By Ronald Brown
In April, as I sat in lockdown in my Queens apartment, blocks from Elmhurst Hospital, ground zero for New York City’s pandemic treatment, I tuned to radio news hourly, religiously followed the BBC, PBS Newshour, network news, virus specials on television, awaited the morning clap of The New York Times and Wall Street Journal on my doorstep, and consumed articles in magazines.
As of mid-June, the daily death toll in the City is now around 20 (down from a peak of as much as 1,200 per day in April), over 120,000 have died nationwide (6,500 in the borough of Queens alone), shutdowns and lockdowns in the City are just beginning to ease, and many fear a coming second wave of infections, likely a result of lifting stay-at-home restrictions too soon.
I am not the ordinary citizen lamenting home imprisonment, teaching on Zoom, not finding the right foods in the supermarket, and receiving news of friends in the hospital, quarantine or morgue. I am a news junkie, but also a professor with a BA and MA in history from Gannon University and the Hebrew University, an MTS in theology from Harvard, and a Ph.D. in international relations from the University of Geneva.
From my balcony in Queens, I witnessed the racing ambulances on Queens Boulevard, scalpers selling overpriced face masks, my downstairs neighbor coming home late at night from nurse duty, and two elderly neighbors peering through covered windows. Meanwhile, Democrats and Republicans fought in Washington. With major corporations declaring bankruptcy, unemployment rising close to 16%, pastors and rabbis insisting on their religious freedom to gather their followers, and armed militias unwilling to sacrifice their American freedoms for the common good, I couldn’t help but ponder, “whither America?”
What causes great empires like Babylon, Egypt, China, India, Greece and Rome, Spain, Great Britain and France, and more recently Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, the Soviet Union, and the USA to rise, flower and fall? Barbarian invasions humbled great Rome, national revolutions shattered the Spanish and British empires, the atomic bomb humbled Japan, military defeat destroyed Nazi Germany, and economic collapse ended the Soviet empire.
Will a tiny virus bring down the American Empire and end the “American Century”?
The biblical quest for dominion over all that liveth
According to Genesis 1:28, Jehovah commanded humanity to subdue the earth and gave him dominion over all living things. The earth was to be subdued and all living things were to be dominated. This statement clearly pitted humans and nature in an adversarial relationship. This theme was further developed in the Bible when as punishment for the original sin of Eve and Adam, they were condemned to a life of sweaty labor and painful childbirth. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes gave an eloquent description of the human condition when he wrote that human life is “nasty, brutish and short” in his 1651 book, Leviathan.
Ancient writers from Babylon and Egypt to China and India have portrayed gods employing thunderbolts, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, locusts, volcanos, and plagues to warn and punish wayward humans. The end of the world so vividly described in the Book of Revelation is filled with natural calamities that God will use as final warnings to a sinful humanity.
However much writers such as Henry David Thoreau and modern ecologists attempt to dilute the brutal words “subdue” and “domination,” humans, especially of the American variety, have historically viewed nature and the forces of nature as an enemy to be subdued and dominated.
The American quest
Even before our Pilgrim ancestors set foot on Plymouth Rock, they were convinced they were finally cutting ties with the theological heresies, religious persecution, political domination, and economic corruption of old Europe. Their Puritan kingdom in the virgin lands of America would be a new birth for humanity, a land of righteousness, purity of living, and material prosperity — a beacon to humanity, a city on a hilltop to inspire the world, a realization of the biblical grant of dominion over all of creation.
But, the forces of nature viciously resisted their quest. During its voyage, Atlantic Ocean storms nearly sank the Mayflower and drove it off course. But for the generosity of the Native Americans, they would have starved to death during that first brutal winter. They labored to transform deep dark forests into farmland, construct rustic shelters, ward off wild animals, and protect their European cattle, sheep, chickens, wheat, and rye from native insects and viruses. The devil himself entered into the souls of many and only a series of witch trials, burnings, and hangings drove him out of the community. Through this all they remained true to their vision of America as a new beginning, a new Garden of Eden, a new Land of Israel, a New Jerusalem, and a major step toward the return of Jesus as the Messiah.
This founding experience spread deep into the consciousness of the young nation. The journalist John O’Sullivan coined the term “Manifest Destiny” to describe America’s divine mission to conquer the continent in the early 1800s. The German-American painter, John Gast, portrayed “American Progress” in 1872 as lady “Progress” striding across the continent followed by railroads, telegraph lines, caravans of settlers, ox-pulled plows, and ax-wielding lumbermen.
However, little noticed are the herds of bison and tribes of indigenous peoples fleeing in front of American progress. Pioneers felled virgin forests, raped mountains with tunnels, tamed rivers with bridges, dikes and dams, desecrated the land with deep earth and open pit mines, ruined the scenery with highways, billboards and motels, polluted the air, water and earth with every kind of poison, and may now do the same for the “new frontier” — outer space.
