Saturday, January 1, 2011

Without Thought or Restraint

'As soon as riches came to be held in honour, and brought glory, imperium, and power, virtue began to grow dull; poverty was seen as disgraceful, innocence as malevolence. Therefore because of wealth, our youths were seized by luxury, greed and pride; they stole and squandered; reckoning their own property of little worth, they coveted other peoples'; contemptuous of modesty and chastity, of everything divine or human, they were without thought or restraint.'
- The senator and historian Sallust, writing in the late forties BC.-
Adrian Goldsworthy, Caesar: Life of a Colossus, (London: Yale University Press, 2006), 109.
Every winter a collection of guys and myself pick out a book (or 3) to read together with the expressed goal of learning something from history and hopefully gaining insights for our own lives. Discussion does not seem to happen often, but its been a fun exercise in reading, learning, and comradery. This winter we selected Roman leaders as the topic with Cicero, Julius Caesar, and Emperor Augustus as the primary focus. Needless to say, I have been overly thrilled with the readings thus far.

One of the things I cannot help but notice is the parallel between the ancient Roman world and that of modern America. I'm sure every historian has noted a parallel between that of the Roman world and those western countries who have assumed world power status since the fall of the empire, so I am not claiming original thought here. However, I see so many examples of our contemporary world facing the same ills of society that would eventually bring Rome to her knees. The above quote from Sallust in regards to riches becoming 'held in honour' speaks of the poverty of the American moral soul. Everything about America today screams of the need for riches, greed, and covetousness. People are valued by their material wealth, and those without it dream of having it. Riches have become the lens with which Americans view their worlds. As a result, pollution of our mindsets has become a real problem. Even our institutions like churches have become transfixed to the need to acquire and display wealth simply to get those with wealth in.

Recognizing this problem is easy. The solution is not. Even in my own life, I know I struggle with wanting bigger, better and more. Being content and chaste is not worthy anymore. Life without thought or restraint is glorified. As a result, America, much like Rome, finds itself in a quagmire with very little hope of solution.


Terri said...

Your post brought to mind the following quote;

Most cultures die from the inside out when they lose their values. -Will Durant

Landon said...

Good quote Terri. Thanks for posting.

Romi said...

Excellent post, Landon...thanks for sharing and I agree there is no easy solution! If you haven't already read David Platt's book "Radical:Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream" you definitely should. It speaks into the false values rooted in the American Dream and how we need to surrender them and instead embrace the Great Commission. I've only just begun reading it, but so far a very compelling read.