GOD'S HAND IN THE DEMISE OF THE AMERICAN EMPIRE
by Greg Loren Durand
Copyright © 2001-2012
The Consequences of a Humanistic View of History
Western civilization, particularly where it has been influenced by the Christian worldview, has traditionally subscribed to the providential view of history in which the unseen hand of a sovereign God is believed to direct the affairs of men and oversee the rise and downfall of nations. Historical events, therefore, are not random, but have a definitive end to which they move as a collective whole. Each successive generation is expected to build upon the work of those who have gone before it and thus "surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses," humanity moves ever forward in the quest for maturity.
Secular historians, on the other hand, typically view such events, and the passage of time in general, as the outworking of mere chance; history therefore has no point origin, no discernible structure, and no culmination to which it directs our attention. The worldview of the Humanist is both nihilistic and non-chronological; nothing is ultimately knowable and nothing can really be communicated from one generation to another. In the words of one Humanist writer, "There is no key to the riddle of historical causation. At times one or another factor may arise to a position of transcendent importance, but no single 'cause' or 'influence' has been dominant throughout all of human history."(1) More to the point, the Second Humanist Manifesto declared, "...[W]e can discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. While there is much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are and will become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves."(2)
It has been said that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. The Humanist, however, can never learn from the past because the past has nothing to teach him. Because everything is in a constant state of flux, it is impossible for the Humanist to understand the past; he is unable to analyze past events because he cannot assume that either the scientific method or the ethical system which he employs to conduct his analysis were relevant to that particular time. Since there is no continuity from one generation to the next, true heritage is meaningless. He is therefore unable to establish a mental link to his ancestors, for the world they saw and the emotions they felt were likely nothing like his own. In a word, history is meaningless and he is cut off from the family of man to drift aimlessly through a disjointed and unattached existence toward a frighteningly unpredictable future. In short, humanistic society is mired in perpetual immaturity.
In his book 1984, George Orwell wrote, "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past." It should not surprise us that Humanists will interpret, or even rewrite history as current circumstances or political agendas may require. The god of the Humanist (and we must never doubt that he does in fact worship a god) is a territorial god; he is bound to the here and now and his dominion is confined to what can be seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted. Such a god disdains precedent, rejects established customs and usages, and instead commands his worshippers to indulge themselves in the pursuit of momentary pleasures or private gain. A people who have bowed their knee to such an idol as this cannot be free; they must be subjugated to tyrants who rule according to superior force rather than a set system of laws, for, as the Humanist believes, "there are no absolutes, no values or facts outside space and time, only those ends in view and facts that we help to discover or create."(3) True liberty is inseparably tied to history,(4) and if history is irrelevant or mutable according to circumstances, then the only "law" which can restrain the tyrant or govern his conquered domain is that which he discovers by trial and error, or that which he creates out of thin air as "necessity" dictates. As C.S. Lewis cautioned, "Let us not be deceived by phrases about 'Man taking charge of his own destiny.' All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of others."(5) Thus, the people are increasingly heavy-laden under a legal yoke of incessantly changing codes, rules, and regulations that arise from an equally mutable "public policy." Deprived of any historical reference point by which to evaluate their condition, and deprived of a belief in a transcendent Being to whom they can turn for aid in the midst of their plight, such a people will eventually resort to revolutionary means of securing their freedom from one tyrant and resulting in their subsequent bondage to another with his own baseless laws and changing policies. Thus, the unbeliever is forced to affirm, with Vladimir Lenin, that "the real driving force of history is the revolutionary struggle,"(6) or with Karl Marx, that "revolutions are the locomotives of history."(7)
The Debilitating Effects of Living Under Tyranny
In the year 1648, the Scottish Presbyterians issued a document entitled A Solemn Acknowledgment of Publick Sins and Breaches of the Covenant in which they denounced those who "laboured to put into the hands of the King an arbitrary and unlimited power" and who "walked more by the rules of policy than piety, and have hearkened more unto men than God."(8) It was with these men that the motto of the American War For Independence originated: "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." In fact, the Presbyterians played such a major role in the colonies' struggle for independence from King George III's oppressive rule that the British derisively referred to it as "the Presbyterian revolt."
Our Christian forefathers fought so uncomprosingly against tyranny because they understood that liberty alone is the fertile soil of orderly society, whereas tyranny always fosters disorder and discontent, finally culminating in the extinction of the people themselves as they are dragged with their rulers into a downward spiral of recurring revolutions and effusion of blood:
When a State properly enjoys liberty, its progress is the more rapid and stable. When the liberties of the people are abused and degraded, the State retrogrades....