We were a nation of can do, of bring it on, of let’s get it done, if anybody can do it, we can. Our Puritan ancestors in Plymouth would have starved to death if it had not been for the generosity of the native Americans, but once spring arrived, the slaughter, expulsion and genocide began. The colonies enslaved millions of Africans, won the War of Independence, conquered the wilds of the continent, seized Texas and California from Mexico, bought Alaska, annexed Hawaii and conquered Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and other Pacific Islands. We achieved dominion over our empire with railroads, canals, bridges, tunnels, interstate highways, telegraph, telephone, electrical lines, and air links. As well, we achieved global dominion by defeating England (twice), Mexico, Spain, Germany (twice), Japan, the USSR, and ISIS.
Queens residents wait in line to be tested for COVID-19 outside Elmhurst Hospital Center on March 25, 2020. In the last week of March, Elmhurst Hospital became the “center of the center” of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York as the state itself became an epicenter of the global pandemic.
This ruthless campaign to achieve dominion over nature reached its culmination following the Second World War when the editor of Life magazine, Henry Luce, announced in February 1941 the beginning of “The American Century.” Central to this new century, we covered the nation with utopian Levittowns and housing complexes, provided every kitchen, living room, and yard with every electrical and mechanical gadget imaginable, subdued the continent with Tennessee River Valley dams, Mississippi River dikes and bridges, tunnels under the Hudson River, airports at every city, a telephone in every home, and the network of the Interstate Highway System for millions of automobiles and trucks. The USA even added the words “In God We Trust” to our currency and “One Nation Under God” to our Pledge of Allegiance to celebrate our realization of the commands of Genesis 1:28.
The “Greatest Generation” created an American empire of 77 million Baby Boomers, sent millions to college, liberated women, gays, and blacks from centuries of oppression and set out to achieve dominion over the world. The American Century was becoming a reality.
American dominion over all that liveth
However, the American Century quickly came under attack. In May 1945, the armies of Stalin occupied Eastern Europe and, in 1949, Mao Zedong proclaimed the People’s Republic of China. America fought to a stalemate in the Korean War but defeat in Vietnam severely threatened the American Century. School shootings became commonplace, race riots, business bubbles bursting, stock market gyrations, financial scandals, dotcom and real estate bubbles, Wall Street corruption, political paralysis, 9/11, catastrophic foreign military adventures in Afghanistan. Even the political system seemed to be falling apart in the 2000 presidential election when the Supreme Court had to intervene in the Florida hanging chad mess.
President Trump swept a significant segment of the nation with his vision of an America restored to greatness. As with George W. Bush’s 2000 election, Trump lost the popular vote but mastered the murky mechanics of the Electoral College. He preached that he could halt the decline of the American Century.
Proclaiming “Make America Great Again,” Trump harnessed the party of Abraham Lincoln to his chariot, and convinced the Evangelical Christian Right that he was “a savior.” Unwilling to allow another nation to claim the new century as its own, he set out to keep China at bay. In 2017, he announced that the slogan for his 2020 campaign would no longer be “Make American Great Again,” but “Keep America Great.”
Then, suddenly out of the bowels of China, emerged an enemy that would threaten his restored American Empire. It was not a country, a race of people, a religion, a band of terrorists, or an army. It was an enemy that neither Trump nor the nation would be able to achieve dominion over, at least for the present, a tiny thing that liveth named COVID-19.
The government struggled to provide sufficient PPE — masks, gloves and gowns — to protect health workers. Ventilators to enable breathing for the worst affected were rationed. States battled other states and the federal government for access to protective gear and resources. The American economy plunged, unemployment skyrocketed to levels reminiscent of the Great Depression, and bodies were buried in mass graves on New York City’s Hart Island. Supermarkets lacked essentials, corner hucksters were price gouging on masks, restaurants and corner markets closed, factories ground to a halt, and homeless filled the streets and subway stations. The press highlighted the chaos, panic, confusion, and denial of reality.
After its initial beachhead in the State of Washington, the virus continued to spread like a medieval plague across the country, eventually occupying the Empire City, with ground zero being Queens, where President Trump was born and grew up. Elmhurst Hospital, blocks from this author’s home, saw a major part of the peak of up to 1,200 persons per day that died in the City. Walking past the hospital, it was obvious that even in New York City — the Empire City — COVID-19 was one thing that liveth that America could not achieve dominion over.
