Politics/United States

The Eight Stages of the Rise and Fall of Civilizations

by Steve Ray on February 14, 2019

Written by Msgr. Charles Pope and posted October 12, 2016 on Community in Mission

Cultures and civilizations go through cycles. Over time, many civilizations and cultures have risen and then fallen. We who live in painful times like these do well to recall these truths. Cultures and civilizations come and go; only the Church (though often in need of reform) and true biblical culture remain. An old song says, “Only what you do for Christ will last.” Yes, all else passes; the Church is like an ark in the passing waters of this world and in the floodwaters of times like these.

For those of us who love our country and our culture, the pain is real. By God’s grace, many fair flowers have come from Western culture as it grew over the past millennium. Whatever its imperfections (and there were many), great beauty, civilization, and progress emerged at the crossroads of faith and human giftedness. But now it appears that we are at the end of an era. We are in a tailspin we don’t we seem to be able to pull ourselves out of. Greed, aversion to sacrifice, secularism, divorce, promiscuity, and the destruction of the most basic unit of civilization (the family), do not make for a healthy culture. There seems to be no basis for true reform and the deepening darkness suggests that we are moving into the last stages of a disease. This is painful but not unprecedented.

Sociologists and anthropologists have described the stages of the rise and fall of the world’s great civilizations. Scottish philosopher Alexander Tyler of the University of Edinburg noted eight stages that articulate well what history discloses. I first encountered these in in Ted Flynn’s book The Great Transformation. They provide a great deal of perspective to what we are currently experiencing.

Let’s look at each of the eight stages. The names of the stages are from Tyler’s book and are presented in bold red text. My brief reflections follow in plain text.

  1. From bondage to spiritual growth – Great civilizations are formed in the crucible. The Ancient Jews were in bondage for 400 years in Egypt. The Christian faith and the Church came out of 300 years of persecution. Western Christendom emerged from the chaotic conflicts during the decline of the Roman Empire and the movements of often fierce “barbarian” tribes. American culture was formed by the injustices that grew in colonial times. Sufferings and injustices cause—even force—spiritual growth. Suffering brings wisdom and demands a spiritual discipline that seeks justice and solutions.
  2. From spiritual growth to great courage – Having been steeled in the crucible of suffering, courage and the ability to endure great sacrifice come forth. Anointed leaders emerge and people are summoned to courage and sacrifice (including loss of life) in order to create a better, more just world for succeeding generations. People who have little or nothing, also have little or nothing to lose and are often more willing to live for something more important than themselves and their own pleasure. A battle is begun, a battle requiring courage, discipline, and other virtues.
  3. From courage to liberty – As a result of the courageous fight, the foe is vanquished and liberty and greater justice emerges. At this point a civilization comes forth, rooted in its greatest ideals. Many who led the battle are still alive, and the legacy of those who are not is still fresh. Heroism and the virtues that brought about liberty are still esteemed. The ideals that were struggled for during the years in the crucible are still largely agreed upon.
  4. From liberty to abundance – Liberty ushers in greater prosperity, because a civilization is still functioning with the virtues of sacrifice and hard work. But then comes the first danger: abundance. Things that are in too great an abundance tend to weigh us down and take on a life of their own. At the same time, the struggles that engender wisdom and steel the soul to proper discipline and priorities move to the background. Jesus said that man’s life does not consist in his possessions. But just try to tell that to people in a culture that starts to experience abundance. Such a culture is living on the fumes of earlier sacrifices; its people become less and less willing to make such sacrifices. Ideals diminish in importance and abundance weighs down the souls of the citizens. The sacrifices, discipline, and virtues responsible for the thriving of the civilization are increasingly remote from the collective conscience; the enjoyment of their fruits becomes the focus.
  5. From abundance to complacency – To be complacent means to be self-satisfied and increasingly unaware of serious trends that undermine health and the ability to thrive. Everything looks fine, so it must be fine. Yet foundations, resources, infrastructures, and necessary virtues are all crumbling. As virtues, disciplines, and ideals become ever more remote, those who raise alarms are labeled by the complacent as “killjoys” and considered extreme, harsh, or judgmental.
  6. From complacency to apathy – The word apathy comes from the Greek and refers to a lack of interest in, or passion for, the things that once animated and inspired. Due to the complacency of the previous stage, the growing lack of attention to disturbing trends advances to outright dismissal. Many seldom think or care about the sacrifices of previous generations and lose a sense that they must work for and contribute to the common good. “Civilization” suffers the serious blow of being replaced by personalization and privatization in growing degrees. Working and sacrificing for others becomes more remote. Growing numbers becoming increasingly willing to live on the carcass of previous sacrifices. They park on someone else’s dime, but will not fill the parking meter themselves. Hard work and self-discipline continue to erode.
  7. From apathy to dependence – Increasing numbers of people lack the virtues and zeal necessary to work and contribute. The suffering and the sacrifices that built the culture are now a distant memory. As discipline and work increasingly seem “too hard,” dependence grows. The collective culture now tips in the direction of dependence. Suffering of any sort seems intolerable. But virtue is not seen as the solution. Having lived on the sacrifices of others for years, the civilization now insists that “others” must solve their woes. This ushers in growing demands for governmental, collective solutions. This in turns deepens dependence, as solutions move from personal virtue and local, family-based sacrifices to centralized ones.
  8. From dependence back to bondage – As dependence increases, so does centralized power. Dependent people tend to become increasingly dysfunctional and desperate. Seeking a savior, they look to strong central leadership. But centralized power corrupts, and tends to usher in increasing intrusion by centralized power. Injustice and intrusion multiplies. But those in bondage know of no other solutions. Family and personal virtue (essential ingredients for any civilization) are now effectively replaced by an increasingly dark and despotic centralized control, hungry for more and more power. In this way, the civilization is gradually ended, because people in bondage no longer have the virtues necessary to fight.

