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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on July 16, 2021 (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour:  for we are members of one another.

  • Ephesians 4:25

“There has to be, I think, some sort of way  in which we can sort through information that passes some basic truthiness tests and those that we have to discard, because they just don’t have any basis in anything that’s actually happening in the world.” 

These words are from a speech by Barak Obama in October 2016, just a few weeks before Donald Trump shocked the world by winning his presidential campaign over the establishment endorsed Hillary Clinton.

In the same speech, Obama went on to deny that he was calling for censorship, noting, “The answer is obviously not censorship, but it’s creating places where people can say ‘this is reliable’ and I’m still able to argue safely abut facts and what we should do about it.” 

Nearly five years later, it’s fair to say that quite obviously Obama and others of his political persuasion were talking about censorship, and this became clear enough last week that even the most ardent deniers of the big government/big tech censorship complex have not excuse for missing the Biden regime’s full-bore attack on the First Amendment. 

Just last week, Biden regime official propagandist Jen Psaki stunned many observers with her admission that the administration is flagging posts for Facebook that are “problematic” because they contain “misinformation” on Covid-19.    

In the same press conference, Psaki voiced her displeasure that Facebook was not deplatforming spreaders of “misinformation” fast enough for her, and presumably, for her boss’s tastes.  She said, “there’s about 12 people who are producing 65 percent of the anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms.  All of them remain active on Facebook, despite some even being banned on other platforms, including Facebook – ones that Facebook owns.”

If all that wasn’t enough, Psaki was at it again the next day.  In a Friday 7/17 press conference she offered that, “You shouldn’t be banned from one platform and not other if you – for providing misinformation out there.” 

As the saying goes, I need new conspiracy theories, because all my old ones are coming true.

Seriously, people have speculated for years that the Deep State has been behind much, if not all, of the social media censorship.  But this is right in your face government censorship.  We have what is, in my opinion, an illegitimate government installed through election fraud stomping on the right of American’s to freely access information on a matter that affects all our lives.   

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“It needs to be hard for people to remain unvaccinated.”

  • Dr. Leana Wen, CNN Medical Contributor

When I first begin writing about Covid, now nearly a year and a half ago, I was very concerned about what I was seeing.  The never-ending drumbeat about Covid in the press, even in January and February 2020, immediately made me suspicious that it represented some sort of PSYOP (psychological operation).  By whom or to what end, I was not sure, but it had the look and feel of a propaganda effort.

Today, I’m more convinced that ever that Coivd is a remarkably sophisticated hoax and is being used by the powers that shouldn’t be to advance their agenda of tyrannical global government.

One bit of evidence for this is how the rhetoric of Covid tyranny not only is not subsiding but seems to be getting louder, even as threat of Covid long ago peaked. 

One example of this is a comment made by the appalling Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical contributor.  Just last week, she said in an interview, “It needs to be hard for people to remain unvaccinated” Dr. Wen went on to say, “But at some point, these mandates, by workplaces, by schools, I think it will be important to say, ‘Hey, you can opt out, but if you want to opt out, you have to sign these forms, you have to get twice weekly testing.”

Back when Covid first became an issue in early 2020, there were any number of people saying that it was going to be used as a means to usher in tyranny – vaccine passports, lockdowns, mandatory vaccines, and all that – but they were just a bunch of crazy conspiracy theorists, who didn’t know what they were talking about. 

Today, they don’t look so crazy. 

In fact, all those warning from a year or more ago look rather prescient today.

One example of early warnings about the globalists’ intent to use the so-called Covid pandemic to advance their plans to impose tyranny comes from James Corbett, an outstanding independent journalist who’s reported on the nefarious plans of the deep staters and globalists for years.  His video “Medical Martial Law 2020”  discusses the origin or the lockdowns and vaccine mandates we’re still fighting here in July 2021. 

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The Liberty Bell

Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.

  • Leviticus 25:10

“Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” That passage from Leviticus 25:10 is inscribed around the top of the famous Liberty Bell, a bell that hung in what was then known as the Pennsylvania State House, which we now know as Independence Hall, the place of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 

Although the bell was cast, or, more precisely, recast in 1753, some 23 years before the Declaration was signed, the inscription from Leviticus reflects the colonists’ understanding of the intimate connection between political and economic liberty and Word of God.   Many Americans, including many American church goers, would be surprised to hear that there is any connection between the Bible and political and economic liberty, but the colonists of the 18th century were not so ignorant as we are today.     