In order to protect and increase the power and prolong the independence of the State, the liberties of the people must be fostered, guarded, and secured. "It" (liberty), says Burke, "is not only a private blessing of the first order, but the vital spring or energy of the State itself, which has just so much life and vigor as there is liberty in it."(9)
...[M]ournful degeneracy is the result of ages of despotism.... [N]ot only the agents, but the victims of unrighteous oppression, are usually degraded by their unavenged wrongs: a law which our times renders so significant to us....
We are creatures of imitation and habit. Familiarity with any object accustoms us to its lineaments.... Not only is every act of oppression a crime, but the seasons of despotism are usually eras of profuse and outbreaking crime. The baleful shadow of the tyrant's throne is the favorite haunt of every unclean bird and beast. And if the oppressing power be the many-headed monster, a tyrant faction, this is only more emphatically true. At such a time the moral atmosphere is foul with evil example. The vision of conscience is darkened and warped. The very air is unhealthy even for the innocent soul....
[I]f the spirit of independence and honor be lost among the people, this is the death of the common weal: a death on which there waits no resurrection.(10)
We need not remain ignorant of what causes the destruction of a country's moral condition, for we have the lessons of history to instruct us. No better illustration of the above observations could be found than in pagan Rome. According to Francis Lieber:
The Caesars of the first centuries claimed their power as bestowed upon them by the people.... The majestas populi had been transerred to the emperor. Such was their theory. Julius, the first of the Caesars, made himself sole ruler by the popular element, against the institutions of the country.
...Caesar did not establish liberty, or claim to be the leader of a free state, and... he made his appearance at the close of a long period of freedom, marking the beginning of the most fearful decadence which stands on record.... [U]nfortunately, the rulers vested with this imperatorial sovereignty never prepare a better state of things with reference to civil dignity and healthful self-government. They may establish peace and police; they may silence civil war, but they also destroy the germs from which liberty might sprout forth at a future period....
Whatever Caesar's greatness may have been, he did not, at any rate, usher in a new and prosperous era, either of liberty or popular grandeur. What is the Roman empire after Caesar? Count the good rulers, and weigh them against the unutterable wretchedness resulting from the worst of all combinations -- of lust of power, voluptuousness, avarice, and cruelty -- and forming a stream of increasing demoralization, which gradually swept down in its course everything noble that had remained of better times.(11)
Beginning as a great republic, Rome rapidly degenerated into an oppressive tyranny when the Roman constitution was suspended by Julius Caesar on 7 January 49 B.C. The Senate was left in place, but was "accommodating and intimidated"(12) by the imperial power. All things were subject to Caesar, and to oppose him invited imprisonment or brought the sentence of death. The assassin's blade did not put an end to this despotism, but only gave a new life and greater resolve in Julius' successor to trample the rights of the Roman people under his feet. Augustus fully consolidated the imperial power in 28 B.C.:
The emperor alone was the general of the republic, and his jurisdiction, civil as well as military, extended over all the conquests of Rome. It was some satisifaction, however, to the senate that he always delegated his power to the members of their body....
In return for this concession, Augustus obtained an important privilege, which rendered him master of Rome and Italy. By a dangerous exception to the ancient maxims, he was authorized to prserve his military command, supported by a numerous body of guards, even in time of peace, and in the heart of the capital....
...[I]n a few words, the system of the Imperial government, as it was instituted by Augustus... may be defined as an absolute monarchy disguised by the forms of a commonweath. The masters of the Roman world surrounded their throne with darkness, concealed their irresistible strength, and humbly professed themselves the accountable ministers of the senate, whose supreme decrees they dictated and obeyed....
The tender respect of Augustus for a free constitution which he had destroyed can only be explained by an attentive consideration of the character of that subtle tyrant. A cool head, an unfeeling heart, and a cowardly disposition, prompted him at the age of nineteen to assume the mask of hypocrisy, which he never afterwards laid aside.... He wished to deceive the people by an image of civil liberty, and the armies by an image of civil government....
Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his expectation that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom. A feeble senate and enervated people cheerfully acquiesced in the pleasing illusion, as long as it was supported by the virtue, or by even the prudence, of the successors of Augustus.(13)
Thus, as "the government degenerated into military despotism"(14) under Augustus and his successors, the "dreadful and terrible" political "beast" foreseen centuries earliers by the Prophet Daniel (Daniel 7:7) rose up in its full power and vigor to conquer the known world:
And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:1-8).
