The Decline of the American Empire?

By Mike Mazzalongo     Posted: Sun. Oct 22nd
Mike reviews the repeated claims that America's best days are in the past and offers a plan for our nation's renewal.

We live in a time when there are many political pundits who are declaring with certainty that America's best days are in the past. If you Google the phrase, "decline of the USA" you will immediately access eight million articles, books, posts, and video lectures on this subject. These would include titles like...

  • The Decline of the USA, Huffington Post
  • The Future: China's Rise, America's Decline, Forbes magazine
  • The Decline of the West, Atlantic Monthly

Add to this general pessimistic viewpoint a confrontational relationship between the White House and the news media, as well as internal strife dividing both major political parties and it is easy to see why the average American, regardless of political affiliation, is feeling insecure about the future of our nation at this time.

We cannot deny that America is in a downturn in many ways, but there are some truths not being said about our country that need to be proclaimed.

Lifecycle of an Empire

Before getting into these fundamental truths, I would like to examine the argument being made by so many concerning the decline of our nation. Much of the discussion on this subject is based on the writings of Sir John Bagot Glubb, an honored British general and historian whose 1978 book, "The Fate of Empires and the Search For Survival" examined the rise and fall of great empires throughout history. Glubb described the various stages that each empire went through as it experienced a rise to prominence and eventual decline to final collapse. He wrote that each went through a cycle of predictable changes as they started, expanded, matured, and then declined and eventually fell into ruin. Each empire, he wrote, lasted on average 250 years which is about ten generations.

You will find any number of studies and articles on this topic, but most are based on the seven stages that he lists in his book. The first stages he describes are those of outburst and pioneering as the new nation discovers and realizes its geographical potential. Secondly, the age of conquest where the nation seeks to gain independence, expand and consolidate its own territory, and add other lands it conquers from weaker nations. Once this stage is reached it eventually gives way to the age of commerce and affluence. According to Glubb, at these stages bankers and merchants take over at the highest levels of power as the nation shifts its attention from acquisition of power and territory to the less dangerous and more enjoyable search for wealth and ease.

The accumulation of wealth and stature usually leads to the age of intellect. At this point, investment builds the country's wealth and this naturally moves a nation to a search for greater intellectual sophistication. Eric Snow, commenting on this period in an online article, writes:

During the age of intellect, schools may produce skeptical intellectuals who oppose the values and religious beliefs of early leaders, the corrosive effects of material success encourage the upper class and the common people to discard the self-confident, self-discipline values that helped to create the empire in the first place.

The age of intellect is soon followed by the age of decadence which historically brings about the final stage of moral, political, and economic collapse. These final stages have features common to every previous empire throughout history that has suffered collapse, and include the following:

  1. An undisciplined and overextended military fighting multiple wars in various places simultaneously.
  2. Conspicuous displays of wealth.
  3. Massive disparities between the rich and poor within the same nation.
  4. A desire to live off of the government through cronyism or welfare. In other words, the very powerful and the least powerful live off of the government which is, in turn, financed by the middle class.
  5. Debasement of the currency. The nation's money is no longer backed by actual precious metals, but by IOUs and the printing of currency notes. Also, one generation squanders the wealth and the inheritance of the next generation.
  6. A failing society's obsession with sex and sexual perversion.

A note concerning this last feature. We think that interest in the Gay Rights movement and, more recently, society's fascination with transgendered people is something new, but this is not so.

In a recent CNS interview feminist author and cultural critic, Dr. Camille Paglia, said that the rise of transgenderism in the West is a symptom of its decline. Paglia herself is openly gay and generally supportive of this lifestyle, but in her study of the late phases of various cultures throughout history, she notes the following:

And I formed in my study that history is cyclic, and everywhere in the world you find this pattern in ancient times: that as a culture begins to decline, you have an efflorescence (a flowering) of transgender phenomena. This is a symptom of cultural collapse.
- Dr. Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae, Vintage Books 1991

In addition to sexual immorality, the decline of a society is also seen in the type of heroes that people look up to from one generation to another. In his book, John Glubb explains that the heroes of an empire change over time as the values of the people change. Soldiers, explorers, and builders are admired in the very early stages of an empire's lifecycle. For example, in the late 19th century, middle-class Americans wanted their children to learn the values contained in the stories of author, Horatio Alger, who wrote about people who succeeded despite adversity. He filled his books with characters who were wise, prudent, and successful.

On the other hand, during the last stages of decadence and decline an empire's people often think most highly of and imitate athletes, musicians, and actors despite how corrupt many of these celebrities' private lives might be. This pattern appears in every empire's decline throughout history even to this day.

A society, therefore, is known by its heroes. Is it any wonder then that America is no longer admired today by other nations as it was after World War II only 70 years ago? Back then we were helping to rebuild the nations that had been our enemies in that war, Japan and Germany. This was a confirmation of the fact that ours was a Christian nation. The helping and the forgiveness of our adversaries was our witness of this to the world.