Washington feuded with governors; governors were at odds with mayors. Some evangelical pastors and ultra-orthodox rabbis chose to rely on divine protection rather than the advice of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Dr. Anthony Fauci of the NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases) called for social distancing and wearing of masks in public, while the President and most of his staff held press briefings without taking these precautions. Some people confronted police in support of an individual’s freedom to gather in groups without masks or social distancing. The bulk of e-mails I received from friends abroad asked the same question: “What the hell happened to the USA?”
Why was (and is) the American response so rudderless and ineffective? Why did the USA become by far the world’s worst victim of the virus?
The rise and fall of empires
Lockdowns, business closings, flight cancellations, faces hidden behind masks, social distancing, cancellation of church services, deserted springtime beaches, still factories, empty grocery shelves, silent highways, and shuttered schools did not jibe with the cherished twin beliefs in American Exceptionalism — the USA as a city on a hilltop and Manifest Destiny — and our fate to lead humanity to greatness. These twin convictions fueled the founding, rise and glory of the USA. Few Americans or residents of the planet believed that this great nation, which had achieved dominion over a continent and subdued the world, would be brought down by a tiny virus.
Have the ravages of COVID-19 proven that these American beliefs were American myths?
The American Century has come to a screeching halt. As the planet stumbles into the Third Millennium, will the United States be able to reconcile itself as just another, among many, nations? Will Americans be able to accept being part of a multi-polar world with China, the European Union, India, Russia, Brazil, and likely other global actors? Will COVID-19 be the force that brings the American Century to an end? Is our claim to exceptionalism an outdated myth? Has our quest for Manifest Destiny not only hit a stone wall but led the nation toward destruction? Will the country follow the path of all great empires to rise, flower and fall?♦
Dr. Ronald J. Brown is a professor of history, political science and ethnic studies at Touro College, and teaches courses in world religions at Unification Theological Seminary. A docent at the New York Historical Society with degrees from Harvard Divinity School, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the University of Geneva, he is author of A Religious History of Flushing, Queens; Into the Soul of African-American Harlem; and How New York Became the Empire City.
I would imagine that any essay on the Applied Unification blog might actually reference some sort of “applied unification” or Divine Principle perspectives and solutions with regard to the various narratives that Dr. Brown cites.
Regarding Genesis and the third blessing, Dr. Brown states, “The earth was to be subdued and all living things were to be dominated. This statement clearly pitted humans and nature in an adversarial relationship.” This is not(!) how Unificationists interpret that particular scripture. The Unificationist view advocates harmony with nature in a subject-object relationship with humankind being responsible co-creators and stewards of nature after having realized their portions of responsibility in the first two blessings. Dr. Brown’s view seems closer to Hegel and the French Nietzscheans (Foucault, Derrida, Lacan), than the Unification founders.
His view of the United States is also rooted in the aforementioned post-structuralists and progressives who foster the narrative that systemic racism is the progeny of predatory, white Europeans who came upon the New World and raped it, and then, utilizing that ill-gotten treasure, proceeded to pillage the rest of the world and the non-whites peacefully living there (a.k.a. colonialism and slavery).
However, there are other narratives that have credence. For example, the American colonialists fought for their independence from the British and established a Constitution based on civil liberties, equality and the idea of a government “of the people, for the people and by the people.” Another narrative is that the USA stood up against tyranny in World War II, Korea and in the Cold War. A fourth narrative is that the pilgrims came to the America seeking religious freedom, and fueled by that impulse laid a foundation of Christian belief to establish “the Second Israel” in preparation for the coming of the Lord of the Second Advent and his bride — True Parents. This comports with the idea of America being “the elder son nation.”
Actually, all these narratives have some merit, though not many outside the UC sphere will resonate with the forth narrative. British philosopher Isaiah Berlin refers to this as “value pluralism;” a situation in which several seemingly contradictory or conflicting ideas can be true.
And let’s be clear, COVID-19 did not only lay the USA low, but also China, Europe, Australia and parts of South America and Asia. As a result, many nations are re-thinking their relationship with the Marxist Chinese regime, especially with regard to trade, outsourcing labor and the sharing of technology. Have the ravages of COVID-19 also shredded the goals and intentions (and myths) of the CCP in Beijing? Probably.
As Unificationists we understand that “fallen nature” is not intrinsic to a particular culture or group. Political scientist Max Neiman reinforces that view:
“There was a time when Asia and the Near East were dominant and indulged in subjugation, slavery, and inflicted pillaging on other societies. It happened in Africa and South America as well. The process of rationalizing one’s advantages over others has been the practice since the beginning of time. Is the West’s and the U.S.’s time past. Perhaps. Will Asia, via China prevail? Probably. And then they’ll have their own justification for their supremacy. If the planet is around long enough the cycle will start all over again. Blame, self-worship, blame, and some more self-worship; Sanctimony and selective memory are universal practices.”
