Why Moral Decline Matters
Why do nations fall? The greatest empires of the past, down to the last one, have each collapsed. Why? Is every civilization destined to decline and fall? Or is such a catastrophic disaster the effect of a specific cause?
Historians attribute the collapse of various civilizations to disease, climate change, demographics, political corruption, mass immigration, economic stagnation, inferior technology and/or foreign invasion. But are weapons, applied sciences and jobs the way to make a civilization invincible? Many people today apparently think so.
Could America fall? Could Britain fall? Or are our societies too modern, too sophisticated, too enlightened for such a cataclysm?
The longest-standing and most consistent forecast the Trumpet has made since Volume 1, Issue 2, in June 1990, has been that America and Britain will fall, and that the fundamental cause will not be birth rates, weather phenomena, superbug epidemics, gross domestic product or carrier strike groups.
Fundamentally, it will be because of failed morals.
America and Britain’s Moral History
In the early modern period, the U.S. and Britain were growing in power on the world scene. Against that backdrop, many great statesmen debated the root cause behind the rise and fall of empires.
A year before the U.S. Constitution was ratified, Edward Gibbon published the final volume of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon identified five major causes behind the fall of one of history’s greatest empires. Declining demographics didn’t make the list. Nor did insufficient technology or climate change. His first fundamental factor was the breakdown of the family. Then he listed increased taxation, an insatiable craving for pleasure, an unsustainable buildup of armaments, and the decay of religion.
According to Gibbon, the root cause of Roman societal collapse was their loss of civic virtue and individual morality. Gibbon believed the laws of morality were as unchanging as the laws of mathematics and physics.
English statesman Edmund Burke, a colleague of Gibbon’s, is often called the father of modern conservatism. He summarized his beliefs about morality in a letter to the sheriffs of Bristol in 1777: “All who have ever written on government are unanimous, that among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist.”
The first president of the United States was also familiar with Gibbon. George Washington owned a copy of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. In his famous farewell address, Washington said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
Gibbon, Burke and Washington believed that the safeguards of society were not military legions or productive merchants or prosperous consumers but high morals and sincere religion. Yet most politicians and educators today reject this belief. They say that what people do in the privacy of their own homes has no connection to national security.
The Trumpet newsmagazine and its predecessor, the Plain Truth, have published since 1934 that Britain and America will experience a collapse more devastating than the fall of Rome. This is because these nations have rejected the foundation of national stability: the laws of morality.
Religion and Morality
During the sexual revolution of the 1960s, a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States said it was impossible to define character. That was a radical departure from what prior generations believed: They knew what character meant. It meant things like honoring your parents, not murdering, not stealing, not lying, not coveting and not committing adultery.
In short, it meant keeping the Ten Commandments, the laws of the Bible.
There is a cause for every effect. The 10 laws outlined in these commandments cause political prosperity. At least, that is what America’s second president believed. John Adams wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, “The Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount contain my religion.”
During the 18th century, the United States and British Empire were, generally speaking, religious. Of course, the people of these rising powers were full of failures, flaws and vices. Lying, coveting, stealing, killing and every other sin could be found among them. But the society as a whole held its citizens, its families and its leaders to a high moral standard—the moral standard of the Holy Bible. And many of them believed that only if a majority of their families were God-fearing, obedient and faithful could their nations survive.
In The Character of Nations, Angelo Codevilla wrote that there was a strong tendency among early Americans “to equate themselves with the children of Israel.” That is why they studied the Bible. That is why they sought to obey the Ten Commandments. That is why their children learned the histories of when ancient Israel turned to sin and suffered invasion, and when it turned to God and was liberated. Nowhere else in the world was the notion of God as moral lawgiver so widespread. Early America and Britain believed national greatness depended on ethical and moral behavior.
Throughout the English-speaking world, families were organized with each member fulfilling his or her natural role. The father was the head of the family, the provider and protector. A wife respected her husband’s authority, took pride in her role as helper, and excelled at managing the household. Society viewed the wife’s role as complementary to the husband’s. Together, a husband and wife formed a complete team—a well-organized family in which children could be responsibly reared.