Today, our government supports and defends the rights of gay men and women to serve openly in the military, and up until not very long ago, would pay for the surgery and counseling of male soldiers who wanted to become women. Something, by the way, that even gay author and lecturer Camille Paglia finds ridiculous, because as she points out in her television interview,

Sex reassignment surgery, even with all its advances, cannot in fact change anyone's sex. You can define yourself as a trans man, or as a trans woman, or as one of these new gradations along the scale (heterosexual/ bisexual/ past heterosexual - present homosexual / homosexual/ asexual/ transsexual/ etc., etc.). There are many different categories of so called gender identity but ultimately every single cell's DNA in the human body remains coded for biological birth.

In other words, our DNA remains male or female no matter how one identifies sexually or how much reassignment surgery they undergo.

Don't wonder why we are neither respected or admired by other nations as we once were, when last year the ESPN sports television network presented the Arthur Ashe award for courage to former Olympic track and field star Bruce Jenner for his "courageous" decision to become a transgendered woman. When a man wearing a dress in public commands more respect than the duly elected leader of our nation, it is a definite sign that our nation is no longer what it once was.

The Decline of the USA

I believe that the United States, like other empires and nations before her, has experienced a similar cycle in its history:

  1. A burst of pioneering and expansion as the original colonies were established and the nation developed, until it was settled between the east and the west coast, along with Canada and Mexico to its north and south.
  2. It gained its independence from British rule. It then fought a war to maintain its unity, and subsequently participated in two world wars during which it reached its military and economic maturity.
  3. America's wealth and prestige enabled it to establish world-class political, educational, and economic institutions that were the equal of any such places in Europe or elsewhere.
  4. It was during these days of confidence and wealth that we slowly began to trade away our Christian heritage and ideals, clearly reflected in our constitution and laws, for humanistic ideas that basically placed man at the center of life and reality instead of God in that critical position.

These concepts were introduced in books and lectures by atheists and agnostics using various universities as their platform. They were aided and abetted, as they always are, by artists, novelists, and filmmakers who leavened their books, pictures, and movies with these ideas for consumption by the masses.

That partnership succeeded in producing a nation that has removed God from the classroom, from the Congress, from the media, and at the present time is trying to remove God from the home and family as well.

For this and the reasons mentioned before, I truly believe that the United States is a nation in decline. And when compared to empires of the past, it is quite obvious that we are at the "decadence" stage as evidenced by our moral, economic, and social decline. This point, however, is where the similarities with past empires end.

The Difference That Produces Hope

The cycle of decline that these writers describe is attributed to nations and empires that all had one thing in common: they were not created, established, or governed by Christian principles or founders. For example,

  • The Roman Empire evolved from a city-state to a unified nation to a world empire through political and military means.
  • The Russian Empire or USSR was forged through the invasion and control of foreign territory through military might.

And so it has been for all empires seeking to expand their influence and control over other nations for the purpose of military strategy. In other words, using other nations as buffer zones to protect themselves or to exploit the natural resources of other nations in order to enrich and maintain its own empire, as the British Empire did with India and other countries (including the USA) up until the Second World War.

These empires all declined in the very same way because they were established in the same way - through war and conquest. The United States, however, is not guided or motivated by the need to expand its territory or to subdue other nations in order to extract their wealth, as other empires have done.

The United States was founded by men who believed in God, who confessed Christ, and considered the Bible as God's inspired Word.

With the help and blessing of God they created a constitution that would guide this nation with laws and a government that reflected the Spirit of God in its function and in its purpose. This purpose was to guarantee the freedom of each citizen, to protect the nation from being taken over by dictators, and provide a government that would be made up of citizens who would serve the people of the land.

I'm not saying that our country has not made mistakes or acted unjustly at times in our history. We have done this and suffered the consequences. Just a quick look at race relations in the United States will reveal how much we are being punished for the sins of slavery committed long ago, but whose negative social impact we are still feeling today.

What I am saying is that despite the decline that the US has suffered, unlike other empires and nations that have collapsed once the excesses of their decadence became too great, we can avoid this end. Yes, we are in decline, but that decline does not have to inevitably lead us to final collapse.

When other nations before us reached this stage of decadence, there was nowhere for them to go but down, because there was nothing in their political or religious systems that had the power to redeem and effectively restore them. We, on the other hand, have the mind of the living God literally sewn into our Constitution and the laws that stem from it.

A Gallup poll on religion in America found that 73% of Americans said that when it came to religious preference they identified themselves as Christians. This, of course, was down from 2008 when the percentage was 80%. These numbers, however, confirm the idea that America, as a Christian nation, is in decline but continues to have a majority of people who still believe and can be appealed to, based on faith in God.