In his introduction to Democracy in America, Alexis De Tocqueville wrote, “Among the new object that attracted my attention during my stay in the United States, none struck my eye more vividly than the equality of conditions” (1). Later in the Introduction, De Tocqueville observed, “Christianity, which has rendered all men equal before God, will not be loath to see all citizens equal before the law.” It was the Reformed Christianity of the colonists and early Americans applied to politics that served as the philosophical basis for Americans’ remarkable equality before the law.

The idea of equality before the law was not some idea hatched in the New World either.  Rather, it was a product of the Protestant Reformation brought to America by the Puritans, whose arrival in America, not the American Revolution, De Tocqueville viewed as America’s point of departure.  Writing in the introduction of their translation of Democracy in America, Harvey C. Mansfield and Delba Winthrop wrote, “Americans did not make themselves democrats but came to America as democrats.”

The American republic is a product, not of Greece and Rome, but of the Biblical Christianity preached and believed by the Protestant Reformers and their spiritual descendants. 

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Detail from The Tower of Babel by Peter Brugel, 1563.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

  • Genesis 1:1

“Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.”  This quote, or some variant to it, has been attributed to several prominent people.  In searching for the origin of the quote, I found it credited to such notables as John Knox, William Tyndale, and Benjamin Franklin. Thomas Jefferson used “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God” on his personal seal.  Jefferson wanted to use this saying on the Seal of the United States

Whatever the origin of the quote, many Christians today are troubled by the notion that it is ever a Christian’s duty to resist tyranny.  Citing Paul’s injunction in Romans 13 “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities,” they take Paul’s command to be, if not an absolute, at least something very close to it. 

The extent of the civil magistrate’s legitimate authority came to the surface in 2020 with the coming of the Covid 19 restrictions across much of the world.  These restrictions not only affected schools, universities, and businesses, but also churches.  Sincere Christians, when considering how to react to government restrictions, in particular government restrictions on church meetings, came to different conclusions.  Some believed it was the duty of Christians to obey every command of the various civil authorities that restricted, or outright prohibited, church meetings.  Others considered it a Christian duty to resist such edicts.  Because of these different views, as a follow up to last week’s post on the divine origin of civil government, it seemed good to me to say something about the relationship of civil government to the church.

To take the suspense out of things, I’ll tell you my view of the matter up front.  Christians are required to obey civil magistrates, but only in the Lord.  The civil magistrate, while a legitimate minister of God, has limited authority.  This was also John Calvin’s view.  He wrote,

The characteristic of a true sovereign is, to acknowledge that, in the administration of his kingdom, he is a minister of God. He who does not make his reign subservient to the divine glory, acts the part not of a king, but a robber. He, moreover, deceives himself who anticipates long prosperity to any kingdom which is not ruled by the sceptre of God, that is, by his divine word (Institutes, Prefatory Address).

Later in the Institutes, Calvin wrote,

We are subject to the men who rule over us, but subject only in the Lord. If they command anything against Him let us not pay the least regard to it, nor be moved by all the dignity which they possess as magistrates – a dignity to which no injury is done when it is subordinated to the special and truly supreme power of God (Book IV, Chapter 20.32).

It is the view of this author that the civil authority has no jurisdiction to regulate how Christian churches conduct their worship services, and that all such regulation represents overreach on the part of the civil magistrate. This is not to say that Christian ministers and Christians themselves are not subject to the governing authorities.  If Christians commit acts that are contrary to the law of God and the just civil laws of society, then they are justly punished by the civil magistrate.  But the regulation or prohibition of singing hymns, capacity limits due to Covid, or even outright prohibition on gathering on the Lord’s Day?  All such restrictions by the civil authorities are tyrannical and ought to be resisted by Christians everywhere.        

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Detail from The Tower of Babel by Peter Brugel, 1563.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

  • Genesis 1:1

In the famous opening sentence of his Treatise on the Social Company, Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote, “Man is born free, but he is everywhere in change.”   

While Rousseau’s social compact theory of government is not Christian, his observation that man is everywhere in chains certainly rings true.  We can see this in the history recorded for us in the Bible as well as from secular sources.  For that matter, we can see it simply reading the news of the day. 

Jesus himself noted the authoritarian nature of civil government in his response to the disciples’ arguing about who among them was the greatest.  Jesus responded to them,

The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’  But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves (Luke 22:25-26).