Alexis de Tocqueville studied America in depth and concluded with this remarkable assessment of the American family: “As for myself, I do not hesitate to avow that although the women of the United States are confined within the narrow circle of domestic life, and their situation is in some respects one of extreme dependence, I have nowhere seen woman occupying a loftier position; and if I were asked, now that I am drawing to the close of this work, in which I have spoken of so many important things done by the Americans, to what the singular prosperity and growing strength of that people ought mainly to be attributed, I should reply: To the superiority of their women.”
Whether they realized it or not, the families of the English-speaking nations were patterned after the commands of the Holy Bible.
This strong family structure produced virtuous children. These children grew up to be good fathers, mothers, teachers, ministers, judges, engineers, orators and statesmen.
Policymakers understood the connection between family breakdown and societal problems like alcoholism, drug addiction, welfare addiction, juvenile delinquency and violent crime. They believed the Bible when it claimed that only nations that obey the moral laws of God are blessed.
Around the turn of the 20th century, educators in the United States and the British Commonwealth began rejecting the idea that laws of morality are eternal and unchanging. As the evolutionary hypothesis took root in the public conscience, people came to believe that what was right in the past may not be right today.
Commandments like “honor your father and mother” and “thou shalt not commit adultery” began to sound old-fashioned. People abandoned the absolute morality of Moses and Jesus Christ. They embraced the evolving morality of Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud.
The moral landscape of today’s world is now utterly transformed.
Before 1912, an estimated 80 percent-plus of brides entered marriage as virgins. Today, only about 3 percent wait until marriage to have sex. Even among religious people, this figure is only about 20 percent. Two thirds of those living in the U.S. and Britain do not even consider fornication to be wrong.
Many people celebrate such statistics as a cultural victory. But widespread acceptance of premarital sex led to epidemic levels of out-of-wedlock childbirths. In colonial Massachusetts, only 1 out of every 200 babies was conceived out of wedlock. In modern America, 40 percent of babies are born to single women. In Britain, if current trends continue, by 2025 the majority of babies will be born out of wedlock.
Such fracturing of families is the inevitable consequence of breaking the Ten Commandments.
The growing acceptance of pornography and premarital sex has undermined marriages that once bound families together. This has fueled the rapid increase in divorce. In 1890, there was one divorce for every 18 marriages in the U.S. Today the number is one divorce for every 2½ marriages. In England and Wales, there is an average of 13 divorces every hour. To paraphrase the ancient Roman statesman Seneca, people “divorce in order to remarry. They marry in order to divorce.”
The result? One third of American children grow up without their biological father. Britain has the highest proportion of children brought up in one-parent families of any major European country.
People can argue that these children are no worse off. But the facts prove otherwise. Children who grow up without a father figure are four times likelier to be poor, nine times likelier to drop out of school, 11 times likelier to commit violent crimes, and 20 times likelier to be arrested. There is a direct link between the fracturing of families and major societal problems (infographic). It is no coincidence that the per capita rate of violent crime has doubled in the United States since 1960, and the percentage of Americans living in a home that receives some form of means-tested welfare has also doubled.
According to projections by the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, rising entitlement spending and interest on the national debt will consume 99 percent of all tax revenues within the coming decade. This means the nation’s entire discretionary-spending budget will be financed by debt.
Financial historian Niall Ferguson has warned that empires usually disintegrate when the costs of paying their debt exceeds the cost of defending their borders. This was true of Rome. More recently, it was true of the Soviet Union.
To quote John Adams, “The foundations of national morality must be laid in private families.”
It takes strong families to produce upstanding citizens capable of providing for themselves. When a nation begins to look instead to its government to provide, it is on a path to societal collapse. Family breakdown brought Rome’s fall. It is bringing about the fall of Britain and America today.
In Gibbon’s time, the United States and British Empire had laws against homosexual behavior. In fact, Gibbon noted that Rome’s cultural acceptance of sodomy and sexual debauchery was a key factor in the destruction of its family life.
Sodomy was regarded as the last symptoms of a dying culture. The 1833 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica refers to it as “the nameless crime, which was the disgrace of Greek and Roman civilization.” Today such a statement is simply derided as bigotry, regardless of whether or not it is true.