As the wise Solomon wrote several thousand years ago, "The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which will be done: and there is no new thing under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Indeed, the turbulent political history of Rome is a mirror image of what America has become since the ascension of our own Julius in the 1860s. There was no empire which could compare with the power and size of Rome; today "no other entity in the world compares in size and scope to the U.S. Government...."(15) With all the striking similarities between the two empires, can we hope that we will escape the moral degradation, the social oppression, and the final distintegration which was the subsequent fate of the Roman Empire? Even a cursory examination of the headlines in the daily newspapers or the top stories in the nightly news broadcasts will be sufficient to convince even the hard-nosed skeptic that we have already embarked down the same path traveled two thousand years ago by the inhabitants of Europe.
Lenin once said, "The best way to subjugate a nation is to debauch the currency." However, there is another way -- to debauch the morals of the people. Today, America is one of the most immoral nations in the world. As a direct result, crime is skyrocketing. The increase of crime, of course, leads to an increase in the police power and a corresponding increase in the tyranny of the Government. This, in turn, leads to discontent and increasing incidents of violent resistance, which in turn justifies in the public's mind the implementation of even more restrictions upon society. This cycle was evident in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Almost immediately, President William J. Clinton appeared before the American people stating that stricter laws needed to be passed and more liberties surrendered by the public so that such an event could be prevented in the future. He met with no great opposition from his audience. The very same scenario played out following the attacks of 11 September 2001. Again, the American people were called upon to surrender still more of their liberties in exchange for protection, apparently oblivous to the fact that they had made the very same concessions before without ever receiving the promised benefit. Even a dog can be trained to lick the boot which kicks it.
Perversity, Sports, and Violent Entertainment
At the height of the Roman Empire, the people were characterized primarily by three vices: sexual perversion, a preoccupation with the sports, and a fascination with violent entertainment. Quite often, the last two were combined in the infamous Coliseum, in which gladiators dueled to a bloody death to the delight of thousands of onlookers. Another favorite sport introduced during the depraved reign of Caesar Nero was the public execution of Christians in the most barbaric ways imaginable.
Today in America, sexual perversion is rampant and is not only openly flaunted, but is also often protected by legislation. In the workplace, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee due to his or her sexual "preference." In some parts of the country, it is even illegal for a church to refuse to employ an open homosexual or to fire one once he is discovered to be such. Almost without exception, "coming out of the closet" has proven to enhance, not hinder, the public image and career of such celebrities as Ellen DeGeneres and others.
Pornography is also a multi-billion dollar business. Up until the early 1990s, this industry was largely confined to magazines and videos. However, with the advent of the Internet, an entirely new universe was opened up to these merchants of human flesh. The Internet is now literally teeming with lewdness and debauchery which is accessible at the click of a mouse. The debilitating effects of pornography are evident: all the "victim's" spare time and much of his money will be spent in attempting to gratify a lust that continues to increase with each exposure. It is a vicous trap, but an effective tool to create a docile and addicted citizenry that lacks the necessary intellectual faculties to resist the encroaching tyranny under which they live. Another effect of the proliferation of pornography is the increase in sexually-related crimes such as rape and child molestation. Crime is the hand-maiden of despotic governments; each one feeds upon the other until society disintegrates in a whirlwind of lawlessness and oppression.
The preoccupation of the American people with sports requires little discussion, for it is everywhere evident. To say that sporting events in this country often assume the characteristics of a religious gathering would not be far from the truth. The attention of sports fans seated in the immense coliseums often is much more intense than those of congregations in their temples of weekly worship. A full ten minutes out of one half-hour of a television news broadcast is usually devoted to the coverage of sports; equal time and space provided for the public propagation of the Gospel would certainly not be tolerated. There is a reason why the Christian Church has historically taken a stand against such a wanton waste of time. For example, Tertullian wrote the following exhortation to Christians living in the Roman province of Carthate in the year 197:
Seated where there is nothing of God, will one be thinking of his Maker? Will there be peace in his soul when there is eager strife there for a charioteer? Wrought up into a frenzied excitement, will he learn to be modest? Nay, in the whole thing he will meet with no greater temptation than that gay attiring of the men and women. The very intermingling of emotions, the very agreements and disagreements with each other in the bestowment of their favours, where you have such close communion, blow up the sparks of passion. And then there is scarce any other object in going to the show, but to see and to be seen. When a tragic actor is declaiming, will one be giving thought to prophetic appeals? Amid the measures of the effeminate player, will he call up to himself a psalm? And when the athletes are hard at struggle, will he be ready to proclaim that there must be no striking again? And with his eye fixed on the bites of bears, and the sponge-nets of the net-fighters, can he be moved by compassion? May God avert from His people any such passionate eagerness after a cruel enjoyment! For how monstrous it is to go from God's church to the devil's -- from the sky to the stye, as they say; to raise your hands to God, and then to weary them in the applause of an actor; out of the mouth, from which you uttered Amen over the Holy Thing, to give witness in a gladiator's favour, to cry "for ever" to any one else but God and Christ!