Note that the kings of the Gentiles do two things.  First, they exercise lordship.  The Greek verb translated “exercise lordship” can also mean “be the lord or master of.”  Perhaps another way of expressing the meaning of the Greek is to use the English expression “lord it over.”  We talk that way.  We say so and so is lording it over someone.  Certainly, that was true of the kings and emperors who governed during Jesus ministry.  They lorded it over their people.  What the kings of the earth wanted, they took, and there was little to stop them. 

The second thing these kings did was be called “benefactor.”  On one hand they oppressed their people, but on the other, they wanted to be known as men of generosity.  A modern example of this is Joseph Stalin, who, while being one of the most ruthless of the 20th century dictators used the title “Dear Father” among others. 

From Jesus response to his disciples, we clearly see that there is a large gap between the Biblical teaching about how government should operate – the idea that government is a servant to the people – and how it actually does operate.

But even more basic than the questions what should government do and how should it go about doing it is the question, why should one man obey another man? 

To answer these questions, we must turn to the Scriptures where we find the origin of civil government. 

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The Titanic sinks, April 15,1912.

For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David.

  • 1 Kings 11:4

Just yesterday, I watched a video – confession, I binge watched several videos – about the sinking of the Titanic.  It’s remarkable after well over a century – this April will mark the 109th anniversary of the sinking of the great ocean liner – the fame of the ship and of its disastrous end show no sign of abating.  Doubtless, it’s the most famous maritime disaster ever. 

Some years ago, I listened to a classroom lecture by Gordon Clark, dating, if I recall correctly, from sometime in the 1950’s.  Clark, remarking on the youth of his students, commented that they hadn’t even been born at the time the Titanic sank. Clark himself was a few months shy of his 10th birthday when Titanic went down in the icy waters of the north Atlantic on that fateful morning of April 15, 1912.       

Shipwrecks have always had a certain fascination for me.  Were you to press me for why that is, I suppose I would have to answer that it’s not so much the shipwreck itself that I find fascinating, but the reaction of the people involved in it.  Life and death situations have a way of revealing the true character of those on board.  And shipwrecks, because they tend to play out over longer periods of time than some other types of disasters, give greater opportunity for the faith, bravery, good judgment, foolishness, and cowardice of people to show themselves.

One of the Titanic videos I watched was titled “Titanic History/What caused the Titanic to Break Up?” Years ago, when I first heard about the Titanic, no one talked about the ship splitting in two.  Maybe this was something known to those who studied the disaster closely, I don’t know.  But for decades, it was not generally known to the public that, before sinking, the ship split in two. . 

One of the points that the presenter made in the video was that, although the breakup came suddenly and visibly, there was a lot happening to the structure of the ship on the inside as it went down.  It was these unseen stresses on the ship’s structure ultimately resulted in the breakup, even if the forces at work were not obvious to onlookers before it happened. 

In reflecting on this idea – the notion that powerful, unseen forces can be at work for some time before producing very visible results – it’s easy to see how it can have a wider application.  In this case, I’m thinking how unseen, yet powerful forces can put stresses on the structure of a nation for years, decades, maybe even longer, prior to their resulting in a major and visible catastrophe of some sort.

Take the nation of Israel, for example.  The kingdom hit its peak under the Solomon.  But even while Israel was at the height of its wealth and power, forces were at work which would split the nation shortly after Solomon’s death. 

Solomon’s policy of forced labor and heavy taxation to pay for his public works projects was very much resented by the people.  He also split the nation into administrative districts that paid little heed to traditional tribal boundaries.  There was the longstanding north-south rivalry that, while remaining subdued during the reigns of David and Solomon, nevertheless was present and which would reassert itself under Solomon’s successor Rehoboam.

There was a fourth, and most important, factor in the breakup of Israel after the reign of Solomon: idolatry.  In 1 Kings 11 we read,

But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites – from the nations of whom the LORD had said to the children of Israel, “You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you.  Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.”  Solomon clung to these in love.  And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.  For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David.

As a result of Solomon’s sin, his lack of faith in the Lord and his turning to idols, God told him that he would tear the kingdom from him.   

Scripture doesn’t record for us what the Israelite public thought of Solomon’s idolatry.  If I were forced to conjecture what the public’s attitude was toward Solomon as his idolatry become more and more obvious, it seems to me that most people probably paid it little heed.  There was no public outcry against it that I am aware of noted in Scripture.  This is not surprising.  After all, Israel’s prospects had never looked brighter in the 500 or so years since Joshua had led them into the promised land.  The nation was numerous, economically prosperous, and militarily powerful.  It must has looked to most Israelites as if the future was even brighter.  And if there was a little idolatry going on in high places, well, no one is perfect. 

