The USA and the Ancient Roman Empire
The United States was once called the grand experiment. The colonists in 1776 did the impossible when they defeated the greatest army on the planet at that time in history, and built their own nation. Since then the United States rose from the ground up to be a free and prosperous nation. After World War II, the United States began it’s fight against the one remaining superpower in a conflict of ideologies called the cold war. Capitalism won out over communism. In the 1980s after the collapse of the Soviet Union the United States stood far above the rest of the world in terms of economic prosperity, personal liberty, and equality.
On September 11th 2001 the United States was attacked by Islamic extremists in a mysterious attack that brought the towers of high finance in New York tumbling to the ground. As if God himself was giving us a symbolic nudge, seven years later the United States fell into a great recession. Coupled with the recession there has been a great increase in corruption, and the curtailing of rights such as habeaus corpus, right to trial, and personal freedom.
Historically there is only one other nation that resembles the United States at this time in history; the ancient Roman empire. Ancient Rome was a massive powerful nation, an amalgam of different cultures and peoples under a democratic government. Very much similar to the United States today. Ancient Rome, the greatest empire on the planet fell to barbarian invaders in the late 4th century.
The Roman empire had successfully held back the barbarian tribes on it’s borders for centuries. How then did it fall? It fell from within. And when examining the evidence, it’s clear that many of the internal problems Rome faced are the same being faced by the United States today. The United States finds itself in conflict with various countries in the middle east. In addition there are serious economic problems including an outstanding debt of over 16 trillion dollars. Inflation is high and the divide between rich and poor continues to grow. Politicians seem baffled as to how to solve these problems and are often motivated by their own petty self interests instead of the interests of their constituents. Depravity and sin celebration continue to rise in the media and entertainment of the culture. On the college campuses Christianity is openly mocked while eastern mysticism is embraced. Evolution is taught as absolute fact, while the possibility of intelligent design is strategically ignored and ridiculed. The philosophy is relativistic, and students are taught there is no such thing as truth. The political views of Marx and Engels are taught as the perfect way to human utopia. Sexuality is before, during, and after marriage. Abortion is common place. Wages are low, the American family is overworked, prices keep going up but wages stay the same despite record profits on the corporate level. Morality is a myth, a thing of the past, they said once chivalry was dead, but to say it’s dead is even an overstatement, more so it’s simply unheard of. It’s a television, internet, entertainment culture and ironically there is a sharp rise in unhappiness and discontent. People are more disconnected than ever in the age of the social network and the information superhighway. Meanwhile wars rage on, starvation continues worldwide, and diseases like AIDS and cancer decimate entire continents.
How did we get here? How did we go from a nation founded on Christian principles, accountable to a loving God, to this twerking, satanic culture of sexual sin, drugs, violence, alcoholism, and total immorality?
Ravi Zacharias explains the collapse quite well in this quote from his book Recapture the Wonder: “In the 1950s kids lost their innocence.
They were liberated from their parents by well-paying jobs, cars, and lyrics in music that gave rise to a new term —the generation gap.
In the 1960s, kids lost their authority.
It was a decade of protest—church, state, and parents were all called into question and found wanting. Their authority was rejected, yet nothing ever replaced it.
In the 1970s, kids lost their love. It was the decade of me-ism dominated by hyphenated words beginning with self.
Self-image, Self-esteem, Self-assertion….It made for a lonely world. Kids learned everything there was to know about sex and forgot everything there was to know about love, and no one had the nerve to tell them there was a difference.
In the 1980s, kids lost their hope.
Stripped of innocence, authority and love and plagued by the horror of a nuclear nightmare, large and growing numbers of this generation stopped believing in the future.
In the 1990s kids lost their power to reason. Less and less were they taught the very basics of language, truth, and logic and they grew up with the irrationality of a postmodern world.
In the new millennium, kids woke up and found out that somewhere in the midst of all this change, they had lost their imagination. Violence and perversion entertained them till none could talk of killing innocents since none was innocent anymore.”
The situation is bleak. What solutions can Christianity bring?
