I was recently speaking with a very well-informed gentleman who told me policemen (and policewomen) are retiring in droves and that police departments are having a difficult time filling these positions. He said people no longer have the desire to be police officers and it’s going to be devastating to our cities over the next few years.
He said this is also true of our military. As service members finish their time of active duty, they are not being replaced at the same rate. Our military is shrinking. What does this hold for our future, particularly with our current worldwide unrest?
These two issues do not take into account the border and fentanyl crises, our dysfunctional political system, the woke culture, and all the violence in our land. I just read this morning that we are seven weeks into the new year and have already had 67 mass shootings in our country. Many thoughtful people believe our country is at a crossroads.
This has caused me to reflect on issues that I have raised in past blogs. St. Augustine was a very loyal citizen of Rome for much of his life. Though it was a secular state, he believed it provided the only tolerable framework of life for mankind. For Augustine and most other Romans, its fall and disappearance was unthinkable.
I think we as Americans believe that our country is the greatest country in the history of civilization. We are all like Augustine, the thought of our demise is unthinkable.
But look what happened to the powerful Roman Empire. By the end of the fourth century the decadence which had afflicted Rome had spread throughout the empire. Augustine was fifty-six years old, living in Carthage in the year 410, when news came to him that Rome had been sacked. It was clearly one of the most dramatic moments in his life, but he took heart that there will be an end to every earthly kingdom and that ultimately God is sovereign over history.
Historians all agree that the most comprehensive study on the fall of the Roman Empire was by English historian Edward Gibbon in his six volume: The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. According to Gibbon, the Roman Empire succumbed to barbarian invasion because it had grown weak and it had gradually lost its civic virtue. He said the following five attributes marked Rome at its end:
First, a mounting love of show and luxury; second, a widening gap between the very rich and the very poor; third, an obsession with sex; fourth, freakishness in the arts, masquerading as originality, fifth, an increased desire to live off the state.
Does this sound familiar?
When we think of freakishness in the arts, did you see the Emmy’s the other night? There was a sexually graphic and distasteful performance where the dancers were worshipping the devil. This was prime time network television and most just saw it as good entertainment.
The great British historian Arnold Toynbee says that civilizations die because they stop believing in morality. Over time they decline and eventually die from what he calls “cultural suicide.”
Toynbee’s assessment should cause us to ask, why do people stop embracing morality? Here in the United States, the simple answer is we have drifted away from the Judeo-Christian tradition that played such a crucial role in our cultural history.
German philosopher Jürgen Habermas says, “Democracy requires of its citizens qualities that it cannot provide.” He recognized that free societies depend on their citizens to act morally and responsibly. Habermas is agnostic, but he stunned his colleagues when he said that Western civilization and its legacy of justice and human rights was the direct heir of the Judeo– Christian values and ethics. He said, “We continue to draw on the substance of this heritage. Everything else is just idle postmodern talk.”
Lord Acton, the celebrated English historian explained the necessity of having a spiritual foundation in order to have a healthy vibrant society. He said:
“A person’s spiritual underpinnings creates an invisible yoke of duty on every citizen. It gives a reason to deny self-interest, to obey the law, to sacrifice for others. However, when we abandon our spiritual roots,” he says, “duty loses its hold on our hearts. Crime and lawlessness are then unleashed.”
Could this explain why we see such crime and lawlessness in our land?
I believe our nation faces what the nation of Israel faced many years ago when God confronted them with this choice:
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life. (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.