Let’s fast forward to our own time.  Do any of the lessons from Titanic or Israel – hidden forces at work for a period of time which result in big, visible breakups – apply to America? The answer, I think, is yes.

Our nation traces its roots to Puritan settlers from England in the 17th century.  Although at the time of the American Revolution, the colonists were remarkably homogenous – 98% of the population was Protestant – there were still significant divisions present.  The most obvious of these was – in an interesting recapitulation of the fault lines found in ancient Israel – the north/south split over slavery. 

In the 19th century, the homogeneity of the nation began to change as waves of Roman Catholic, Eastern European and Jewish immigrants brought large numbers of people to America that did not share the history, religion or political and economic beliefs with the old-stock American’s descended from the nation’s founders.  The 20th and 21st century have seen the growth in the Muslim population in America.  As was the case with the Catholic and Jewish immigration in the 19th century, Muslim immigrants brought with them a religion with a philosophy of politics and economics that was at odds with a free constitutional republic.  It’s not that Roman Catholics, Jews Muslims – and, to be fair, one must add Orthodoxists – are inferior people, but their ideas are inferior and incompatible with republican government.  

In today’s world where diversity is become the pearl of great price and more to be prized that all other virtues, any suggestion that diversity may not automatically be a strength, but can, in fact, prove to be a weakness, is dismissed as unacceptable.  But look at Solomon’s wives.  They were a diverse lot, but they were not a source of strength, but rather one of weakness.  His Moabite, Hittite, Edomite and Egyptian wives “turned his heart after other gods,” the major factor in the breakup of the United Kingdom.    

At the same time waves of non-Protestant immigration was taking place, American Protestantism itself was succumbing to the forces of irrationalism, liberalism and feminism.  Had American Protestants remained true to the faith of their forefathers, perhaps they could have served as counterbalance to the increasing religious and ethnic diversity in American and kept the nation on an even keel. 

But just as Solomon’s unfaithfulness allowed once hidden divisions within Israel to rise to the surface after his death, so too has the faithlessness of American Protestants led the collapse of any basis for national unity in the United States. We’re no longer so much a nation with a shared history and set of beliefs as we are a warring mob of people that happen to live in the same geographical vicinity to one another.  In the Year of Our Lord 2021, it appears to this observer that the rule of law in America is, if not fully dead, very nearly so and that there is nothing to stop its ultimate demise. If and when that day comes, can America be long for this world?  Jesus said that a kingdom divided against itself will not stand.  If true, and it is, how can America survive?

Earlier I mentioned that what I find most compelling about shipwrecks is that they provide opportunity for people to reveal their true character.  On Titanic there were heroes and cowards.  Not often mentioned were the brave stokers and engineers who stayed at their posts in the bowels of the ship long after it was obvious that Titanic was going down.  Their actions helped keep the ship’s power on and wireless going to the very end. There were cowards, too.  One man dressed as a woman to secure a place on lifeboat he otherwise would not have been able to board.       

Faith was found among Titanic’s passengers as well. Well known is the account of the ship’s orchestra playing “Nearer My God to Thee.”  Then there’s the less well-known but very compelling account of Scottish evangelist John Harper, who preached the Gospel to his final convert just before drowning in the Atlantic’s icy waters.   

The metaphor “ship of state” dates all the way back to Plato’s Republic, and is certainly an apt turn of phrase for this post. Just as ships are large and powerful objects that require a steady hand to steer them, so to do states.  After a large disaster in either case, there can be a lot of second guessing of the people in charge.  You can play the “what if” game with Titanic just as you can with America. 

What if Titanic’s designers had extended the watertight compartments a deck or two higher?, what if the ship wasn’t traveling at top speed?, what if the lookouts had spotted the iceberg 30 seconds sooner?, what if the iceberg hadn’t just nicked the six and final compartment? 

What if slavery had never been established in the colonies?, what if American Protestants had not abandoned the Calvinism of their colonial forefathers?, what if America had a wiser immigration policy in the 19th and 20th centuries?

We can play “what if” all we want, but obviously none of that is going to change either the fate of the Titanic or the present reality of our nation. 

As did Titanic, America is taking on water, and fast.  As Christians, how do we respond?  Do we ignore what’s going on around us and seek to rearrange the deck chairs?  Do we panic?  Do we play the coward hoping to survive through dishonest means?  No to all that.  What we do is what we’re called to do, to walk in our present circumstances in a manner worthy of the Lord.  And what does that look like?  Read what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.”

That’s our job. Yours and mine.      

