This post is in response to Kerby Anderson’s post by the same title.
I would like to say at this point, that this post, unlike my regular posts, is halfway between a blog post and a scholarly article. Towards being scholarly, I would like at this very early stage to refer anyone interested in pursuing the matter further to look at the following works.
- Acemoglu D and Robinson J.A, Why Nations fail: the origins of power, prosperity and poverty (2012) Crown Publishers. Newyork
- Gibbon E, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1970)
- Gellner E, Nations and nationalism
- Ogot B, Kenyans, who are we
- Ohmae K and Guehenno J.M, The end of nation states
With that behind us, we can now look at the claims of Anderson. But before we do that, we need to agree on a few definitions.
In his work, Kenyans, who are we? Bethwell Ogot argues the state is a political term while the nation is a sociological concept. He goes further and notes that the model of the nation state developed in Europe in the C18 and C19. He identifies five theories of nations and nationalim
a. nationalism as a primordial phenomena based on rational or objectively valid criteria on the basis of which the world can be divided up into different national communities
b. nationalism as a subjective consciousness of the members of the community
c. nationalism as a functional requirement of the modern state
d. nationalism as a specific form of politics that groups use under certain historical circumstances in opposition to state; and finally
e. the Marxist interpretation of nationalim.
To these definitions and theories, I include civilization which dictionary.com defines as
an advanced state of human society, in which a high level of culture, science, industry and government has been reached
Anderson writing about the US, argues the prognosis about the future of the state being bleak is correct but the causes he writes
The decline of this nation (just as the decline of every other nation) is due to spiritual factors
his central argument being
The political, economic, and social problems we encounter are the symptoms of the spiritual deterioration of a nation.
While he argues this thesis is supported by history, I am unconvinced this is the case. If we take for example the case of the Roman Empire, the fall did not come about as a spiritual matter. The Romans did not stop praying to their gods or offering sacrifices, but we see internal strife, over taxation and let’s just call it, bad leaders that exposed the empire to external attacks from the Arabs, Mongols and finally the rise of the Ottoman Turks that saw the fall of Constantinople.
He is right when he writes we simply don’t learn from history. When a just a few people continue to amass wealth while the rest of the mass wallow in poverty, there is bound to reach a critical point where the state, as a political entity, can no longer hold and revolution happens. This may not necessarily lead to the fragmentation of the nation but rather, a reordering of the nation state. For example the French Republic.
I am a little confused when he writes
History has shown that the average age of the great civilizations is around two hundred years.
is he treating the nation as a civilization? Can we logically talk about an American Civilization? Does it make sense to talk about American civilization in isolation of the milieu to which it belongs? Would the collapse of the US of A also mean the collapse of the civilization in which it is a part?
Anderson, without giving examples, argues civilizations go through ten stages in the life cycle, which funny enough, he says begin with bondage and end with bondage. Since details are scanty on the great African civilizations, I am not sure this argument can be fully demonstrated to be the case.
From here on, Anderson has left the purview of history and has become a preacher. We will indulge him either way. He writes
Christians can point to unusual times when revival has redirected the inexorable decline of a civilization. In the Old Testament, Jonah saw revival postpone God’s judgment of Nineveh. In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther and John Calvin saw a Protestant Reformation transform Europe.
Two things need to be said here; it is common knowledge for the patrons of this great site that I am without the idea of god, god’ is to me a sound conveying no clear or distinct affirmation. With this in mind, I will ask further the theist, having said the bible stories cannot be treated of literally, what I am to make of the story of Jonah. Was in a fish? Is this story of Jonah an eyewitness account or divine inspiration? Can god inspire the scribes to write what didn’t happen? As for Martin Luther, we know from his thesis, among other things, he was tired of the corruption of the clergy among other things but that he was anti-Semitic as the come and Calvin killed Severus among other his great deeds. Whether this counts as revival, I know not.
When our interlocutor writes
But apart from God’s intervention, nations will decline and eventually pass off the scene. Much of the Old Testament records the history of the nation of Israel. It passed through these same stages and so will every country in the world.
I think he is being economical with the truth. When men were very religious, they killed witches, the children crusade of 1212. For this and other stories of great religious periods and what they did, read Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millenium.
When he writes
Only God’s Word endures forever. We should not put our trust in the things of this world for they are destined for destruction. Instead, we should put our faith in God and His word.
I am tempted to ask which god? The Vedas are older than the bible and as of this post, they are still in existence. The Muslim makes the same claim of his book and even goes further to insist the bible has been corrupted over the ages that it is no longer possible to separate the work of god or man. I will charitably ask Anderson to become a Muslim. He may find himself in Muslim hell.