Noah Webster is often called the father of American scholarship and education. In the first edition of his famous Webster’s Dictionary, he defined sodomy as “a crime against nature.” Before 1962, every American state considered sodomy a felony. And before 1973, the American Psychological Association considered homosexuality a mental disorder.
But in the 1970s, public opposition to homosexuality in America and Britain began to melt away.
As society embraced the notion that morality is subjective, evolutionary philosophers spread the idea that fornication, adultery, homosexuality and even pedophilia were not evil. They were natural results of the evolutionary process.
Without masculine fathers and feminine mothers to teach children about sex roles, gender confusion reached a new height in 2014. That was the year the British Parliament legalized homosexual “marriage.” The U.S. Supreme Court followed suit a year later.
These changes signaled a new era: an era where marriage was not defined as a divinely sanctioned partnership between a man and a woman; an era where marriage could be defined as any sexual relationship between consenting partners.
Instead of viewing homosexuality as a sin, the majority in the U.S. and Britain now consider homosexuality a right.
Some go even further and assert that it is the traditional family that is harmful—that its very structure is a type of slavery of women and children.
Broken homes and illegitimate children are now so common that it is considered insensitive to even suggest that such individuals may be disadvantaged.
Rather than accepting the notion that society is falling short of the biblical standard, society has changed the standard. The virtually unanimous failure to follow the scriptural formula for family success has resulted in a redefinition of marriage and family. (For more information on this trend, request a free copy of our booklet Redefining Family.)
Today, most people reject the law of cause and effect. They think society can discard marriage and family and not suffer any consequences. But both the Bible and secular history show what the fruits of family breakdown are—and will be!
Blessings and Curses
Since June 1990, the Trumpet has forecast that America and Britain will experience a collapse more devastating than Rome’s.
The Plain Truth made the same bold forecast from its inception in 1934. The rationale underlying the forecast is that both the Americans and British have turned away from God’s standard of morality.
Great historians like Edward Gibbon knew that family breakdown and moral decay led to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. But even Gibbon didn’t understand that the American and British peoples have a history with God’s law that began long before the founding of Rome.
There was a tendency among 18th-century Americans to equate themselves with the children of Israel. Plain Truth founder Herbert W. Armstrong proved in The United States and Britain in Prophecy that the people who settled Britain and America literally are the descendants of ancient Israel.
The Bible says that after mankind turned away from God’s inexorable laws of morality, God called and founded the nation of Israel. He gave this people His laws so they could be an example to all other nations. Through their actions, the Israelites would prove that blessings come from obedience to God’s laws, and curses come from disobedience.
In the May-June 1938 Plain Truth, Mr. Armstrong wrote: “At Mount Sinai God made Israel a proposition. If they would obey His voice and keep His commandments (Exodus 19:5-6)—that is, build a civilization based on the principles of God’s fundamental spiritual law—on the principles of love to God and love to neighbor—the principle of give, instead of the selfish human principle of get—then God agreed to give them prosperity and power to dominate the world—‘above all nations.’”
The ancient Israelites were blessed when they obeyed “the principles of God’s fundamental spiritual law” during the days of King David and King Solomon. This national greatness would have continued—but then the people spurned God’s principles of moral living. As a result, their society collapsed. The Assyrian Empire carried away the Israelites as slaves in 718 b.c. After Israel’s fall, other Gentile kingdoms like Rome rose to greatness.
Yet God had promised the Israelites that He would restore them to greatness after they experienced 2,520 years of punishment. (This prophecy is explained in Chapter 10 of The United States and Britain in Prophecy. Request a free copy.)
In the September 1966 Plain Truth, Mr. Armstrong wrote: “The first beginning of Shalmaneser’s siege against ancient Israel was 721 b.c. The defeat of Israel was complete in 718 b.c.; 2,520 years from 721 b.c. is the year a.d. 1800, and 2,520 years from 718 b.c. is a.d. 1803. Now you know why Britain and the United States suddenly spurted from minor nations to the greatest wealth and power ever enjoyed by any nations, beginning 1800–1803!”