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The alien who is among you shall rise higher and higher above you, and you shall come down lower and lower.  He shall lend to you, but you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail.

  • Deuteronomy 28:43, 44

Just a few hours before the Capitol Hill riot captured the world’s attention on January 6, Washington Post political reporter Dave Weigel tweeted out, “Protestants locked out of the top offices for the first time ever (president, chief justice, speaker of the house, [Senate] majority leader).”

Of the offices he referred to in his tweet, three – President, Chief Justice, and Speaker of the House – are held by Roman Catholics. Senate Majority Leader, Charles Schumer, is Jewish.

Jesse Curtis, whose Twitter bio states he is a historian of race and religion and is starting a job as Assistant Professor of History at Valpariso University in the fall of 2021, retweeted Weigel’s tweet, commenting on it, “The decline of Protestant supremacy (both as fact and ideology) is really something.  Less than a century ago this would have been front page news and major social tension.  Now it’s just quaint trivia.”

Another tweet by Sean Penn – yes, the actor – from 2/12/2021 reads, “Evangelical leaders should themselves be impeached by the Vatican if they themselves don’t follow Nikki Haley’s – The Monstrous Regiment (R-SC) – lead & clearly state they should not have followed Satin (sic) – this is a reference to Donald Trump – into the bowels of hell. But, perhaps they are too busy at sex parties.”

Now one could dismiss this as just another silly tweet from a confused Hollywood dweller.  But a response to Penn’s tweet caught my attention.  “thank you”, it began. “people often don’t like to acknowledge that the one holy roman catholic apostolic church has authority over the protestants so i’m glad you’re speaking out on this critical issue.”  That response was sent by Elizabeth Bruening, whose Twitter bio indicates she’s an “Opinion writer at @nytimes.”  That is to say, she is someone with journalistic and cultural clout.  Bruening also retweeted Penn’s tweet with the comment “absolutely.”

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Luther at the Diet of Worms, by Anton von Werner, 1877.

There is no king saved by the multitude of an host: a might man is not delivered by much strength.

  • Psalm 33:16

Watching the news.  It’s hard to do these days.

I admit to following day to day events, politics, economics, and the like.  It’s too much a part of me not to do so. 

But it really isn’t a very enjoyable experience. 

There’s simply no good news.  Or at least many days it doesn’t seem like it.

As a reformed believer, I know well that God has decreed all things, whatsoever comes to pass.  He doesn’t merely know in advance what’s going to take place, or passively allow it to happen.  He actively brings about the events that occur, both in our own lives and on the scale of nations and of the world. 

As much as I don’t like it, God decreed from all eternity that Joseph Robinette Biden would be inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States on January 20, 2021.  And his purposes in doing so are his own glory and the good of his people.    

But even though a Biden presidency is for our ultimate good as Christians, this does not mean that it is going to be a pleasant experience. 

Scripture does not teach a foolish optimism where we’re expected to treat disasters as if they were manna from heaven.  It’s okay to call a disaster a disaster an mourn over it.  As the Author of Hebrews tells us, “Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful.” 

Jeremiah wept at the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.  Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus.  If it was not wrong for them to grieve, it is not wrong for us to grieve the enormous disaster that has befallen our nation.

And yet, there comes a time when grieving must end, and work must begin.  We, all of us, have suffered difficulty and disappointment in our lives.  There is a time for grieving, and a time to cease grieving. 

Joe Biden is in a position to do a lot of damage to this nation.  As Christians, we have a responsibility to speak out against his evil policies, to refute them from the Word of God and, if possible, to prevent them from being enacted.  We have a responsibility to preach the Gospel of Christ, that perhaps some who don’t know him may hear and be saved.  We have a responsibility to protect and provide for our families, both our natural family and our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

How do we do this?  Do we look to ourselves, to our inner strength?  As the hymn goes, the arm of flesh will fail you, you dare not trust your own.

No.  It is to Christ we must look if we are going to find the knowledge, wisdom, and strength to not just to survive, but to triumph in these dark times. 

This brings me to the lesson from Luther which I’d like to discuss. 

As we did in last week’s post, this week we’ll be referring to Luther’s treatise “To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation.”

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Luther at the Diet of Worms, by Anton von Werner, 1877.

And it cast down truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.

  • Daniel 8:12

Truth is cast to the ground. 

I’ve thought about that quite a lot in recent years.  It seems as if the lie always prospers, while truth, it if even is heard at all, is quickly dismissed as nonsense and those who speak it as fools or worse. 

