Cal Thomas, author and columnist, posed a question recently that intrigues me. He asked, “If there were a chance that America’s values and prestige would collapse around the Fourth of July in 2026, what would that change about the way Americans interact?” This question reminds me of a similar question asked of individuals, “If you knew that today would be your last day on earth, what would you do today?”
Thomas posed his question in a presentation titled “America’s Expiration Date” at The Heritage Foundation. His presentation on February 6, 2020, was based on his book of the same title. The foundation of his book is built on the fact that “eight of the greatest empires in world history” declined “after about 250 years in power.” America declared independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776, so it will begin its “theoretical decline by about 2016” if it follows the same pattern as the eight empires.
In his book Thomas examines the history of the former superpowers, such as the Roman, Persian, Ottoman, and British empires. “While many like to comfort themselves that America is different, or even uniquely blessed by God, there’s no proof that we will escape the fate of other nations that one time believed the same about themselves.”
Thomas identified some markers that identify America as a nation in danger of decline. He listed “the casual devaluation of human life” and called it “One of the most disturbing of those markers.” He cited “the large number of abortions” daily and “the daily deadly shootings in the inner cities.”
Thomas stated three steps for rebuilding morality in our nation: (1) “focus on forming the next generation, especially by removing them from public schools and liberal institutions of higher education,” (2) “encourage people to look at government welfare programs ‘as a last resource, not a first resource,’ especially by encouraging saving,” and (3) “talk to their friends and neighbors about important issues in order to close the partisan gaps in public discourse and to combat the power of the left-leaning mainstream media.” Thomas is not the only one concerned about the moral state of America.
Blogger Charles Pope discussed “The Eight Stages of the Rise and Fall of Civilizations” in his essay posted in October 2016. “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 Ted Flynn’s book The Great Transformation. They provide a great deal of perspective to what we are currently experiencing.” The eight stages discussed above follow with the names from Tyler’s book in bold and Pope’s comments in regular print.
1. From bondage to spiritual growth – Great civilizations are formed in the crucible. The Ancient Jews were in bondage for 400 years in Egypt…. 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….
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….
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….
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….
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….
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….
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….
This list of eight stages to the rise and fall of empires looks a whole lot to me like the pride cycle as found in the both the Bible and the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ. A simplified version of the pride cycle is as follows: Blessing and Prosperity leads to Pride and Sin, which leads to Chastening, which leads to Humility and Repentance, which leads to Blessing and Prosperity and the cycle begins again. It is important to note that no civilization is forced to follow the entire cycle. Individuals and groups of people can “check” their pride by humbling themselves and repenting without going through the chastening.
Two great civilizations in Ancient America fell into the pride cycle and destroyed themselves. The Jaredites came from the Tower of Babel (2242 B.C.) and became a thriving and prospering nation. However, they went through numerous pride cycles until they literally destroyed themselves. The second group is the Nephites. Lehi and his family left Jerusalem in 600 B.C. and later split into the Nephites and Lamanites because of pride and wickedness. Both groups went through numerous pride cycles until the Lamanites destroyed the Nephites about 420 A.D.
America is following in some of the same steps as other great civilizations of the world. However, America has a Constitution that was inspired by the Lord and written by wise men raised up by the Lord to establish this nation. I have no doubts that America will go through some difficult times because of corruption and wickedness, but I believe that America will be saved by adhering to its Constitution. This nation will be saved by the prayers of righteous people who will protect and preserve the Constitution.