Another possibility is that a more powerful nation or group is able to enter, by invasion or replacement, and destroy the final vestiges of a decadent civilization and replace it with their own culture.

Either way, it’s back to crucible, until suffering and conflict bring about enough of the wisdom, virtue, and courage necessary to begin a new civilization that will rise from the ashes.

Thus are the stages of civilizations. Sic transit gloria mundi. The Church has witnessed a lot of this in just the brief two millennia of her time. In addition to civilizations, nations have come and gone quite frequently over the years. Few nations have lasted longer than 200 years. Civilizations are harder to define with exact years, but at the beginning of the New Covenant, Rome was already in decline. In the Church’s future would be other large nations and empires in the West: the “Holy” Roman Empire, various colonial powers, the Spanish, the Portuguese, and the French.  It was once said that “The sun never sets on the British Empire.” Now it does. As the West began a long decline, Napoleon made his move. Later, Hitler strove to build a German empire. Then came the USSR. And prior to all this, in the Old Testament period, there had been the Kingdom of David, to be succeeded by Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.

The only true ark of safety is the Church, who received her promise of indefectibilityfrom the Lord (Matt 16:18). But the Church, too, is always in need of reform and will have much to suffer. Yet she alone will survive this changing world, because she is the Bride of Christ and also His Body.

These are hard days, but perspective can help. It is hard to deny that we are living at the end of an era. It is painful because something we love is dying. But from death comes forth new life. Only the Lord knows the next stage and long this interregnum will be. Look to Him. Go ahead and vote, but put not your trust in princes (Ps 146:3). God will preserve His people, as He did in the Old Covenant. He will preserve those of us who are now joined to Him in the New Covenant. Find your place in the ark, ever ancient and yet new.

This video of psalm 121 is sung in an ancient language and manner, but its message is still current:

I lift mine eyes to the Mountains from whence cometh my help (Psalm 121).

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Trump’s Brilliant Speech

by Steve Ray on February 7, 2019

E0C5F142-A478-4026-85BD-FED2CB969079I’ll just say it… [by Brian Birch]

That was a helluva speech.

President Trump delivered one of the best speeches of his presidency last night, weaving together aspirational rhetoric with raw, emotional personal stories, as well as a focus on key issues of deep concern to Catholics.

And Americans agreed…

A snap CNN poll showed that 76% of viewers approved of what President Trump said. And according to CBS, 72% agreed with what he said on immigration — his signature issue.

Here are Five Reasons why President Trump’s speech might be the most “Catholic” State of the Union we’ve ever heard.

1. Life

President Trump delivered some of the strongest pro-life words ever uttered in a State of the Union speech. The president called on Congress to pass legislation outlawing late-term abortion for children who can feel pain, saying: “All children — born and unborn — are made in the holy image of God.”

2C913F10-8F30-4C49-9285-7FC2EACD4432He also pushed back at politicians in recent weeks who enthusiastically supported late-term abortion and, in some cases, infanticide. “Lawmakers in New York cheered with delight upon the passage of legislation that would allow a baby to be ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth. These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world.”

The roar of applause from the House chamber still gives me chills.