I was reminded once again of just how corrupt things have become after watching some of the shenanigans in the stock market last week with the big dust up over the Gamestop stock and how, supposedly, a group of small investors beat the big guys on Wall Street. 

I’ll not dive into the details of what took place, but on the surface we can say that at least one major hedge fund sustained significant losses when its short position on Gamestock was blown up by investors piling into the company’s stock and driving it to over $400 per share. 

For our purposes, what important to understand is that when an investor – either an individual or an institution such as a hedge fund – short sells a stock, he profits when the price goes down.  If the price goes up, the short seller loses money.  If the stock price goes way up, as was the case with Gamestop, the short seller loses a lot of money. 

When the losses were piling up for the big guys during the week, it didn’t take long for the weeping and gnashing of teeth to begin.  Billionaire hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman went on an epic rant on CNBC last Thursday, 1/28, saying, “The reason the market is doing what it’s doing is people are sitting at home getting checks from the government. This fair share, is a (bleep) concept.  It’s just a way of attacking wealthy people and I think it inappropriate and we all gotta work together and pull together.” 

Just how true is the narrative that a bunch of unemployed Robin Hood traders on their own drove up the price of Gamestop, thus inflicting heavy losses on some hedge funds, I cannot say for sure.  I have my doubts that things are what we’re being told, but, at the very least, Cooperman seemed to accept that narrative when he went on his rant last week.    

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Detail from The Sack of Rome by the Visigoths by JN Sylvestre, 1890.

“At the hour of midnight, the Salerian gate was silently opened, and the inhabitants were awakened by the tremendous sound of the Gothic trumpet.  Eleven hundred and sixty-three years after the foundation of Rome, the Imperial city, which had subdued and civilized so considerable a part of mankind, was delivered to the licentious fury of the tribes of Germany and Scythia” (Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Ch. 31).

With these words the English historian Edward Gibbon captured the sacking of Rome by Alaric king of the Visigoths on August 24, A.D. 410.   Although the Western empire did not officially come to an end until A.D. 476, the sacking of Rome by Alaric was certainly an indication of the Empire’s fast approaching end. 

As something of a history buff myself, I’ve often wondered what it was like for people who witnessed the end of their civilization.  It must have been terrible and terrifying.  One wonders at the horror that must have filled the hearts of the inhabitants of Jerusalem when the Babylonian army broke through the city walls in 586 B.C. and proceeded to destroy the city and burn the temple, which at that time had stood for over 300 years.

Reflecting on the excerpt above from Gibbon, what was it like for the Romans, and even non-Romans, in A.D. 410 to hear that Rome had been taken by a barbarian Germanic king? 

At the time of the sacking of Rome, the Bishop of Hippo in North Africa found himself confronted by many angry and puzzled questioners, many of whom were refugees from Alaric’s invasion of Italy, asking how, if Christianity were true, God could allow Christian civilization – recall that Constantine had become the first, at least nominally, Christian emperor about a century earlier – to be destroyed by a pagan barbarian king and his army?        

That bishop, as you may already be aware, was none other than Aurelius Augustine, the greatest theologian of the early church.

According to one scholar,

More than any other single episode the sacking of Rome gave Augustine a reason to write the City of God. After 410 he found exiles, those escaping the disturbing events in Italy, arriving in North Africa where he was now Bishop of Hippo and asking how he could explain this collapse of a Christian Empire.  It was their angry challenge that led him to begin work on a book which was to appear in episodes stretching over many years of composition (G. R. Evans, Introduction, City of God. Penguin Books, London, 2003, ix).

It seems to me that, although our present circumstances are in certain important respects different from those faced by Augustine in his day, nevertheless there are some important similarities.  While Rome in the fifth century was sacked and burned by outside forces, America today is being sacked and burned – in some ways literally, in others figuratively – by forces from within.  In both cases – Rome in A.D. 410; America in A.D. 2021 – the civilizations were in advanced states of decay well in advance of their sacking.  One may fairly view the two events not as the beginning of their respective civilization’s collapse, but as another, more overt, step along the way to their demise. 

The comparison of Rome’s sacking in 410 to the events in America over the past year – namely, the massive civil unrest carried out by BLM and Antifa and supported by the political, business, entertainment and academic establishments; the brutal Covid lockdowns in defiance of the Constitution, medical precedent, and the teachings of Scripture; and an overtly stolen presidential election –  can be instructive to Christians today, because many of the same problems that plague America and the West today are the same problems that plagued Rome in Augustine’s day, and the answers he gave to his critics are just as applicable now as they were then. 

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