From a macro point of view fallen nature has made us blind to certain realities and historically there is a tendency to draw historical lines where it’s convenient in order to amass and assert power. If our intentions are to establish a culture of peace then understanding the scope of history from the providential viewpoint as articulated in the teachings of our founders needs to be more fully in the equation.
Thanks for your comments. I believe that the biblical idea of human domination over nature has strongly influenced the USA, more than other countries. It is the source of American manifest destiny and exceptionalism. While we are in the midst of a pandemic, and you are right about China and the rest of the world suffering from it, the abject failure of the USA to deal effectively to stop it undermines more than the global reputation of the USA. The very ideological foundations of the USA are weakened and I am convinced are a sign of the decline of the USA as a world power.
Please don’t be so pessimistic, Dr. Brown. A long time ago, in 1837, Ralph Waldo Emerson gave a most prophetic speech, “The American Scholar.” He asked Americans to create their own intellectual tradition, and he warned against a bland and naive belief in progress. He warned the Americans about the excess of Promethean hubris, and at the same time, he expressed his confidence that the young country would manage to overcome. The USA has had a very tormented history, tragedy has been around, blood, sweat and tears. But the fundamental spirit of America is good, it is an Abel-type nation, and it just needs to fix some Cain-Abel problems here and there.
If possible, would you kindly list two or three common aspects that made past empires collapse in your of view? And do you see some concrete steps the USA could/must take today in order to prevent its demise or shrinking into a regional power?
Thank you for a thought-provoking essay, and look forward to your response.
That is the million dollar question, and thousands of books have asked the question of why do empires rise, flower, and fall.
I view nationalism as a religion that holds the nation as its unique god. Confucianism is a perfect example of this. The USA was born with the belief that we are an exceptional nation, we are an instrument in the destiny of humanity, and our system is universal in application. When a nation loses its belief in itself, it then declines. President Trump clearly recognizes that the “American Century” has come to an end and the country has to renegotiate its role in the world. We are one (the major one) in a pluralistic world. Can Americans accept that our golden age of the American national religion has come to an end? England managed to confront the transition from world empire to just another European nation, but with great difficulty. The USSR abandoned its Marxist interpretation of Russia’s Third Rome national religion, but is now successfully restoring itself as a world power.
I agree — that without a providential viewpoint, the narrative slips into relativistic multiculturalism.
Our founder knew that America’s founding, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights all are part of God’s design. He acknowledged that even with “fallen nature” in human beings, God persisted to work with America as a beacon of “freedom” and purpose for the second coming. Dr. Brown’s narrative does not acknowledge the work of Marxists and anarchists to destroy American traditions of faith, family and freedom. That has been the goal of socialist parties in America for years– to weaken the strong points of American peoples and institutions so that they would succeed to divide Americans from each other. Yes, we are seeing the destruction from inside. Without Godism, united with peoples of faith and patriotic strength, America is prey to those not mentioned by Dr. Brown’s narrative, the peoples who do not want to build up America, but those who want to malign and crucify it.
The little virus has been serving us well in certain ways. It has given a captive audience to the callous murder of George Floyd by police who appeared totally unconcerned at the event as it happened. In my house, instead of one activist working for Black Lives Matters over the years, we suddenly have three, as the second generation seems to have found its purpose and vision.
Covid-19 has destroyed the economic system, and there is no clarity as to whether it can come back as it was before. In fact, it is so little mourned in the majority of communities in America that a replacement system seems just as likely these days. If you participated in the Poor People’s Campaign this weekend, you noticed that half the population is not benefiting from the current economic system, not even maintaining, let alone flourishing. Go back in this Blog a few weeks and you’ll find a much better system that I proposed, and mine is only one of many such.
In recent years, Native American thinking and culture has experienced a resurgence, and millions have seen the advantages of their Peace Circles for justice, and understood humanity’s identity as a part of nature, not as a conqueror of nature. This is the result of patience and strength on the part of those who have not been major beneficiaries of America’s past. The two sins of racism and annihilation of the indigenous people have come full circle, and we are forced now to deal with them.
Instead of looking at the future of the country, I think it is a good time to look at the future of the world as a whole, because we are a whole now. Retreating into our national boundaries and trying to go backwards to the illusory good old days isn’t working all that well for any country, including the U.S. Let’s not worry about who will be in charge, let’s see what we can do to encourage global community, with both feminine and masculine leadership working together to empower others.
Looking to the future of the USA is a challenge. I am giving a lecture series (via Zoom) at Long Island University’s famed Hutton House on visions of the future. For China, Brazil, India, and Russia, the future is full of promise. The USA is fearful when it looks to the future. That is the greatest danger facing the USA: Can Americans adapt to the new world where we are just one of several major powers?
