truths” being “self-evident”, which we all today know is simply not true. Truths are based on our perceptions, and what is true for you might not be true for me, except of course the truth of the statement I just made, which is always true. We now understand that nothing is “self-evident” to anyone, except for the self-evidence that there is nothing self-evident. Furthermore, the Declaration speaks about a reliance on “Divine Providence”, which reflects the superstitious culture in which the early Americans lived. We know today that our only reliance is on government, not some figure in the sky looking out for us.
DL: So, is there anything you actually like about the Declaration of Independence?
RF: Of course, of course! After all, I’ve spent my whole academic career studying it! I think the Declaration of Independence is a fine example of pre-modern American literature.
DL: That’s it?
RF: Well, we must remember that humankind has advanced greatly since the time of the first Americans, and there is very little we can learn from those primitive peoples. But their writings do make for fine symposium topics as well as good subjects for journal publications.
DL: Thank you for your time, Dr. Fitzmyer. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
RF: Yes, I’d like to tell everyone that I have a new book coming out about the Constitution. In this book, I prove that the Constitution actually wasn’t completed in its final redacted form until after the Civil War and was the result of the Northern community’s desire to justify their actions towards the South. It’s sure to get me on TV…I mean, it’s sure to advance American scholarship greatly.