Those who settled in the United States and Britain learned from hard experience that obedience to God’s law is a prerequisite of national greatness. But their children soon forgot. In the April-May 1976 Plain Truth, Mr. Armstrong wrote, “What have we done with these multitudes of national and individual blessings, which actually were the gift of the living God? God did not promise to continue the blessings if we rebelled. We have been rebellious and unwilling to yield to our God and His ways, which would have guaranteed lasting peace and prosperity. We have become arrogant and selfish. We have polluted the fertile lands the living God gave us. We have polluted the air, the rivers, lakes and oceans. We have polluted our own minds and those of our children—teaching the anti-God fable of evolution. We have given public acceptance to the misnamed ‘new morality,’ which is gross immorality! We have given public acceptance to homosexuality, premarital sex and perversion. We have polluted the sacred institution of marriage, and through a constantly increasing divorce rate, we have started on a course of destroying the home and family relationship—the foundation of any stable society.”
It should be clear to anyone who believes the lessons of ancient history that moral decay has set America and Britain on the path to societal collapse.
But biblical prophecy makes even clearer that this is the inevitable outcome of our current immoral course.
Prophesied to Happen
The Bible plainly reveals that God has set spiritual and physical laws in motion. At present, God is allowing humans to develop their own ways of living, which are contrary to His laws. He has been allowing us to reap the natural consequences that result from those ways. But the Scriptures record that God has begun to intervene and punish modern-day Israel with seven times more intensity of punishment on us.
Leviticus 26 is called the blessings and curses chapter. It prophesies what will happen to the nations of Israel—primarily America and Britain today: If they obeyed God’s laws, blessings; and if they disobeyed, curses.
“But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments … I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you” (verses 14, 17). Yes, the great God actually said He would “set [His] face against” our nations for our rebellion!
“And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. And I will break the pride of your power” (verses 18-19). If we disobey, God promises to break the pride of our power. Though we have enjoyed tremendous national power, our will has been broken, just as God promised!
Look at the history of ancient Israel, and you see that our nations today are following the same course.
The Prophet Isaiah wrote that the morality of the ancient Israelites deteriorated to the point where they were actually proud of their sins. They “declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not” (Isaiah 3:9). Sadly, you could hardly find a more apt way to describe society today.
Hosea, one of Isaiah’s contemporaries, wrote that God had “a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.” Instead, Israel was full of “swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery.” Violence filled the nation, until “blood toucheth blood.” Because of this ghastly state, God decreed that the land shall mourn, and all who dwelled “therein shall languish” (Hosea 4:1-3). Hosea prophesied that because the Israelites refused “to turn unto their God,” they would “fall in their iniquity” (Hosea 5:1-5).
The prophecies of Isaiah and Hosea, like all the other minor and major prophets, focus primarily on “the latter days” (Hosea 3:5). God, the master sociologist, foretold that the end-time descendants of the Israelites would once again rebel against His moral laws and would suffer the same consequences as their ancestors.
Anciently, after the Israelites’ morals declined to the point of societal meltdown, God allowed the Assyrian Empire to take them away captive! Many prophecies show that the same fate awaits our nations in this end time! God will again allow a foreign nation to punish the peoples of America and Britain because of our many sins.
This severe punishment is simply the correction needed to teach people the error of sin, and to lead them toward living the way of life that brings blessings, instead of terrible curses. Once modern-day Britons and Americans have their wealth, prosperity, land and everything they possess taken from them, they will at last cry out to God for mercy and deliverance!
God told the Prophet Jeremiah that the day would come when He would “bring again the captivity of my people Israel” (Jeremiah 30:3). This prophecy isn’t about Israel’s ancient captivity, which had already occurred by that point. It is about an end-time captivity, called “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (verse 7). Jacob was the father of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Yet even as God uttered these words to Jeremiah, He mercifully prophesied of a subsequent time when He would cause the Israelites “to return to the land that I gave to their fathers” (verse 3).
“Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither,” God declares in Jeremiah 31:8-9.”They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.”
God will gather the outcasts from these nations like a shepherd gathers his flock (verse 10), showering them with blessings (verses 12-17), and establishing His New Covenant with them (verses 31-34). God promises to restore prosperity to America and Britain, and to make them a positive example. But first, they must learn that any society without God’s sacred moral code to govern the actions of individuals cannot stand!