The year was and is famous: 1776. It marks the founding of America with the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. That year is famous for another reason, too. In England, the historian Edward Gibbon published his 6 volume work: “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” It traces the 500 year reign of the Romans in the known world and forms the foundation of our knowledge of Western Civilization. It goes from Rome’s early pagan years to the influence of Greek society upon Rome to the rise of Christianity to Rome’s eventual fall. That fall can be traced to around 300 A.D. when the Emperor split the empire in two and Constantinople became the eastern half’s capital with Rome ruling in the west. By 400 A.D. Rome had been sacked at least once by the Visigoths and others thereafter.
What does this have to do with America today, July 2020? Simply this: America and its foundational principles are currently under attack. Will we follow Rome? And how will Christianity and its principles, which have guided Euro-centric civilization, fare in this current maelstrom of emotions and politics?
The Greeks of ancient times formulated almost all the great ideals spelled out in America’s founding documents. Then they were streamlined and fleshed out in workable form via the Romans. Christianity gave a moral compass to it all and English common law and the Magna Carta further refined them. That’s the backdrop to: “All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (From the Declaration of Independence.) In the 246 years since those words were written and codified, America further added to and refined just what that means in a practical way through various laws and constitutional amendments. Probably the most gut-wrenching time for this took place during the Civil War from 1861-1865. Slavery was abolished and voting rights for all was the result. This was highlighted around 1964-5 when the Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress, along with the right of women to vote passed around 40 odd years before.
As a result of this America and the Western World has been blest. Blest by God. Unlike other civilizations, the individual is actually important and vital to the whole society. Human life is a gift from God. The Western world has treated it so, too, albeit imperfectly. Personal prejudice dies hard, however. But the influence of that Christian principle triumphs over such prejudice. That’s because God made each human, gave His Son’s life to save each soul, and His image resides in them—although obscured by sin.
Such ideas are freeing! They give humans a sense of purpose and importance. If God made you and has freed your soul from the shackles of evil, then you can act, talk, think, and live accordingly. Such are the ideals of 1776!
Our founders gave us a democratic Republic. That’s because Kingly rule means individuals have no real rights or freedoms.—The citizens are all subject to the whims of one person. Marxism teaches that there are no individual rights, only the state matters. So, people are just cogs in a bigger machine with no real voice. (No wonder technological creativity ceases to exist in such countries.) And then there is mob rule. Mobs run on emotion. They breed chaos. It’s a stone age mentality in that the person hefting the biggest club beats everyone else into submission. And Fascists basically combine many of the above in that the “leader” and their “group” force others into submission through fear, intimidation, and violence. Recall that the Nazi’s were socialists!
So, what are we seeing in America today? Mobs intimidate. “Doxing” on social media does much the same. If a country lives by intimidation the rights of each person are diminished or destroyed. Can such behavior be uplifting to all? Think back on the French Revolution and the reign of terror where people turned on each other and death was the bloody result. History is replete with such examples.
Right now our country is having a heated and vicious debate over statues of all things! If some past personage had different views than others today hold to, they don’t belong—Off with their head—literally. We’re rewriting history and many seem to think it doesn’t matter. But Edward Gibbon would say: “It does.” Roman history would say it does. And Bible history would agree. “Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” Those who reject lessons—both good and bad—from the past will flounder because they have no true knowledge which will prevent chaos and such emotionalism eventually destroys and eats itself. The result is that people suffer and die and the ideals of individual liberty and all that uplifts devolve into factionalism and anarchy.
Recall the era after Rome finally fell. It was about 600 A.D. and lasted until around 1200 to 1300 A.D. Recall what we call that era: The Dark Ages. Let’s all pray to God Almighty that the thought-filled foundational ideals of our nation don’t get destroyed by the emotional revenge group-think which seems to be going on. Or, as one of my profs used to say: “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”! Learn from the past. Value its ability to teach both the positives to be embraced, and the negatives to learn from. For those who fail in this are doomed to repeat it all over again, and again and again. Humans struggled and equality was non-existent during the Dark Ages. God made us all for something far better.– One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all…..
Pastor Thomas H. Fox