Curtis Dahlgren
The "Hand of History" writes its own reply to arrogance & stupidity!
By Curtis Dahlgren
May 21, 2014

"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)

IT PAINS ME TO WRITE THIS. I mean literally, since my right arm feels almost broken due to a bicycle accident, but today's column will be worth the pain. GUESS: The following letter was written by whom?

"It is my rule, Sir, to refer myself to you in any doubt, for who is more capable of removing my scruples? 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.

"An anonymous posting was made accusing a number of people by name. Those who denied that they were Christians and cursed the name of Christ, in deference to you and our god, I freed. However, they also had to affirm that the only crime they committed was to meet on a certain day and sing hymns, binding them to do no wicked deeds such as fraud, theft, adultery, or lying. 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."

SO – Was that letter written by someone in North Korea, China, or the Middle East? NO – it was written 1,910 years ago by Pliny the Younger at Bithynia to Emperor Trajan at Rome. So, there hasn't been any "evolution" toward justice, fidelity, respect for property, or honesty in thousands of years.

Point is, America was the exception to the rule for a little while. This continent was civilized by Bible-believing pioneers who came here of their own volition. This was considered a "new kind of country" by the Founders. They established economic freedom and religious freedom, and one hand washed the other. A quote by Frank Kingdon in "Architects of the Republic" (1947, Alliance Pub.):

"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."

And assimilation by subsequent legal immigrants produced a "melting" that came to be called Americanism. Originally Rome had been a republic too, but it became "depraved" (cool, hip) and the ruling class became superstitious and anti-Christian (Trajan praised Pliny for "following orders"); then Rome fell.

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."

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 "new Faith" couldn't be "cured" or checked, and Rome fell within 200 years of Tertullian's "prophecy." The 21st century world, like the proverbial impotent rooster, has nothing to crow about. While the East has 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 IS." 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 say 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's eight months pregnant.

"We've only just begun," but the invisible Hand of History will write its own answer to stuff like that (East or West, North or South).


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."

Today's "Caesars" are troubled by ominous developments from the North and Northeast. The Russians are playing chess while we're playing checkers, while candidates run to and fro saying "King me!" But Eusebius said, "Even in the midst of swords and lions, virtue is never made captive, and he who surrenders himself to Christ may be slain but he cannot be conquered."

"The world sinks into ruin; all things are perishing except our sins; these alone flourish." [ya think?]

P.S. This was not the column originally intended, but I think it's time for the important stuff. 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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