Edward Gibbon ( 1737-1794) wrote on this topic a couple hundred years ago in his book, The Five Marks of the Roman Decaying Culture. In it he breaks down the fall of Ancient Rome to five basic areas that are concerning (or should be) to us today as we look at our country and current status. These five basic areas of decline were:
(1). Concern with displaying affluence instead of building wealth. How does that compare to America today? Let me just say, “car payment.”
(2). Obsession with sex and perversions of sex. Sad to say that many advertising companies use sex to sell a product that has nothing to do with sex, from soft drinks to automobiles.
(3). Art becomes freakish and sensationalistic instead of creative and original. I have been to Europe a few times and see a massive difference between “art” and well what we have today. Keep in mind that Gibbon lived in 1700s so “freakishness” was different then. He would likely had a heart attack seeing a crucifix in a jar of urine being called art, even though he wasn’t Christian.
(4). Widening disparity between very rich and very poor. This is getting worse each decade and it doesn’t matter which president is in office. My mentor, New York Times bestselling author and Inc. Magazine Top 50 Leadership Expert Orrin Woodward wrote a great blogpost on this topic called the middle class squeeze.
(5). Increased demand to live off the state. There are 11 states right now that have more people living off welfare than working. Welfare pays more than $15 per hour in 13 states.
Gibbon argued that since Christianity created a belief that a better life existed after death, it fostered an indifference to the present among Roman citizens, thus sapping their desire to sacrifice for the Empire. He also believed that Christianity’s comparative pacifism tended to hamper the traditional Roman martial spirit. Finally, like other Enlightenment thinkers, Gibbon held in contempt the Middle Ages as a priest-ridden, superstitious dark age. It was not until his own age of reason and rational thought, it was believed, that human history could resume its progress.
It is laughable that Gibbon would write this! Obviously he was not familiar with scripture ( he was not Christian) because if he did read the scriptures he would find that God not only instructs but demands that Christians work hard here on earth, but would also be forbidden to worship Rome.
I was obviously not there during Roman times (though my kids think I’m old enough) so I can’t say if the “Christians” were pacifists and stopped working and started waiting for the after life, but if they did, that type of attitude is not based on scripture. I’m aware of about 70 verses in the old and new testament on working and work ethic; never does God tell us to “not work” except on one day a week. So if Gibbon wanted to argue Christians contributed to the fall of Rome the fact that they only worship one God (God of the Bible) should have been the direction he went.
However, if Christianity was part of the problem, one has a hard time explaining how the United States of America became larger than Rome and more wealthy being based largely on Judeo-Christian principles and work ethic.
I don’t think Gibbon gets it all wrong; as a matter of fact, he gets more right than wrong. One major point that many historians either disagree on or won’t talk about is the ever expanding military and how Romes army was busy out “expanding the Empire.” Today we call it “spreading Democracy” even though we are a Republic (or used to be.)
The fall of Rome started somewhere around AD 190. The Roman Empire was attacked by tribes such as the Goths and the Vandals (I guess they also suffered from holes in border security?!) Civil wars in parts of Rome also weakened the rule of Rome and respect for Roman law declined as a result.
Tribes such as the Goths wanted to move south to obtain better farmland. At about AD 190, Rome also experienced a succession of emperors that were not capable of leading the Empire (sounds familiar.) As Dr Ben Carsen says, “If we commit ourselves to reading, thus increasing our knowledge, only God limits how far we can go in this world.” Unfortunately today most of our politicians are trained with one-track “conveyor belt education” type thinking and don’t read anything that doesn’t support their idea of truth there with missing it all together.
I believe LIFE Leadership teaches principles based on the ultimate truths that can turn this great nation around and get us back on track to leave a legacy not a liability to our kids.
Check out this video and you decide.
God Bless, Tim