I was left wondering at the time about the coincidence of the COVID-19 pandemic breaking in South Korea at the same time as the long-awaited 2020 event being celebrated at Cheong Pyeong. In fact, True Mother remarked at the time that not a single attendee at the celebration exhibited symptoms of the dreaded virus. So is the pandemic an attempt to chastise humankind one last time before the Kingdom of Heaven appears on the earth, teaching us all how to cooperate together for the common good, or will humankind once again fail, with many millions dying in the process.
There is a great literature on pandemics as punishments or warnings from God. Diseases are important in the Book of Revelation and one of the signs of the End Times.
Unfortunately, this has never proven true. The Black Plague was a great example. Many people “found” God during these times, but the end did not arrive. COVID-19 joins this long list of pandemics that arrive, but it could very well be followed by far more terrible ones in the future. Personally, I see bringing God into this as a form of emotional escapism.
With regard to Alison’s view regarding leadership, I think it’s quite relevant as to who will be our future leaders. We should seek leaders whose views comport with Headwing and Godism, and there seem to be precious few who are willing to take a stand for God-centered views regarding family, education, the arts, journalism, commerce, etc. The efforts of UPF, WFWP, ACLC and now WCLC are focused on finding those leaders who embrace the vision and ideals of our founders and then stand with us as allies.
Concerning Johann’s query about what might cause an empire to collapse I’m reminded of J.D. Unwin’s study of sexual morality. In 1934, anthropologist, J.D. Unwin, published his seminal book, Sex and Culture. In an attempt to examine the Freudian premise that “civilization is a byproduct of repressed sexuality,” Unwin studied 86 cultures and tribes going back thousands of years (Sumerians, Greeks, Romans, et. al.), and found that in every case when sexual mores were loosened, societies fell into moral decay and tended to dissipate.
As a liberal, Unwin was somewhat conflicted with his findings, but in the spirit of anthropological integrity published his results anyway. Not wanting to cast moral aspersions, he wrote: “I offer no opinion about the rightness or wrongness… In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence.”
Monogamy, according to Unwin’s research, has been the constant factor in the success and survival of all societies, regardless of their political, religious or cultural characteristics. His research corroborates St. Augustine’s contention that people and nations fail because they choose to love the wrong things.
Maestro Eaton pointed out one “finding” that a liberal researcher did not expect — but was honest enough to publish anyway (that a society can’t have tons of premarital sex or adultery and survive). Another surprise has been heralded by Canadian author Jordan Peterson: that societies which allow men and women freedom to pursue occupations unrestricted by gender stereotypes tend to show more male-female differences! This underscores the DP view that masculinity and femininity are God-given original natures.
I am grateful to Dr. Brown for addressing this issue of the Covid-19 in this Applied Unificationism blog. I just wish he could have talked more about it straight away.
Also, I do not agree with his pessimistic view of American history. I still believe in the narrative: the City on a Hill, the Manifest Destiny, from rags to riches, and the American Dream. People worldwide will continue to admire, love and respect the United States for a long time. Its institutions, its culture, its creativity, its values are unmatched, and a virus is not going to undermine that. The Statue of Liberty will not be sacked. I just wish that Viktor Frankl’s project of a statue of responsibiliy on the West Coast can be implemented.
We still don’t know clearly why this virus has spread and what the impact will be. A few things can be said about the cultural and political reactions to the virus, and how this seems to support the Providence.
1); Studies have showed that countries with female leaders in power did much better. This is clear in Germany (Angela Merkel), New Zealand (Jacinda Ardern), Taiwan (Tsai Ing-wen), Norway (Erna Solberg), Finland (Sanna Marin) and others. Belgium is the only exception. These succcessful women leaders absolutely refrained from any martial language of military metaphor, unlike the presidents of the USA or France. Some studies suggest that certain cultures are much more advanced than others in giving leadership positions to women. And in case of a crisis of public health, women do better. If this is confirmed, it will have a tremendous impact, probably much stronger than the Me Too movement. More and more populations will trust women to do a good job, and I rejoice, because this is in line with the Providence. I hope that the Unification movement will take notice of that.
2) The UN’s P5 showed a very bad example. Five nations monopolize the Security Council: the USA, UK, France, China, and Russia. The five of them have offered a very bad image to the rest of the world, in dealing with the virus. For years, True Parents advocated that we have to change the governance of the UN. China is trying to control the UN more and more, and there should be a strong oppostion to that. It would only be wise to change the structure of the UN. In light of the Covid 19 crisis, it is difficult to understand why Japan and Germany, with their culture of peace, their good governance, and good leadership during the crisis, are not given a seat at the UN. Africa is doing rather well also. They have been asking for a seat. The stubborn attitude of the P5 is blocking God’s Providence.