We ought to detest these heathen meetings and assemblies, if on no other account than that there God's name is blasphemed....(16)
The movie industry is likewise attended to by millions with religious fervor, especially since the advent of the home theater. Whereas our ancestors spent their evenings in fellowship with their families and friends, or reading a good book, modern Americans isolate themselves for hours at a time in from of their television sets watching the latest "blockbusters." With few exceptions, these movies are filled with such blasphemy, filth, and violence that it is impossible to avoid seeing a connection between the "silver screen" and the increase of violent crime, especially in the larger cities. Never before in the history of this country has such rampant violence, particularly among the youth, been witnessed in "peace time." The rash of recent gun violence in public schools is but one example. To suggest, as the politicians are frequenly wont to do, that stricter firearm regulations will solve this growing problem is naive, to say the least. The society of our forefathers was much more heavily armed than we, and yet the neighborhoods in which most Americans live today would have been considered back then as war zones. Would it be unreasonable to assume that this is because lawlessness was not tolerated then as a form of entertainment as it is now?
Even professing Christians become so desensitized by the violence and immorality of the movie industry that they are, after extended exposure to its productions, no longer shocked by the violations of God's moral laws they have paid to view, and their personal livwes will eventually become mirror-images of that with which they constantly feed their souls. The vast amounts of money spent by modern Christians on entertainment would have appalled our spiritual forefathers who were often called upon by God to sacrifice everything they owned, and even their own lives, for the sake of the Gospel. With the American Church in such an anemic condition, is it any wonder that it no longer stands as an obstacle in the path of tyranny? Again the ancient words of Tertullian are instructive: "Thou art too dainty, Christian, if thou wouldest have pleasure in this life as well as in the next; nay, a fool thou art, if thou thinkest this life's pleasures to be really pleasures.... For what is our wish but the apostle's, to leave the world, and be taken up into the fellowship of our Lord? You have your joys where you have your longings."(17)
The Fate of an Ungodly Nation
In a sermon preached on 25 April 1799, Dr. Jedediah Morse warned the Christians of Charleston, South Carolina:
Our dangers are of two kinds: those which affect our religion, and those which affect our government. They are, however, so closely allied that they cannot, with propriety, be separated. The foundations which support the interest of Christianity, are also necessary to support a free and equal government like our own. In all the countries where there is little or no religion, there you will find, with scarecely a single exception, gross ignorance and wickedness, and deplorable wretchedness among the people.
To the kindly influence of Christianity we owe that degree of civil freedom and political and social happiness which mankind now enjoys. In proprotion as the genuine effects of Christianity are diminished in any nation, either through unbelief, or the corruption of its doctrines, or the neglect of its institutions, in the same proportion will the people of that nation recede from the blessings of geniune freedom, and approximate the miseries of complete despotism. I hold this a truth confirmed by experience. If so, it follows, that all efforts made to destroy the foundations of our holy religion, ultimately tend to the subversion also of our political freedom and happiness. Whenever the pillars of Christianity shall be overthrown, our present republican forms of government, and all the blessings which flow from them must fall with them.(18)
What happens when a nation turns its back on God? Can such a nation expect to survive? Can its people expect His blessings and protection? May future generations rest assured that they will enjoy the prosperity of their forefathers? These are questions which are rarely asked by modern Americans, but they are of vital importance to their future well-being and that of their descendants. Throughout the history of mankind, the rise and downfall of mighty nations has been determined by their obedience to the moral laws of God. The builders of the great Tower of Babel attempted to establish a human kingdom apart from submission to the Creator. Each stone that was laid was a defiant shake of the fist in His omnipotent face. God, of course, responded by scattering the people and destroying their utopian dreams (Genesis 11:1-9). Centuries later, Nebuchadnezzar likewise defied God when he made an image of gold, and demanded that his subjects prostrate themselves to it at his command (Daniel 3:1-7). Moreover, he compounded his transgression by denying God's sovereignty, and ascribing his dominion to "the might of [his own] power... [and] the honour of [his own] majesty" (Daniel 4:30). God responded to this arrogance by removing the great king from his throne and exiling him to the wilderness, deprived of his senses. Only at the Lord's pleasure was his sanity restored, at which time he confessed, "And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?" (Daniel 4:34-35)
Sodom, Egypt, Rome -- such nations opposed the sovereign rule of the Creator, as did Nebuchadnezzar, and descended into the mire of sin and depravity. Idolatry, witchcraft, oppression, murder, child-sacrifice, homosexualtiy -- these were the crimes for which God held them responsible, and these were the crimes for which they were eventually destroyed. Today, such nations are but memories, and their once magnificent palaces, temples, and public arenas lie in ruins: "No nation or man has ever trampled with impunity upon the clearly written law of God, or the well-defined rights of man, without answering directly for his crime. The law of God is a crystal mirror which reflects back upon the soul of every rational being the exact character of the motives of his heart and the action of his life. No man, nation or age ever committed a crime or perpetrated an enormity, which did not fling its montrous image back upon its guilty perpetrator."(19)
Can this once great land of America, guilty as it is of the very same transgressions of God's moral laws, expect to escape a similar fate? Can this nation which openly opposes Him in the murder of children in the womb, in the public demonstration of "gay pride," in the corruption of its godless leaders, and the unchecked depravity of its godless people -- can such a nation as this hope to escape the wrath to come? Do we have cause to hope that God will wink at our sins and will not notice our rebellion? Surely, this is the reasoning of the reprobate heart: "Then said he unto me, The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceeding great, and the land is full of blood, and the city full of perversions: for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not" (Ezekiel 9:9).