Our collective salvation is in God's hands, not our own, and it rests there because of prayer. The prayers of faithful Christians concerning this nation are more powerful in effecting its course than any number of political strategy meetings in Washington or accords at the United Nations signed without any regard or dependence on God.

Despite the dark reports and lack of enthusiasm for this great country's future by much of the media, I believe we can reverse the decline, and to borrow a phrase, "Make America Christian Again."

Make America Christian Again

I believe that Christians have power, but not the kind of power that boycotts certain movies or stores if they do something that offends us. That's political and economic power. Power that comes from below, not power that comes from above. Our true power is spiritual in nature and comes from heaven, not from this world, and we exercise it in the following ways:

1. Prayer

Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
- James 5:16

I've already mentioned this but I want to emphasize the fact that influencing change, courage to stand firm in the face of attack, and perseverance in difficult circumstances are all made possible through prayer. Prayer is our chief defense against what seems like an overwhelming tide of disbelief, pessimism, and moral decay engulfing our nation. As Christians we don't have the ear of the President and we don't get to sit with important leaders to plead our case for returning to a more faithful version of our country, but we do have the ear of Almighty God through prayer offered by faith in Jesus Christ.

If you want a government and its leaders to govern America according to Christian ideals and biblical teaching, pray for this. Be specific and consistent in your appeal to God for this very thing. The prayers of a righteous man, woman, or group of people can and will avail much, but they must first pray!

2. Proclaiming

And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."
- Mark 16:15

I believe that one of the reasons for the decline of Christianity in the United States is that we have largely neglected the preaching of the gospel to our own citizens. Much like the governments of the last two decades that have spent much of our resources on saving and rebuilding foreign nations to the neglect of American workers, businesses, and cities, we have focused much of our evangelistic efforts at establishing and maintaining churches in other lands, while failing to aggressively evangelize America.

I have served as a missionary with 15 years experience in the field so I am definitely not proposing that we stop supporting missionaries. What I am suggesting, however, is that we invest as much money in local evangelism as we do in foreign evangelism.

It costs roughly six to eight thousand dollars per month to fully support an American missionary in a foreign country. This includes his personal salary, a work fund, as well as travel expenses for furloughs if he and his family are from the United States. Many churches support such missionaries, but would never think of allotting the same amount of money every month to invest in local evangelism.

The main task of the church is the proclamation of the gospel to all creation, and that includes our hometown, state, and country. The most effective use of our resources and energy in stopping the moral and spiritual decline of America is to seed every part of this nation with God's Word and train the next generation to do exactly the same thing.

God's promise to us is that if we plant the seed, He will give us a harvest (1 Corinthians 3:6). The lack of growth experienced by Christianity here in the U.S.A. in general is largely due to the simple fact that we have done less planting, and as a result have received less of a harvest from the Lord. A statistic that bears this out is that it is predicted that by 2050 there will be more Christians in China and in Africa, places where American churches have sent missionaries to plant seed for decades, than there will be here in our own country!

3. Prepare

But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. "Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come.
- Mark 13:32-33

We pray and proclaim to others so they will know God and be saved through faith in Christ, expressed in repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). This is the believer's way of turning the tide of decline, one life and one citizen at a time.

As Christians, we also provide a witness to those who oppose us, that all nations great and small will eventually be destroyed when Jesus returns at the end of the world to judge mankind and therefore all must be ready for this (2 Peter 3:10).

I pray and proclaim because while I am here I want our nation to be at peace and prosperous so that the work of the church can go forward without being hindered, and we as Christians can be free to worship and serve the Lord (1 Timothy 2:2).

However, no matter how high or low the state of our nation, I am always in the process of preparing for the judgement and the next world where all Christians will dwell forever with God. My proclamation is confirmed by my preparation. For example, how serious do you think a non-believer will consider my proclamation of the gospel if what he sees in me is...

  • That I love this world more than I love the next world.
  • That despite my proclamation, the church is not a priority for me.
  • That moral purity, devotion to God, and service to others in Christ are not visible in my life.

As a Christian, I don't march in the streets carrying a sign or get into angry debates with those I disagree with. However, every day, in ways great and small, I demonstrate that despite the blessing of living in this wonderful country, I am only passing through on my way to the place prepared for me by my Lord in my Father's house (John 14:2-3). As far as America is concerned, I try to be a good steward of the privilege that God has given me by allowing me to live here, to serve here, and hopefully to die here as well.

My response to this blessing is to do my best to make America Christian again by praying for its spiritual revival, by proclaiming the good news to Americans who have not yet heard or responded to it, and by preparing myself, my family, and my countrymen for the time when all nations will be judged and those found faithful will live on continually ascending into the everlasting presence and knowledge of God and His Son, Jesus Christ (John 17:3).

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Dr. Stafford North
Professor of Bible
Oklahoma Christian University