Religion and The Fall of Rome

Religion When Rome Fell – Today’s Relevance

Religion Rome and the fallWhat’s the value of religion? I ask religious people professing that the morality of their religion guides them in their daily lives, does it really? What about those who claimed a religious morality in the past, but disregarded it when it did not serve their purposes? We could discuss the Inquisition, the Crusades, witch burning, or that the uniform of Nazi soldiers included belt buckles that said Gott Mit Uns (God With Us), but, today, let’s go back to Rome. The religious welcomed Romes destroyers and ushered in the coming dark ages; could they be doing something similar today? Some of the ‘faithful’ shirk the teachings attributed to Jesus:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”[1]

“…resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”[2]

“…sell that thou hast, and give to the poor…”[3]

I could go on about camels and the eyes of needles, but let the above make the point which I am neither the first nor last to make. Is dropping the name of Jesus among people easily impressed the only value of Christ? Why are unbelievers, like myself, more familiar with the scriptures than many religious people? More to the point, does the support of the Trump presidency by religious people square with the teachings of Christ? This is not the first time that religious people have opened their arms to the enemies of a more open society. They did it when the Goths sacked Rome.

“With unfailing instinct, the clergy saw in the wild Barbarians a better promise of power and influence for the Church than in the officially converted Roman Empire which, in spite of Constantine and Theodosius, remained ‘the Beast,’ the enemy. They, accordingly, smiled on the invader, encouraged him, flattered him. The Roman clergy were undisguisedly pro-German. They resolutely winked at and minimized any ‘atrocities.’ Had there been a massacre? Well, men had to die sooner or later. And when Alaric put Rome to the sack, looting, burning, and ravishing, St. Augustine employed himself in composing a dissertation on the question of whether or not the outraged virgins would be entitled to the crown of maidenhood in the next world.”[4]

“The Roman Empire at this time was still in the midst of religious conflict between pagans and Christians. The sack was used by both sides to bolster their competing claims of divine legitimacy.”[5]

“Paulus Orosius, a Christian priest and theologian, believed the sack was God’s wrath against a proud and blasphemous city, and that it was only through God’s benevolence that the sack had not been too severe. Rome had lost its wealth, but Roman sovereignty endured, and that to talk to the survivors in Rome one would think “nothing had happened.”[6]

Note above, Rome was ‘the Beast,’ the enemy,’ this reminds us of today’s rhetoric that suggests to Americans that government is bad. I suspect that those faithful to Religion in ancient Rome did not want the dark ages, but it happened. I also suspect the faithful had a vapid justification for supporting the violence, just as we frame our desires for omelets that need broken eggs or the need to ‘shake things up’ in Washington. We are not talking about eggs, or shaking today. We are talking about environmental regulations and pollution, climate change, the Supreme Court, war, government surveillance and vicious bigotry.

Today some religious people eagerly defend religion and any misdeeds of their leaders who promise them better days.

Public facts are called ‘fake news,’ which is a problem, but when that problem becomes a catch-all excuse for not listening to any reason, the facts can no longer be a check to errors and lies. We’re free to call any report fake news and dismiss Meet the Author Todd Vickers in Indiait. That doesn’t make it untrue. Imagine a parent waiving a report card and confronting a child about getting an ‘F’ in math only to have the child reply “Oh, that report card is fake. I actually got a B+, so you should shut up!”

My dear religious brothers and sisters, I don’t think those individuals who claim religion and the faith of Christ and, yet, defend Trump will listen to me, but they might listen to you! Will they call the Bible fake news when you quote Matthew? Will your disapproval be enough of a social force to make the enthusiasts (extremists) stop hiding behind the faith or, at least, be ashamed of their claim on Christ’s name? Remember the Christian faithful who became martyrs during the Roman persecutions? Are you willing to sacrifice anything at all to uphold the teachings of the man you must think of as one of the best in all of history? If someone’s conduct is the exact opposite of the most characteristic teachings of Christ, yet you accept them as a part of the faithful, then nobody can say what being a follower of Christ means because it can mean anything at all, including someone welcoming ignorant hordes to power and heralding a new dark age illuminated by smart phones.

By Todd Vickers

[1]              Matthew 7:1 – “1. Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?”

[2]              Matthew 5:39 – “But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

[3]              Matthew 19:21 – “Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.”

[4]              Robert Briffault, The Making of Humanity,  Referring to St. Augustine, City of God, (London, George Allen & Unwin LTD, 1919).

[5]          Thomas S. Burns, “Barbarians Within the Gates of Rome: A Study of Roman Military Policy and the Barbarians”, (Indiana University Press, 1994)

[6]          Paulus Orosius, “Seven Books of History Against the Pagans” (Liverpool University Press, 2010)

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