Rabbi’s Reflections -Sunday, November 29, 2020
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 29-Nov-2020 13th of Kislev, 5781
Ge 32:4-131 Sa 12-13Ps 54-55Mk 9:30-50(1 Co 6)
Is America on the Same Course as the Roman Empire? Part 1 by Dr. Raymond Finney
November 29, 2020
INTRODUCTION: Edmund Burke (1729-1797, Irish statesman) famously said: “Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.”
Although Rome existed as a small settlement on the Tiber River from ca 753 BC, the Roman Empire was founded centuries later (27 BC), under the reign of Emperor Augustus. The Empire existed until it fell in AD 476. The fall was due to barbarian invasion of the western portion, although the eastern portion– centered in Byzantium, later Constantinople– persisted for centuries after this date. Although invasion by the barbarians (foreigners) clinched Rome’s fall, the Empire was in decline, rotting from within, for at least two or more centuries before the final “defeat.” Rome’s decline was well under way by AD 200.
In his classic history of the Roman Empire, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon wrote: “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.”
Allow me re-write Gibbon’s statement, substituting “America” for “Rome:” “The decline of America 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.” Are both statements about Rome and America equally true?
SIMILARITIES: There are similarities between the Roman Empire and America, including the following examples.
Superpower status: Rome was and America is a superpower.
Military superiority: Rome had and America has nearly invincible armed forces, whether defending the homeland or waging war in foreign countries.
Middle East wars: Rome became and America has become entangled in wars in the Middle East.
Influence in the affairs of the Jewish nation: Rome occupied present-day Israel and America is heavily involved in the affairs of Israel.
Center of law passage: Rome’s laws were passed in Capitolina (Capitol Hill); America’s laws are passed in the U.S. Capitol, which sits on Capitol Hill.
Passage of laws: Rome’s laws were passed by the Senate; America’s laws are passed by the Congress, the chief body of which is the Senate.
Highest elected official (one person): Rome was led by the emperor, elected by the Senate; America is led by the president, elected by the people.
National emblem: Rome had and America has the eagle as the national emblem.
COMPARISONS: Compare similarities in Rome’s decline and, as many believe, America’s coming decline:
Failure to maintain sovereignty:
● Roman Empire: Rome’s once nearly invincible army faced a series of military defeats, as its fall neared. National borders could not be maintained. Barbarians infiltrated or actually invaded the Empire. Goths regularly made incursions into the Empire and the Visigoths actually sacked the city of Rome. (“Barbarians,” from Greek barbaroi, is synonymous with “foreigners.” The word originally referred to people– immigrants– who spoke a foreign language, as native Romans mocked the unintelligible language of the foreigners– “bar bar bar.”)
● Present-day America: America’s once nearly invincible armed forces have faced a series of military defeats or stalemates. America has fought several wars since World War II ended (1945), but has not won even one of these wars. America’s military might has been weakened by unbalanced treaties and political cowardice at a time when America’s enemies (China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and others) are increasing their military capabilities. Many Americans want the military downsized and some even want the military and law enforcement departments defunded. Our national borders are porous, as hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants have merely walked into our country. Attempts to curtail illegal immigration are strongly resisted, with main-stream media, politicians, academics, and others screaming, “Xenophobia! Racism!” An unknown number of Islamic terrorist cells exist in America, patiently biding time until the terrorists choose to strike. A nation which does not actively, effectively maintain the integrity of its borders is doomed to lose its national sovereignty and security. It is foolhardy to believe we seek liberty for ourselves or others, when we abandon security. Benjamin Franklin said: “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” The first role of government is to provide safety for its citizens.
It is true that many persons immigrating to America are good, hard-working people– people we should welcome to our land. It is equally true that many persons immigrating to America are bad people (criminals, drug lords, murderers, rapists, terrorists) – people we should not admit to our land.
Rabbi’s note: All security can be reduced to the phrase “limited access.” With open borders, we have no security. With open borders we don’t need passports. With open borders, anything goes and anyone comes and goes. With open borders the basics of law enforcement become unenforceable. With open borders it’s open season on America. End RN.
Rush toward financial ruin:
● Roman Empire: As Rome fell, she experienced severe financial crisis. Constant funding of wars and overspending on all fronts drained the national treasury. Oppressive taxation and inflation widened the gap between the rich and the poor, and the middle class was hurt the most. Wealthy Romans rebelled against high taxes by moving to rural parts of the Empire to avoid or escape most taxes, further increasing financial insolvency pressures. Availability of domestic labor fell, and non-Romans (slaves, barbarians) were required to perform tasks that should have been performed by Roman citizens. Rome continued to fall, as imported labor failed to provide sufficient agricultural and manufactured products to meet demand.