Did Christianity have an impact on ancient Rome? Indeed it did. After the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus in A.D. 29 Christianity quickly spread into Greece, and the Roman empire. For the first three hundred years after, Christians were persecuted and killed in the Roman empire for their exclusive faith in Jesus Christ as the only God. Emperor worship was common in the empire, but Christians refused to worship any other but Jesus Christ.
“The Christians had a universal standard by which to judge not only personal morals but the state. So they were counted as the enemy of totalitarian Rome.” -Francis Schaeffer
In 341 A.D. Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, and later Christianity was legalized and became the official state religion. Quite a powerful growth of the faith that began with an unknown Galilean peasant!
Unfortunately as Christianity grew in prominence so did corruption among the ranks of the papacy. The ability to wield political power in the office of bishops and pope became an open door to self serving money-interested criminals to take up the positions of authority. As a result it seemed that the people of the Roman empire, alienated by the corruption instead embraced their own ways: sexual sin, corruption, wealth aquisition, and endless self entertainment. The true Christians watching depravity rise seemed to cut themselves off from the culture of Rome and establish monasteries of holiness, leading to the monastic movements. Ironically after the fall of Rome many documents survived this time period only due to the efforts of monks in monasteries preserving ancient writings for future generations. It was during this time period in the late 4th century that Rome had to divert it’s armies from the barbarian borders to deal with insurrection in Italy, leaving an open door for the barbarians to invade and sack Rome.
The fall of Rome has been a widely studied issue, and in pouring over the data it reads like a nightmare scenario in it’s incredible similarity to the current problems in the United States. Let’s look at the reasons:
There was a sharp decline in morals and values in Rome. Emperors like Caligula and Nero were well known for their extravagant parties and there were 32,000 prostitutes in Rome. The moral problems of the United States are obvious. Anyone should also be able to see that the moral decline is driven by popular media’s incredible embrace of depravity, especially the music industry and holleywood. What terrible designs exist in the purposes behind a push for such depravity? I can’t even imagine, but it can’t be good. Similar to the ancient Romans watching gladiatorial combat at the Colosseum, American’s love to watch UFC fights, football, and action movies.
Another problem in the Roman empire was public health. It was known to be very poor. Diseases spread very easily and alcohol abuse was common. Remind you of anyone? Eerie isn’t it? The United States ranks quite poorly in the health of it’s citizens and the health care programs also ranks extremely low for a 1st world country.
Political corruption was a serious problem for ancient Rome as well. Do I even need to go into the political corruption in the United States? I just assume everyone knows by now, just how disturbingly corrupt the system is by now. For your edification: The Patriot act, Citizens United ruling, election fraud, voter fraud, IRS scandal, Benghazi Scandal, the Iraq war, and the list goes on and on. Over a 100 year period in the Roman empire there were 37 different emperors, 25 of which were removed from office by assassination.
Unemployment was another problem in Rome. According to Rome.info “During the latter years of the empire farming was done on large estates called latifundia that were owned by wealthy men who used slave labor. A farmer who had to pay workmen could not produce goods as cheaply. Many farmers could not compete with these low prices and lost or sold their farms. This not only undermined the citizen farmer who passed his values to his family, but also filled the cities with unemployed people.” This reminds of the 1980s and 1990s when companies like Wal Mart conquered every little city in the entire country, by using slave labor in China to produce products at such low prices that it turned the downtowns of so many cities into ghost towns. That trend has continued. Much the same could be said about outsourcing, and moving manufacturing jobs overseas. It devastates the economy. Though many jobs have been added to the United States economy since 2008, most of those jobs are low paying service positions further widening the income gap between rich and poor.
I swear I’m not making this stuff up, I’m reading it and interpreting straight from history. The next topic is inflation in the roman economy. Spooky isn’t it? Rome tended to grow and function on it’s conquests. The same could be said for the United State’s conquests in the middle east. Dwight Eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex; wars being generated by weapons manufacturers. The same could be said for the oil industry, and keeping the prices down for America by war profiteering. In Rome, when the conquests stopped, new gold stopped flowing in and less gold was used in producing coins. So the value of coins went down. Similar to how the value of the dollar has dropped as the Federal Reserve prints money endlessly. As a result of the value of coin going down, sellers had to raise their prices. That’s called inflation and it’s hell for an economy.