3) The Atlantic civilization is showing incredible weakness. France, UK, Spain, the USA, Brazil, all these former or present powers of the Atlantic civilization are not doing well. The Pacific Rim civilization is sending a message of good governance in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere. That is why the USA should be humble and try to learn from good practices from the rising sun. Most Americans are humble, I believe, and if they have opportunity to see with their own eyes, they will want to import good practices.
4) The excessive urbanization is a model to reconsider. Rev. Moon often recommended to return to nature, to work at home, if possible, study at home. The recent crisis can be a rehearsal for that.
It sometimes occurs to me that, in the cultural history of the United States, something may have been missing. There is no major American philosopher, or American philosophy.
Pragmatism and utilitarianism have dominated American Thought and surely William James and John Dewey are very important intellectuals. Dr. Lee appreciated those thinkers, as well as the empirical tradition imported from UK. Maybe Waldo Emerson was not powerful enough to become a real giant.
What America would have needed, I believe, is a critique of the modern times, in the Kantian sense. Someone should have praised modernity, the spirit of constant innovation, optimism, progress, looking into the future, but within certain limitations or boundaries. Right now, many voices are heard in the USA, but Americans cannot read fundamental texts to guide them, I believe. And the current thinking seems quite chaotic.
Next, and I think that this point appears in Dr. Brown’s article, we would need a Critique of the Puritan Reason, assessing the good points and not so good points of this tradition.
In the last days of the Roman Empire were Romans sitting around their living rooms analyzing why their empire rose, flourished, and fell? Nation-states and empires, as the paintings of Thomas Cole (The Course of Empire – 1836) have a life span like individuals. We can prolongue our lives and improve them, but decline and death are inevitable. Cole uses the course of the day and seasons as the backdrop of his paintings to stress this point.
What is fascinating about American history is the deep awareness that the American Empire will rise, flower, decline and fall. When George Washington declared New York the Empire City he knew well that a new empire was being born. Cole reminded Americans that it was but one in a succession of empires.
Thanks, Dr. Brown. You say, “In the last days of the Roman Empire were Romans sitting around their living rooms analyzing why their empire rose, flourished and fell?”
Well, one man, and not the least, did that. And not the last, either. His name was Augstine, and he wrote the City of God. The book was an answer to those who blamed Christianity for being the cause of the fall of the Roman Empire.
I have wondered why the Empire fell, in light of the Divine Principle teaching. Some Unificationists may think that the Roman Empire fell because of its moral decadence. But it is not easy to believe this. When Rome fell, Christianity had become a state religion and many citizens were baptized, on the way to become better persons. The Christian faith had taken roots in the former pagan empire. To blame moral decadence in this case is not correct, in my opinion.
If corruption and decadence were to have hit Rome, they could have acted much earlier, during the time of Nero. It is a paradox to see the hand of decadence working at precisely the moment when faith is triumphant.
We are to consider a more disturbing hypothesis. I have so many ideas about this. Maybe one day this blog will examine this question. Anyway, thank you for being back with us again in 2020, with your two recent articles. I was wondering where, on earth, was Dr. Brown? Thank God, you are here, commenting on our remarks.
A very interesting romp through American history. Unsurprisingly, many in the States will be reluctant to accept that their nation’s age of global dominance is coming to an end, but would rather maintain that the USA is still God’s own country with a leading role to play in an unfolding providential drama.
While Covid-19 might shine a light on historic fractures, the decline of the USA dates back well before the arrival of the virus. The need to “Make America Great Again” was already a tacit recognition of decline. Ironically, and perhaps this is much clearer to those living outside the US than inside, this slogan and the accompanying policies over the past four years have hastened the decline rather than reversed it.
For those who seek to interpret both current affairs and history through the prism of the Principle, consider this: a core plank of Reverend Moon’s teaching is sacrifice for the sake of others. However, recent US behavior has sent out the signal that it is time for America to batten down the hatches, look after number one, and withdraw from global cooperation. A void has emerged into which other powers with far less desirable political arrangements and freedoms of expression have happily expanded.
Graham Simon hits several nails on their heads.
As someone not living in the USA and as someone old enough to vividly remember the time when the overwhelming majority of people in Austria considered the USA as a force for good, it pains me to see some of the changes taking place in the USA, such as the decline in morals affecting many other countries throughout the world. At the same time, I see no other country in the world that could play the role of a moral, economic and military leader in the world anywhere near the standard the USA has done in the last century, despite its flaws and mistakes.
The world needs American leadership where the president will not only invoke God “to bless America” but “God bless the world”.
