A recent article by Harvey Wasserman, "Our Founders Were NOT Fundamentalists" that appeared in OpEd News got me to thinking.
The same people who tout that the American Founding Fathers were Fundamentalist Christians are also the same ones that make the erroneous argument that the Roman Empire fell because it wasn't Christian enough.
But in reality, the Roman Empire fell for a variety of reasons, including over expansion and inflation, deepening wealth disparity and societal division, political incompetence, invasions, and a greater acceptance of Christianity.
That's right, one of the reasons Rome fell was because of its adoption of Christianity.
So we can see that the American empire is facing a lot of these same problems today. But one thing that won't save America is Christianity, or at least it didn't save the Roman Empire.
According to Edward Gibbon in "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"
....Edward Gibbon famously placed the blame on a loss of civic virtue among the Roman citizens. They gradually entrusted the role of defending the Empire to barbarian mercenaries who eventually turned on them. Gibbon considered that Christianity had contributed to this, making the populace less interested in the worldly here-and-now and more willing to wait for the rewards of heaven. "The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight," he wrote. "In discussing Barbarism and Christianity I have actually been discussing the Fall of Rome....." Source: Wikipedia.
We see this same mentality today. When Fundamentalist Christians in America are faced with overwhelming political and economic crisis and the possibility of environmental destruction they immediately get a glassy and wide eyed look and start praising the rapture.
A recent article reported that Americans are now getting ready for the End of the World. So instead of Americans getting busy making real change to make a real difference, they excitedly prepare for the end. (See The Book of Revelation: Bad News for Those Waiting for End Times)
I know we have all experienced it. The Fundamentalists start talking about God's Judgment and End Times with a great big smile on their faces as they contemplate the final 'hell fire' punishment of nearly everyone but them.
Unbelievably, Fundamentalist Christians do an equivalent of putting their heads in the sand by turning their thoughts to a fictional Judgment Day Armageddon. They block any rational thought on the subject and any meaningful action to help bring about real societal solutions. In reality, Fundamentalists of today, just like the Christians of the Roman Empire, are helping to bring about the end of the American Empire by engaging in fictional denials.
So, perhaps it was a good thing that Christianity helped bring about the decline and eventual end of the Roman Empire. It was a pretty lousy Empire that did a lot of subjugating and brutalizing. Perhaps it will also be a good thing that Fundamentalist Christians of today help bring about the end of the American Empire.
Still, I like the idea of people rationally thinking about societal problems and then setting about to work for just and humane solutions. It seems to me we can help transform the American Empire into a working Republic that promotes democratic ideals and practices democratic economics and social principles.
Or we can choose to get all glassy and wide eyed and think about the tremendous suffering people are going to have to face for being ignorant, selfish, and greedy.
But God will not be the one to bring down the hell and damnation on America. Unfortunately, Americans are going to do that to themselves by closing their minds to the reality of what is and by not taking rational steps to what should be.