Urban decay was yet another problem faced by Rome. Wealthy Romans lived in beautiful ornate marble houses. Most Romans were not wealthy however, and the great majority lived in broken down apartment houses called “islands.” People could hardly pay the rent for even these tiny apartments so they would be thrown out onto skid row where crime was growing steadily. In the same way many have turned to crime to make ends meet, even in my hometown. As inflation continues the city of Wausau where I live has seen a sharp increase in Methamphetamine trafficking, Heroin, and prostitution. The same can be seen in larger cities where entire regions of the city aren’t safe, and gangs and drugs rein supreme in entire neighborhoods.
The Roman Empire early in it’s history had been known for it’s innovation; it’s bridges and aqueducts were incredible feats of engineering considering the time. The artwork and sculptures were the best any had to offer. But for the last few hundred years of it’s history, there was very little innovation and the technology used was increasingly inferior. In the same way today the United States is starting to see a crisis of creativity.
And finally, military spending was through the roof in ancient Rome. Urban development and maintenance of roads and government fell to the waste side as more and more money was poured into the bulky Roman military. This forced the government to continuously raise taxes, in turn causing further inflation. Remind you of anyone? The United States has a massive military force with bases spread out across the entire planet. There are over 750 US military bases in the world, spread very thinly. Similar to the Roman empire, we’ve over extended ourselves.
The United States was founded on Christian principles. References to God were literally all over the government, buildings, and documents, including the currency. Now in the infinite wisdom of secular humanists, darwinists, and militant atheists we’re tearing God out of the government even in reference. And we’re embracing depravity and sin, just as the Roman empire did. The Roman empire fell very quickly to invading barbarians. But Christianity survived. Why? Because they evangelized the invaders. That’s always the call of the church. Teach the truth, preach the truth.
Can the current situation in the United States be turned about face? Can we get an entire culture bent on depravity to repent?
I don’t know. It could be possible. Because with Christ all things are possible. We don’t have any time to waste though. It’s not at a stand still at this moment. It’s pushing in the wrong direction, hard and fast. And every time one of us stands up for the truth ten more raise up to debunk the truth, and throw a fit and condemn us as intolerant.
However, I can’t believe all the good men are gone from this country. I can’t believe all the good men have passed away into memory. Perhaps they’re just sleeping, pessimistic, tired of being outnumbered, and slumbering in the barn drunk on wine. “Wake up, sleeper! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you!” (Ephesians 5:14 ESV). We need Christians to stand up for the truth in all parts of the country, in every city and state, we need hard working, dedicated passionate followers of Jesus Christ in every level of government, in every industry of business, in every place of the arts; writers, painters, and architects. We need Christians in the sciences; geologists, archaeologists, entomologists, seismologists, astronomers, and meteorologists. We need Christian historians and authors.
We need Christian philosophers, apologists, ministers, evangelists, and activists. We need Christians signing petitions, Christians starting websites, Christians championing causes, and Christians getting loud for the truth. We need Christian senators who are incorruptible. We need Christian representatives and governors who will stand against corruption. We need Christian farmers and factory workers and laborers. We need Christian mothers, Christian friends, and Jesus followers loyal to the death. We need Christian parents and youth leaders to champion the next generation and raise them on the truth in a world full of lies.
We need Christian activists, protestors, and game changers working day and night to bring about change in the culture. We need Christian professors to teach the truth, we need Christian administrators to start organizations and work on committees. We need healers and counselors to love the lost and invite them to repentance.
We need a miracle Christian brothers and sisters. We need a lot of prayers. Please go and do something, and stand up for the truth before the time is too late. And if it is too late for the country, then remember no matter what happens, no matter what the cost, no matter where we end up, preach the Gospel, preach Christ, and love your enemies.
Andrews, E. (2014, January 14). 8 Reasons Why Rome Fell. History.com. Retrieved June 16, 2014, from http://www.history.com/news/history-lists/8-reasons-why-rome-fell
Fall of the Roman Empire. (n.d.). Rome.info. Retrieved June 17, 2014, from http://www.rome.info/history/empire/fall/
Schaeffer, F. A. (Director). (1977). How should we then live? [Documentary]. United States: Gospel Films. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TET_a6IDUg8&list=PL08DAA18DB787859D