In a recent UPF webinar with former and current political leaders as speakers, one of them — when asked about future leading nations in the world — made the following statement: “The world needs leadership, and it will be the country that most genuinely considers and promotes the good of the entire world, that will be the natural leading nation/s in the world”. I thought that was quite a prophetic insight and shows that God is working actively in many ways with many people.
If you follow the succession of red baseball hats that Trump sported, you will note a very important evolution: #1 was “Make America Great Again;” #2 was “Keep America Great;” #3 was “USA;” and #4 is “Trump 2020.” In my view, these hats reflect decline. First, an electoral college win but losing the popular vote by the widest margin in history; economic warfare against China, Europe and NAFTA; racism against non-white underdeveloped countries and some Muslim states; mishandling of COVID-19; race riots (BLM), economic decline, and now raising doubt about the validity of the November election (e.g., mail-in ballots). The last is in a sense the most dangerous slogan because it implies only Trump can save the nation; he often repeats “I alone can fix it.” Putin just revised the Russian constitution (again) to assure another two decades of Putinism, until 2036.
Canada has a very similar standard of living, and a very similar culture in many ways, as the United States. Yet, Canada has handled the Covid 19 virus crisis much more efficiently than the USA, quantitatively but most of all, qualitatively. Isn’t there food for thought, there?
In Central America, Costa Rica has remarkably managed to cope with the virus. It would be interesting if Dr. Brown, who travels a lot, can explain these situations.
I believe that Trump believes in herd immunity as do the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Korea, and Mexico. But this is not a convenient thing to say. Once 70% of the population has immunity, the virus will die out. Europe and other countries prefer to isolate outbreaks, manage them, and pray that a vaccine will arrive soon. New York City adopted this approach. If a vaccine does not arrive or is ineffective, then NYC and Europe will be largely unprotected if the virus resurges.
It is interesting to observe what is now going on in the American South, from North Carolina through Texas. As millions of younger people dance, party and drink in clubs and bars, this is equivalent to officially encouraging the spread of the virus and accepting the deaths as necessary to achieve herd immunity. I find this approach is most strongly present among the evangelicals in North and South America and in some African countries.
As Laurent says, speaking of the lack of an Abel-type American philosopher, I have wondered why, after the efflorescence of Christian thinkers in the 1930s to 1950s, like Niebuhr, Tillich and Barth, there has been a drought of theologians since then. Sure there have been minor figures who championed special interests such as feminism, liberation theology, etc., but no major thinker who addressed the problems of Christianity as a whole. I have to think that the reason is that True Father came as God’s appointed thinker, and the Principle is the true Christian theology for the final stage of the Christian world, and especially for America, the representative Christian nation.
In short, the reason America is in a pickle is because Christianity didn’t receive True Parents. Christians are trying to promote America’s original manifest destiny to be a beacon of Christianity to the world, but without receiving True Parents, their doctrines are flawed. The result of these flaws are manifest in the mistakes of today, magnified by the Covid-19 virus.
Let me give two examples. In 1973 when True Father gave his speech “God’s Hope for America,” he said that America’s problem was selfish individualism. That was Dr. Pak’s translation; in the Korean original he said that America doesn’t understand subject-object relationships. So now we have the phenomena of people refusing to wear face masks amid the pandemic, claiming that it is an infringement on their freedom. Yet it’s been widely publicized by public health officials that the reason to wear masks is out of consideration for others whom you might infect, more than keeping yourself from being infected. If Christians knew the Principle, they would not act like that. They would put the protection of others ahead of their own personal freedom. They would understand that whole purpose precedes individual purpose. Instead, Christians are setting a bad example, and offending the conscience of secular people whose conscience tells them that we should put the health of others first.
Second, at Washington Monument, True Father taught that Americans should expand the concept of “one nation under God” to “one world under God.” Clearly, True Parents have followed through on that teaching, now creating Heavenly Parent’s Holy Community that encompasses the world. How can today’s American Christians continue to hold the superiority of Christianity and its culture over other religions and cultures? After all, Christianity has no monopoly on family values. Even in a secular nation like France, family values are highly prized. How then can God-loving people around the world approve of a Christian nation that draws lines to exclude cultures and religions — i.e., Muslims — from its circle of concern? Or an America that neglects the welfare of persecuted people of other nations by banning immigrants and asylum seekers?
The standard of the Principle is higher than the standard of Christianity without True Parents. Unless America receives True Parents and comes to understand the Principle, then, as Dr. Brown writes, it may well face an inexorable decline. We can only hope that America can rise to the occasion.
I don’t agree with a number of points. To blame Christians for not wearing masks is a ludicrous view. And, a more humble view would take responsibility for what wasn’t done by our organizations.