The Bible declares that God "repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them" (Deuteronomy 7:10), and that He "commandeth all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). Nations that refuse to do so will be judged (Jeremiah 50:2). Of course, national repentance can never occur unless individual repentance has preceded it; there must be a reformation among the few before there can be revival among the many. Moreover, there must be wholesale repentance and a return to righteousness on the part of His own people, before they can even begin to call the world to repentance. Indeed, "the time has come that judgment must begin at the house of God" (1 Peter 4:17). When the professed regenerate have an unregenerate attitude towards God's law, can the unregenerate be expected to have otherwise? Well should Christians pray with the ancient psalmist, "It is time for thee to work, O Lord, for they have made void thy law" (Psalm 119:126).
1. Harry Elmer Barnes, Living in the Twentieth Century (Indianapolis, Indiana: Bobbs-Merrill, 1928), page 361.
2. Humanist Manifesto II (Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books, 1980), page 16.
3. Sidney Ratner, "Facts and Values in History," The Humanist, January/February, 1957, page 38.
4. American liberties, particularly those enumerated in the Bill of Rights, have their origin in the Magna Charta, which King John was forced to sign on 15 June 1215 at Runnymeade, England. Most Americans today have never read the Bill of Rights, and an even greater number have never heard of the Magna Charta. Consequently, it is not surprising that they offer no resistance when the last remaining vestiges of liberty are stripped from them by often-contrived "national emergencies."
5. C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Company, 1972), page 316.
6. Vladimir Lenin, Collected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1980), Volume XI, page 71.
7. Karl Marx, "The Class Struggles in France, 1848-1850," Collected Works of Karl Marx (New York: International Publishers, 1978), Volume X, page 122.
8. "A Solemn Acknowledgment of Publick Sins and Breaches of the Covenant," ratified in Edinburgh on 6 October 1648 by the Commission of the General Assembly for the Renewing of the Solemn League and Covenant, and on 14 October 1648 by the Committee of Estates of Parliament.
9. John Marshall, American Bastile (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Thomas W. Hartley and Company, 1881), pages xxv, xxvii-xxviii.
10. Robert Lewis Dabney, "The Duty of the Hour," Discussions (Mexico, Missouri: S.B. Ervin, 1897), Volume IV, pages 110, 111, 116.
11. Francis Lieber, Civil Liberty and Self-Government (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: J.B. Lippincott and Company, 1859), pages 381, 383.
12. Lieber, ibid., page 381.
13. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1960; Abridged Edition), pages 35, 38, 40-41.
14. Gibbon, ibid., page 61.
15. "Management's Discussion and Analysis: Introduction," Consolidated Financial Statements of the United States Government (Fiscal 1997).
16. Tertullian, De Spectaculus, in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (editors), The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdman's Publishing Company, 1951), Volume III, pages 89-90.
17. Tertullian, ibid., page 90.
18. Dr. Jedediah Morse, quoted by Verna M. Hall, The Christian History of the Constitution of the United States of America (San Francisco, California: Foundation for American Christian Education, 1966), pages iv-v.
19. Henry Clay Dean, Crimes of the Civil War and Curse of the Funding System (Baltimore, Maryland: J. Wesley Smith and Brothers, 1869), page 218.