Curtis Dahlgren
The "Hand of History" writes: Add stupidity to arrogance, and Empires rise and fall
By Curtis Dahlgren
May 20, 2019

"The Christian blood you shed is the seed you sow; it springs from the earth again and fructifies the more." -Tertullian (155-222 AD)

"Coming events cast their shadows before." – Thos. Campbell (1777-1844)

"According to your orders, I had forbidden political associations and found it necessary to extract the real truth, with the assistance of torture, from two females called deaconesses . .

The only thing I found was a depraved and excessive superstition, but this contagion is not confined to the cities only, but has spread to the villages and country side, so I think it must be checked and cured while it still can be . .

An anonymous posting was made accusing a number of people by name. .

Having never been present at any trials of Christians, I am uncertain as to the limits to be observed in punishing them – whether any difference is to be made with respect to age, young or old, or sex, etc. I asked them whether they were Christians, and if they confessed I repeated the question, with the added threat of death. If they persevered I ordered them executed, for I was persuaded that whatever the nature of their creed, such contemptuous insulting of our god deserved chastisement."

"SO" – Was that letter written by someone in North Korea or Iran? NO – it was written over 1,900 years ago by Pliny the Younger at Bithynia to Emperor Trajan at Rome. So, there hasn't been any "evolution" toward respect for life or property, or Justice, in thousands of years. Trajan, of course, wrote back to praise Pliny for "following orders." Tertullian wrote his manifesto of reply to the Empire somewhere around 200 AD:

"Crucify, torture, and grind us to powder if you can; your injustice is proof of our innocence. By your condemnation of a Christian woman recently, you confess essentially that your injustice [the quashing of free thought] is worse than the torment itself . . . Rack your inventions for tortures; it's all to no avail! You only attract the attention of the world and make more fall in love with our Faith; the more you mow us down, the quicker we rise."

The new "superstition" couldn't be checked or cured, and Rome fell within a couple hundred years of Tertullian's "prophecy. Point is, tyranny had prevailed in many forms, but America was the exception to the rule, for a while at least. This continent was settled by Bible-believing pilgrims who were forced from their own land, like so many of their ancient brethren. They came here to save their lives, not to steal the land or kill natives (the 1620 colony protected the local Indians from a neighboring tribe). And the 1776 Founding Families, in their minds, were "starting the world over again" to the best of their ability. And they were an exceptionally "able" 13 colonies. They had to be – to beat the Empire-of-the-day! They proceeded to establish unprecedented economic freedom and religious freedom, and "one hand washed the other" "The Hand of History"! Frank Kingdon in "Architects of the Republic" (1947, Alliance Publishing) wrote:

"The America of Washington had no historic lines of class. The colonies were administered by governors sent by England, and these were scions of the feudal families, but feudalism itself never took root here. There was no obvious clash of interests between a ruling group and all the rest."

Have we learned anything yet today? There ought to be a lesson in there somewhere for latter-day Caesars, Czars, Kaisers, and kidnappers ("first they came for the Nigerian school girls; then they came for the 'fundies' and 'flat-earthers')! The 21st century world, like the proverbial impotent rooster, has nothing to crow about. While the East and the Middle East have one way of persecuting Christians, the West has other ways (lawyers and judges)! The point is, we haven't been fully "tested" yet, and as a professor Robert George recently said: "The days of socially acceptable Christianity are over . . . It is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian."

In other words, an itsy-bitsy warning here: "If ye think ye stand, take heed lest ye fall." Charles Darwin's family and friends were professing Christians, but he once wrote, "Disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress." AND THAT'S THE WAY IT GOES.

By the way, the original focus of Darwin's 'science' was on "change," not necessarily on the Origin of the Universe, and some people still claim that evolution is "neutral on religion." However, his followers such as Huxley were anything but "neutral," and today the Flame of Faith burns dimmer and dimmer. Evil men "wax worse and worse." An African Christian was recently sentenced to 100 lashes and hanging. She was eight months pregnant. The invisible Hand of History will write its own answer to stuff like that. Some call it karma, but it's beyond that.


A famous account of the Fall of Rome was written by Eusebius Sophronius Hieronymus (340-420 AD). He's the "St. Jerome" who translated the Old Testament from the Hebrew into Latin, the language of the common people of Rome. In a letter to a friend, he said:

"No wonder we are unhappy, for it is our sins that made the barbarians strong; as in the days of Hezekiah, so today God is using the fury of the barbarians to execute His anger. Rome's army, once the lord of the world, trembles today at the sight of the foe . . . the wolves of the North have been let loose . . The world sinks into ruin; all things are perishing except our sins; these alone flourish." [ya think?]

P.S. This is an adaptation of a column originally posted five years ago this week. Here's a Memorial weekend meditation by a 19th century Boston pastor named Daniel Poling:

"Father of us all, thank you for life and another day in the present. Nor do we despise the past (into whose work we have entered); its errors warn us, its successes inform us, its sacrifices inspire us, and we are forever indebted to the road-breakers of liberty – to whom the soul of a little child was more precious than the buildings of a city, to whom nothing was greater than Freedom."


As the Fuller Brush salesman said, "I rest my case."

© Curtis Dahlgren


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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