We, in our church organizations, are just as responsible for the decline. Our Founder asked our organizations “to get involved in the political process….and support family values party candidates…. All blessed families should be involved with the political process…or you will decline (SMM, EG, 9/2008).” He also asked UTS Faculty, Ph. D.’s and graduates to “go out to 3,000 college campuses on weekends and when not teaching….” to teach DP/UT/family values (SMM, “Speech to UTS Faculty,” 1994).
The goal of progressivism is the downfall of Christianity and America. The claims of victimhood mask the intentions of these groups as we are seeing in present-day society. For an overall history of the agenda of Marxist progressives with radical Islamists, see the videos of award-winning filmmaker, Curtis Bowers, which are on YouTube.
Whether we agree with him or not, Dr. Andrew Wilson has raised a key question, the question of freedom and its common perception in the Western world. It certainly remains a central issue in the Covid 19 virus crisis.
German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer insisted that, “Freedom is not a possession, a presence, an object, nor is it a form of existence, but a relationship and nothing else. In truth, freedom is a relationship between two persons. Being free means “being free for the other,” because the other has bound me to him. Only in relationship with the other am I free.”
Simlarly, speaking about Family Pledge 4, Father often told us that there is hardly any freedom where there is no unity.
We also need the help of sociology. In his interesting book, The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why (2003), social psychologist Richard Nisbett helps us meditate on the following experience: a sample group of Western students was asked to watch a picture of an aquarium with a big fish in it and small fish. The same picture was showed to a sample group of Asian students.
What did you see? the two groups were then asked
– We saw a big fish, answered the majority of the Western group
– We saw an aquarium, answered the Asian group
Finally, I would ask my friends from the USA one more time, to look at their northern neighbor, Canada. Why, do you think, Canada is more successful in dealing with the virus? And looking south, why is Costa Rica so exemplary, dealing with Covid 19, compared to its neighbors?
In one of the online tutorials the church is now offering, one experienced lecturer noted that the Spanish flu ravaged the world just before the Messiah was born in 1920. He then went on to note that the current pandemic occurred just before the 2020 events at Cheong Pyeong, stating that could only mean the kingdom of Heaven must be right around the corner. He said this with an air of great confidence. Has any one else heard this theory, connecting the pandemic to 2020 and the coming Kingdom?
Thank you, Stephen, for bringing this to our attention. In my understanding of the Principle, especially Predestination, I think we should handle these signs, phenomena, whatever, with care. Please also remember our philosophy of eschatology. Ours is a spirituality which puts disasters aside. Even the apocalyptic world wars could have turned different. It is all about human responsibility.
What matters is the human response to God’s words. Disasters, I believe, can only serve as “accidents.” In Luke 13, Jesus is asked by his disciples what to think about tragedies and accidents which just took place (the Tower of Siloam and miscelaneous). If you read his answer, I guess you can understand what he might say about the current pandemics.
True Mother has above all asked us to behave as responsible citizens and to organize our activities differently. The most successful governments are those who took the pandemics seriously, but did not panic, mostly relying on civic virtues and a sense of responsibility.
An interesting analysis was released in a document published by the Deep Knowledge Group. It is entitled:
“COVID-19 Regional Safety Assessment: Big Data Analysis of 200 Countries and Regions COVID-19 Safety Ranking and Risk Assessment”
The 250 page report offers a ranking of 200 countries in their efficiency to deal with the coronavirus. Switzerland, Germany and Israel form the Top 3 of this list. Canada ranks 12, and the USA 58. More interesting than the ranking, that some people will inevitably find biased, is the following explanation given by the authors, on p. 30 of the report. Whether we accept this verdict or not, it is interesting to just read it:
“The United States is (…) interesting (…) in that it has a high degree of healthcare sophistication, strong technologies for monitoring and protection, and the capacity to employ and enforce strict lockdown and social distancing measures. Despite this, it has one of the highest infection spread and mortality rates in the world, and for this reason is placed in Tier 3 (reserved for regions which ranked significantly lower-than-expected in terms of regional safety). Considering its assets and capacity for government management efficiency, emergency preparedness, monitoring and detection, and healthcare readiness, the central factor impacting its current situation and its specific ranking are the specific policies and crisis management strategies that its federal and state-level governments have deployed. The US imposed lockdown measures and testing fairly late in the overall pandemic timeline, and the country is already relaxing its states’ economic freezing and quarantine mandates as infection spread and mortality rates continue rise.”
“Canada, by contrast, has been much slower to relax its lockdown and social distancing mandates, and to re-open its economy. This, combined with the fact that its overall death rate and infection spread rate are on the downward trend, and its comparatively positive scores over all 6 categories included in the present analysis, are some of the factors indicating its exceptionally high regional safety score, and it position as one of the 20 countries and territories located in Tier 1.”