While it is true that the place of the family in the nation or nation-state cannot be gainsaid, it would, in my view be a stretch to claim not praying is one of the reasons why nations collapse. If, as we defined above, the nation is a sociological construction, the fall of that nation cannot be in any good sense be claimed to have been brought about by secularism. History is short of examples, in fact, I think history has no examples of a period when the general population was atheistic. If there is information to the contrary, I am open to consider it.
I don’t know about you, but I have no idea where this
Soon they revolted to gain access to material wealth and also freedom for sex outside marriage. Women also began to minimize having sex relations to conceive children, and the emphasis became sex for pleasure. Marriage laws were changed to make divorce easy.
happened in the distant past. In my country, divorce is not easy. To Anderson, if I am reading him correctly, women should not have sex if they intend to have pleasure. The woman is a breeder and that is all. Seeking wealth and economic independence is a forbidden. Engaging in any of these is bound to lead to the death of civilization. Women, now you know.
Since I am a patient man, I would like anyone to give evidence or links that I can look at where
Many children were unwanted, aborted, abandoned, molested, and undisciplined. The more undisciplined children became, the more social pressure there was not to have children. The breakdown of the home produced anarchy.
this was common place in the past and led to a collapse of a civilization. Or of a nation.
And while you are it, evidence for this too
Finally, unbelief in God became more complete, parental authority diminished, and ethical and moral principles disappeared, affecting the economy and government. Thus, by internal weakness and fragmentation the societies came apart. There was no way to save them except by a dictator who arose from within or by barbarians who invaded from without.
Anderson identifies ideas as being critical in the fall of nations. He says
But another potent but less perceptible force is the power of ideas.
what ideas are these, you may ask?
Today we live in a world where biblical absolutes are ignored, and unless we return to these biblical truths, our nation will continue to decline.
As you may have noticed, Anderson began his post by giving reasons why nations fail or collapse. The bible was codified in the 2nd and 3rd centuries of the current era. In that time, the Sumerian empire had declined, Rome was in decline, whatever was left of the Greek empire must have been patches, the great Persian empire, Egyptian civilizations and many know that I don’t know were either ended or in last days of decline and no bible was involved. Beyond that, though, when he talks of bible absolutes, is he talking about not boiling a goat in its milk, killing your child for disobedience, burning witches or cheating your father in-law of his livestock? I am confused. Besides, when Europe was under the church, we had crusades, inquisitions and pogroms.
How did we arrive at the point where biblical absolutes are ignored? You must be wondering too. Wonder no more, he tells us
The first person is Charles Darwin (1809-1882). In 1859 he published The Origin of Species and later published The Descent of Man. His writings blurred the distinction between humans and animals since he taught that we are merely part of an evolutionary progression from lower forms of life. Darwinism, as it came to be called, not only affected the field of biology, but became the foundation for the fields of anthropology, sociology, and psychology.
the next person in this line of offenders
The second person is Karl Marx (1818-1883). He and Friedrich Engels published the Communist Manifesto around 1850, and Marx devoted his life to writing about the demise of capitalism and coming of communism. He understood the importance of ideas.
also making an appearance is
The third person is Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918)
The fourth person is Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
A fifth person is John Dewey (1859-1952).
And what did these men do?
Ideas have consequences, and false ideas can bring down a nation. The theories of these five men are having devastating consequences in our nation and world. Unless we return to biblical absolutes, our nation will continue its decline.
I am very disappointed with this list. Before Darwin, there was Democritus a naturalist, Messlier who wrote against the gods, Spinoza who wrote on freedom of thought, Thomas Paine whose polemic, The Age Reason, must have contributed to the scholarship on the old testament, Marcion the heresiarch, Celsus among others whose works have been key to advancing free-thought and rights of wo/men.
Anderson’s final cause is spiritual. He argues that it is spiritual decline that made Rome susceptible to external attack. If this is the case, we would say it’s Christianizing of Rome where the blame should lay. As long as Rome was polytheistic, each person praying to their family gods and recognizing the state gods on feast days, things seem to have been well.
In conclusion, I am not sure whether Anderson set out to write on fall of nations or on decline of Christianity. In his world of thought, no other religion matters or is even mentioned. Anyone who is not a christian, per Anderson’s thesis, seems to be contributing to the decline of the nation. It matters little whether this person is fighting for a just world. That doesn’t count. To avert the decline, you must all be Christians. You cannot for a second think evolution may be true, that we are animals, just a different specie of animal. To be a humanist is criminal. To entertain for a moment that Moses, if he existed, could not have written the first five or is it four books of the Old Testament is to tempt fate. To think of a different economic system, is to demand that the gates of hell be kept open throughout awaiting your arrival and finally to argue, as Freud did, that we need to know ourselves is a sure way of hastening the decline and final collapse of the nation.
It is my last contention that Anderson is not happy with secularism nor with education. It does seem, if he had the say so, any education that doesn’t end in Christian indoctrination would be abolished. Which Christian cult will be in charge is a question for another day.