● Present-day America: As America falls, she suffers severe financial woes. The true national debt (admitted debt plus promised mandate spending) has risen to many trillions of dollars. The national debt exceeds the gross national product. Constant funding of wars and unconscionable overspending on all fronts is devastating the national treasury. The national debt is funded by more borrowing and artificial extension of deadlines (often to go beyond the next election cycle). Oppressive taxation (with “sweetheart” deals for the super rich), inflation, and payment of entitlements for citizens not to work instead of creating jobs widen the gap between the rich and the poor. As always, the middle class is hurt the most. Wealthy Americans rebel against high taxes and oppressive regulations by moving their businesses (and even some, their citizenship) to foreign nations or less expensive parts of the nation to mitigate their tax burdens. These tactics ultimately increase financial insolvency pressures. The availability of willing domestic labor falls, and non-Americans (commonly Hispanics in this country and Asians and other nationals in exported jobs) are required to perform tasks that should be performed by American citizens. The “Made in China” label appears on far too many products sold in America. Will America fall even more, if imported labor fails to provide sufficient agricultural and manufactured products? The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how vulnerable our agricultural and manufactured products supply chain could be.
Middle class crushed by foreign labor:
● Roman Empire: Near the fall of the Roman Empire, commerce became dependent upon cheap labor outside of the empire. The rich prospered then, as today in America the rich (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, etc.) prosper. Poor Romans increased, but the middle class was the greatest victim. This unbalanced economic system resulted in a re-distribution of wealth. An analysis (in 2017) showed that America’s three richest billionaires owned as much wealth as the lowest half of all remaining Americans (more than 160-million persons) combined.
● Present-day America: America suffers from a deepening imbalance of trade. Production of goods and services is outsourced to foreign nations (China, etc.) because of cheap labor and less-repressive regulations. Illegal immigrants cross America’s essentially open border almost unimpeded, taking American citizens’ jobs at a time when unemployment of American workers remains high. The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt us more than we realize. Many American businesses have failed or will fail soon. The new push in America (in 2021) will be to have an open border with amnesty for all who entered the nation illegally. The argument will be that such tolerance to welcoming all persons into the country will be like waving a magician’s wand– poof! the illegal immigration problem will be solved. (If we legalize murder and rape, think how much better our crime statistics would be!) America’s re-distribution of wealth is opposite to Rome’s, in that wealth from affluent American citizens (who commonly are the entrepreneurs and job creators) is shifted toward poorer citizens (who far too often are now “employed” as welfare recipients). A Believer/ Christian should be honored to help a person truly in need. If a person is unemployed and actively seeking work or if a person is disabled, a Believer should be willing to give generously to help this person, who is his/ her neighbor. (It is an indictment of religious bodies that America depends upon the government to help those in need, rather than the communities of Believers providing needed help. Disability and unemployment benefits are out of control, providing a disincentive to work for many persons. Our goal should be job creation, not welfare benefits. Our system of welfare benefits probably started in earnest during the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression. Welfare, then, was promoted as more fortunate Americans “giving a hand up, not a hand out” to those in need. But, we now have several generations of families whose only “job” is to collect welfare checks (being content to receive solely a hand out, not a hand up).
● Roman Empire: The Roman Empire fought numerous, ongoing wars to conquer nations and peoples of the known world. They sought to establish or maintain Pax Romana (“Roman Peace”), thereby gaining wealth and providing security against enemies. Rome’s army was the greatest fighting force of its time. As the Empire extended its borders, however, Rome faced administrative and logistical nightmares. Through controlling more territory (too much territory), Rome’s over-extended military was weakened. Domestic infrastructure fell into disrepair because of excessive military funding. Before the fall, Rome could not recruit sufficient numbers of legionnaires (soldiers), and resorted to filling the ranks with barbarians (foreign mercenaries). The Roman legionnaire was often referred to as a barbarus (“barbarian”), instead of a soldier. Although excellent fighters, the mercenaries (barbarians) had no loyalty to Rome.
