Cross posted at http://www.tips-q.com/content/did-gays-cause-roman-empire-fall
This urban legend didn’t originate with Sally Kern who said that “every civilization that embraced homosexuality has fallen.” I know this because she lacks the wit to pose such an argument. The failure of the Roman Empire has been frequent fodder for the right wing blogs and their drooling, gap-toothed commenters. The other day, over at Christian Post, some incurious would-be-Palin opined that it was the perversion of homosexuality and the erosion of traditional marriage that caused Rome to fall. Gasp.
Apparently, there is a dead spot within the Evangelical echo chamber because I keep seeing some dimwit assert “you really should read The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire.” Presumably, he or she read about it in some moronic right wing blog because he or she is probably referring to Gibbons’ History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire written in 1776. Gibbons had two primary theories to explain the decline of Rome. The first is a decline in civic virtue. The second is the rise of Christianity. It’s just astonishing that the Evangelicals seem to forget about the second part.
Gibbons’ reference to “civic virtue” describes a cultural impetus to work for the common good. The classical definition of civic virtue is derived from the works of Plato who saw it as a universal moral code. Plato’s notion of morality had nothing to do with sex. His concerns were things like the evils of war, injustice and tyranny. I’ll skip the obligatory reference to Machiavelli and “virtu” and get right to the good stuff.
The second part of Gibbons’ theory is that Christianity was a direct cause of the fall of the Roman empire because it promised a better life after death. Gibbons argues that this created a lack of concern for the present and a coincident decline in societal productivity and, of course, civic virtue.
Today, this theory doesn’t exactly say much for those crackpots carrying “The End is Near” signs.
For the record, scholars like Toynbee and Bury generally blame over-extension which caused the Roman army to be comprised, in the majority, by non-Romans (mostly, Germanic barbarians) and slavery. Slavery because it prevented the development of a robust middle class which is essential for a society to thrive.
So what have we learned from this exercise?
- Evangelicals are going to blame us for just about anything and everything and;
- Evangelicals have turned selective observation into an art form and;
- Incurious Evangelicals depend upon other incurious Evangelicals for erudition without researching the original material and;
- Sally Kern has never had an idea that wasn’t pulled out of her ass.