2. Pro-Family Policies

The bean counters at the Wall Street Journal probably didn’t like it, but President Trump called for nationwide paid family leave “so that every new parent has the chance to bond with their newborn child.” He’s right to do so. The birth rate in the United States just hit a historical low.

But President Trump didn’t stop there. He also made a plug for school choice to help working parents. And then noted that his recent tax reform bill doubled the child tax credit.

B5E093E4-8D0E-4314-82A9-D1944E272C7DMost importantly, he touted the historic economic success now underway in America, including record-low unemployment among African Americans and Hispanic Americans — and rising wages.

If the best poverty program is a job, then President Trump has every right to brag.

3. Winning Message on Immigration

Catholics are often conflicted on the President and immigration. But data suggests they’re more troubled by his rhetoric than his policies. Last night, the President did far more to advance immigration reform than months of frustrated tweets and a government shutdown have accomplished.

He rightly emphasized yet again how our insecure border hurts the working poor with lower wages and strains on social safety programs. He also pointed out that the chaos on the border is dangerous for illegal migrants as well — including terrible incidences of sexual assault, human trafficking, murder, and the flow of lethal drugs into our cities. “This is a moral issue,” the President said. And “[t]olerance for illegal immigration is not compassionate — it is cruel.”

Perhaps of greatest significance was a line not contained in the official text of the speech, but which he added on his own: “Legal immigrants enrich our nation and strengthen our society in countless ways… I want people to come into our country in the largest numbers ever, but they have to come in legally.”

No wonder Americans liked it so much.

4. Smart Foreign Policy

One thing that has united both Democrats and Republicans in the Beltway has been support for continued military action in Afghanistan and the Middle East. It’s been the story of U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century — despite clear warnings from St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.

Trump has surprised many observers by avoiding new military engagements. He has resisted an extended intervention in Syria. In fact, he’s trying to get our troops out of that country. And he’s pushing for a peace process that could finally bring many of our troops home from Afghanistan — a war we’ve fought for almost 18 years.

Trump noted to bipartisan applause: “Great nations do not fight endless wars.”

And on trade, the President deserves credit for leading a new push to rebalance our trade deficits with countries like China. The data is growing. Americans have traded away quality jobs and a robust manufacturing base in exchange for cheap products, a working class mired in drugs, social disruption, and massive income inequality.

No quick tariffs or modified trade agreements will fix these problems overnight. But it’s high time our leaders address the causes and have the guts to begin fixing them.

5. No to Socialism, Yes to Solidarity

Eliciting what might have been his biggest applause of the night, President Trump was unambiguous: “Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”

“America was founded on liberty and independence — not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free, and we will stay free.”

In rejecting socialism, President Trump didn’t embrace a ruthless hyper-capitalist view focused exclusively on efficiency and GDP. Trump’s goals are clear: he wants to rebuild the middle class by investing in infrastructure, securing our border, incentivizing manufacturing, and putting the American family first, including the unborn.

He urged us to “rekindle the bonds of love and loyalty and memory…”

He urged unity, cooperation, compromise and…the common good.

Choose greatness, he said.

A Catholic State of the Union speech?

I’d say so.

Brian

P.S. “5 Reasons” is always a fun compilation. However, I can’t help but mention a sixth reason for Catholics to applaud the President last night– one that even President Trump didn’t mention. Sitting in the chamber last night were Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Two constitutionalist judges who will serve for decades.

I guess that’s reasons six… and seven!

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An article popped up on my screen today as I opened my e-mail account. It was from The American Thinker. I was asked if I agree with Alicia Colon, the author of the article. It is hard not too.

Selections from The American Thinker’s article “Catholic Church Leaders are a Bunch of Cowards”:

download“The bishop who rushed to judgment on those Covington students finally apologized and said he was bullied into making a premature statement. Hogwash. We know that the media, the liberal left, and celebrities have been pounding on the church for sex scandals, but is that any excuse for caving in with fear from these secular critics?  For many years we have watched so-called Catholic politicians enact laws contrary to church teaching without getting called on the carpet by their pastors. ….

…Cardinal Dolan was on Fox News (video here) explaining that by excommunicating Cuomo this would be perceived by critics as just a Catholic issue. So what, Cardinal? It became clear during this broadcast that Dolan is just as much a politician as any Democrat finding rationalization for their sins. …

… Why has the church become so weak-kneed in ignoring its mission? ….