● Present-day America: The United States has fought a new war, recovered from the last war, or prepared for the next war for every day since 1942. America has sought to be the policeman of the world– to establish its version of “Pax Americana” (“American Peace”). America’s armed forces were once the world’s greatest fighting force (and may still be). Loss of American blood and treasure has been tremendous. For America’s military efforts, the United States remarkably has not won a war since World War II (1945), is deeply in debt, is hated or not feared by most nations of the world, is war-weary, still faces the same enemies, and in many ways may be weaker and closer to military defeat than any time since pre-World War II days. Continuous wars carry a tremendous toll on any nation, and weaken– rather than strengthen– a nation. As America seeks to serve as the world’s policeman, the nation faces an economic nightmare (debt accumulation). In attempting to influence and micromanage more nations’ affairs, America’s military is progressively weakened. Domestic infrastructure (roads, bridges, and so forth) is falling into disrepair because of excessive military funding. Also important is funding of homeland security agencies, which arguably weakens Americans’ constitutional rights.
Loss of political compromise, political corruption:
● Roman Empire: The Roman government at first established and practiced a system of checks and balances. Such a system succeeded only when there was political compromise, after debate, to keep the emperor under the will of people through Senate action. Corruption and greed of the political class grew toward Rome’s end. Assassination of emperors was common, and even civil wars erupted. Senators were as corrupt as emperors, and they failed to oversee and temper the excesses of corrupt emperors. Citizens lost pride in the Empire and lost trust in their leaders.
● Present-day America: The American government from the beginning established and practiced a system of checks and balances. Such a system can succeed only when there is political compromise, after debate, to keep the president under the will of people through action of the Congress with Supreme Court overview. The framers of the Constitution were especially concerned that we would have a president, not a king, and that we would have a weak central government. Infighting between the president and Congress and between Democrats and Republicans have become vicious, destructive, and counterproductive. By contrast, conservative Republican President Ronald Reagan and liberal Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill disagreed on virtually all policy matters, but they liked and respected each other. They negotiated (compromised) to reach a position each could support– a decision that was reasonable policy for the nation. Many other bipartisan compromises have occurred in the past. Now, there is such animus that our dysfunctional Congress and president disagree on virtually every issue, resulting in government paralysis. Efforts are concentrated on winning the next election, rather than serving the people. Corruption and greed of the political class is accelerating. Politicians of both parties and in the executive and legislative branches are corrupt. Politicians can be corrupt, without taking bribes. Power and position– and especially the drive toward re-election– are more important than a bribe of money. Even so, few members of Congress retire as poor men or women. Numerous “sweetheart” bills are introduced and passed to serve the interests of big donors and various PACs. Polls, if they can be believed, repeatedly show that citizens have lost pride in America and no longer trust their leaders. America should lead the world as an example of representative democracy. The recent 2020 national elections were disasters worthy of a banana-republic election.
Political office as a route to personal wealth (personal corruption):
● Roman Empire: In the Roman Empire, most people lived as slaves or lower socioeconomic class workers/ merchants. The wealthiest citizens belonged to the ruling (political) class. Public office holders exploited their positions to accumulate great personal wealth.
● Present-day America: Although more routes to wealth exist now than during the Roman Empire, presidents and many members of Congress often amass enormous wealth while in office. Many career politicians must “invest wisely,” because they seem to leverage their relatively modest, fixed public servants’ incomes into fortunes worth millions of dollars. They can command great amounts of money by writing books or giving speeches. After public service, they enter private sector positions, which pay many times the amount they were paid while in government service. Many government workers (staff members) are paid substantially more than if they held comparable jobs in the private sector. Many elected officials seem to focus primarily on accumulating wealth and power, while being only secondarily concerned with serving their constituents’ needs.
TO BE CONTINUED: Part 2 will be distributed next Sunday.
THIS WEEK’S DAILY PRAYERS FOR PERSECUTED BELIEVERS: Pray for:
** Turkmenistan (threat: dictatorial paranoia). Read more about Turkmenistan: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/turkmenistan/
** China (threat: communist and post-communist oppression). Read more about China: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/china/
** Mauritania (threat: Islamic oppression). Read more about Mauritania: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/mauritania/
** Central African Republic (threat: Islamic oppression). Read more about the Central African Republic: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/central-african-republic/
** Morocco (threat: Islamic oppression). Read more about Morocco: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/morocco/
** Qatar (threat: Islamic oppression). Read more about Qatar:
** Burkina Faso (threat: religious nationalism). Read more about Burkina Faso: https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/world-watch-list/burkina-faso/
Until next Sunday, Shalom and Maranatha.