… What is happening today in the local parishes is disgraceful. I know priests who are heavily involved in the pro-life movement who are being admonished by their superiors to cool it with the anti-abortion sermons. In the Q&A segment on Fox and Friends when Dolan was asked about the Democrats being in line with abortion rights, he answered that it wasn’t his job to tell people how to vote and he said that he was brought up in a Democrat family. Well, we all were, Cardinal. but that was then, and today’s Democrat Party has turned to the dark side and we’re not supposed to admit that? Meanwhile Democrats are always making appearances at Black Protestant churches to preach their socialist Marxist agenda but priests can’t condemn abortion?. …

cardinaldolancuomo… Cardinal Dolan said that his father told him to never vote for a Republican. How any Catholic today could vote for a Democrat knowing what their laws have done to dismantle our faith and values is beyond me.

I am forever Catholic but as a native New Yorker, I am thoroughly ashamed at what my city and State has become: the abortion capital of the world. God save us.”

(Read https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2019/01/catholic_church_leaders_are_a_bunch_of_cowards.html#ixzz5eBwCmnTh  Follow us: @AmericanThinker on Twitter | AmericanThinker on Facebook)

My question is what authentic Catholics can and will do as they see their bishops and the Vatican cowardly abandon the truth and morality of the Church — to become more like pandering politicians than faithful and obedient shepherds?

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Covington Catholic incident a black eye for pro-life leadership

January 22, 2019

January 21, 2019 (CatholicCulture.org) – by Phil Lawler.  It’s time for the pro-life movement to grow up. The disgraceful treatment of students from Covington Catholic – and by that I mean the pell-mell rush of pro-life “leaders” to condemn innocent young men – illustrates a potentially fatal flaw in the movement. For much too long, […]

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A Canon Law Primer on Church Teaching Regarding “Same-sex Marriage”

January 4, 2019

A primer on Church teaching regarding ‘same-sex marriage’ by Dr. Edward Peters STEVE RAY’S INTRODUCTORY COMMENT: This article was written by Canon Lawyer Ed Peters around the time the US Supreme Court foolishingly and arrogantly decided that homosexuals could marry and it was a valid and legal marriage. Now that we have lived with this egregious […]

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Should This Baby Be Aborted? You Decide

January 1, 2019

In the United States, there are many situations in which abortions are recommended, even encouraged by family, counselors, medical personnel and even religious advisors. Sometimes an abortion is recommended because of difficult circumstances and other times simply for convenience. Here are four cases for you to consider. Should these babies be aborted? You decide! Four […]

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Where Have All the Christmas Carols Gone?

December 25, 2018

I’m not that old. I’ll only be 64 years old this month but I still remember when the frosty month of December was filled with marvelous Christmas carols. It was like magic when the first snow covered the ground and the melodies sprang to life and everyone knew them, believed them and sang them with […]

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Winning on Abortion; Losing on LGBTQ

September 30, 2018

According to recent surveys it looks like we’re losing the war an LGBTQ. Here is a survey of the major religious institutions and their change and acceptance between 2007 and 2014. The trend is not good. St  Paul wrote, Rom 1:26  For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did […]

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The Fiasco Attempt to Destroy Judge Brett Kavanaugh

September 20, 2018

What is happening to keep a great judge (Judge Brett Kavanaugh) from being appointed to the Supreme Court is a scandal and a farce. Here is a good article about how it is a new totalitarianism. Site link here, full article below. ******************************** “If Senate Democrats and their media allies manage to destroy Brett Kavanaugh, […]

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Who Speaks for God on Morals? Many Choose their Church Like they Choose a Restaurant

August 13, 2018

We have a “church” near our house that is making it comfortable for anyone to join no matter who they are, what they believe or what they practice. They say it is our job to accept and love, to be nice, not to judge. “Celebrate Diversity!” Celebrate Diversity is a slogan of acceptance, multiculturalism, non-judgmental […]

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Are we too conservative for our own good?

July 9, 2018

Conservatives are conservative by their very nature. But we must get over being so conservative and start being real and vocal Conservatives. Conservative silence is no longer acceptable. We are in the middle of a cultural war! If we stand idly by, our grandkids will someday ask, “What did you do Grandpa? Where were you […]

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Fun and Relaxed 4th of July

July 4, 2018

?Happy 4th! Thanks to all those who made our independence and freedom possible! Kids all traveling so Janet & I took 3.5 mile walk, cooked healthy food on the barbie and watched hilarious family-friendly Aussie movie “Deckchair Danny.” Love being a husband/dad/granddad, love being an American, love being Catholic! (Picture from front porch.)

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