commentary: Fiddling While America Burns
Apathy To Imminent Destruction
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Given 20-Mar-10; Sermon #982c; 14 minutes
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the spurious story of Nero's fiddling while Rome burned, compares the attitudes of our own citizenry, watching March madness, while the economic future of this country goes up in flames. The leadership of the Democrat party is willing to sacrifice their futures for Marxist, progressive big government statism. Sadly 32% of the rank and file Democrats really believe in this collectivist nightmare, while the rest glom onto the personality of President Obama. We see signs of apathy everywhere. Jeremiah lived in similar times as we do now, when the country was already too far gone to rescue. The leaders have destroyed this nation and the people are powerless to do anything about it.
There is a legend that in 64 AD, while a large part of Rome was burning to the ground, the Emperor Nero fiddled while the conflagration raged. The story goes that Nero, already quite insane by this point, started a fire near the Imperial Palace, then climbed to the top of the Tower of Maecenas, where he gleefully played his fiddle, sang arias from his own terrible operas, and watched the city be reduced to cinders.
It is true that Nero fancied himself a poet and musician. He often summoned crowds of "loyal" Romans, supposedly—they were actually reluctant audiences—to attend recitals of his compositions. However, according to the contemporary historian Tacitus, the fire that destroyed Rome could not possibly have been set by the Emperor, because, at the time, the Emperor Nero was 30 miles away at his villa in Antium. So, there goes that historical rumor. Besides, the violin was not even invented until the sixteenth century, so he couldn't have been fiddling a violin, although in some versions of the tale, Nero plays a lute or lyre. (He probably was a liar.)
I mention this historical rumor because it parallels the way much of the American public is behaving right now, while the country’s freedom is at stake. True, the congressional switchboard (I heard) is receiving 100,000 calls an hour on this healthcare bill, and others are gathering for Tea Parties and various protests in the streets—but while those people are an active minority, the bulk of the populace is contentedly watching March Madness. That is pretty much all they care about.
Perhaps there is a bit of frustration on my part since we in the church are citizens of a heavenly country and cannot participate in this process. So here we are, watching what is going on, wanting to help somehow, but we can't. We just have to wait and watch and see and pray, of course. That is not to say I want to plunge into the mud with the pigs—which, getting involved in politics is basically like—but when I see things crumbling around me, I want to do something to stop it and turn it around. But in this case, there is really nothing we can do except be interested observers, and watch this grandiose fall take place.
I sincerely hope that Congress flushes this healthcare bill down the toilet where it belongs—all 3,000 pages of it. (Can you imagine the clog in that plumbing system?) But even though the Democrats do not seem to have enough votes to pass this monstrous bill, the leadership is willing to do anything—give anything away; make any kind of promise—in order to get this passed. It start right at the very top: Obama, Pelosi, Reid, and all the way down, the Democratic leadership are willing to face the opprobrium, the displeasure, of the American public. They are willing to lose their own positions—Obama has already talked about being a great one-term President; Pelosi knows that in November she is likely not going to be Speaker of the House, if this thing goes through. I could see the swing happening very easily. But they are willing to lose all that to make Obamacare the law of the land. What they want to happen as a result of this—essentially, big government socialism or statism with the elites in charge—is bigger than any individual politician. They are willing to sacrifice themselves in order to get this through, so that America and American government will be fundamentally altered (for the worse).
They don't look at it, though, as if it is the worse. What is truly scary is that they truly believe that this is the right thing to do for America! Last time I spoke, I said, "Let's just say they are sincere." They are sincere! They believe that this is the best thing for us to do. They want America to join the rest of the "advanced" nations of the world, like some of the European socialist countries, so that we can "take care" of the people (and they can accrue all the power to themselves).
Even scarier to me is the fact that about 36% of Americans support Obama-scare! It is hard to imagine—thinking about America and its history—that these people really know what the bill contains. I really believe that most of them are ignorant about it. It is hard to imagine that they have really thought about what it means for the nation, and what the result will be for the nation. My guess is that only a small portion of this 36% is truly in favor of the bill on its supposed merits. They are the true, dyed-in-the-wool pinks or reds that believe this is the way to go. The rest of the 36% support it either out of party loyalty or out of support for the cult of personality that has glomed onto Obama.
Perhaps it is merely soft-headed do-goodism without regard for consequences. They just think that if they are going to held all these needy people, it is a good thing. But, as I have mentioned before, and many other people have also said, you know where that road leads.
Just think about it. Adding $1 trillion to the debt at a time of great recession is the height of irresponsibility. Real unemployment at this moment resides in the double digits, and there is no coming back from that for a long time. inflation is creeping up, despite the efforts of the Federal Reserve. Of course, all they is doing is making money and making inflation all that much worse. America’s “good” credit rating is endangered. That was big news just this week or so. There are rumbles of new trade wars on the horizons. David and I were talking about this just the other day, because of some of the policies that Obama is thinking of putting into effect. The nations are losing faith in the dollar as a reserve currency. They don't want the Euro either; now they are talking about inventing a new currency that the IMF will control. It is not a good time.
And with all this going on, too many Americans go blithely on as if this were a tempest in a teapot and nothing more! As if this is just a bump in the road, and we are going to get over this, and it will be sunny skies forever. We are seeing signs of American apathy everywhere. We are just too busy, doing our own thing, whatever that happens to be.
Right well did Jesus castigate the Jews for failing to see the signs of the times! The same could be said for Americans today.
Please turn to Jeremiah 12. The reason I came here is because Jeremiah lived at a time of the end. He was facing similar frustrations to what we feel. He was a prophet; he had a hand in at least warning people about all this. But things were already too far gone, so he just had to watch. Much of the early part of Jeremiah is a series of complaints by the prophet to God: "Why are these things happening? Why have you you put me in here? I am just a young man! I cannot do anything. Look how this beautiful country is falling into ruins."
Here is what he says in chapter 12:
Jeremiah 12:1-2 Righteous are You, O LORD, when I plead with You; yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. [He is saying, "Let's discuss what is going on here, God, and what you are doing with this country."] Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? You have planted them, yes, they have taken root; they grow, yes, they bear fruit. You are near in their mouth but far from their mind.
These people talk a good fight! They say they are the people of God. "This is a Christian nation! We are doing what God wants! We are doing God's work! We are going out and being missionaries to the rest of the world. We give billions of dollars!" But he says God is far from their minds. They really do not think about Him; it is all just 'trappings.'
Jeremiah 12:3-4 But You, O LORD, know me; You have seen me, and You have tested my heart toward You. [He is saying, "You know my character and where I stand in all this."] Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and prepare them for the day of slaughter. [He is saying, "I am with you. I understand."] How long [though] will the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither? The beasts and birds are consumed, for the wickedness of those who dwell there, because they said, “He will not see our final end.”
That was his complaint. Now we will see what God says in return:
Jeremiah 12:5 “If you have run with the footmen [meaning those who run on foot], and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses [something that is even faster]? And if in the land of peace, in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain [flooding] of the Jordan?
It is actually more like "the thickets of the Jordan." "If you crossed a meadow and it was tough on you, how are you going to get through these thickets?" He is saying, "It's been bad; and you've had a hard time with it. It is going to get a lot worse—how are you going to fare then, if this is bothering you?"
Jeremiah 12:6-11 For even your brothers, the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you; yes, they have called a multitude after you. Do not believe them, even though they speak smooth words to you. “I have forsaken My house, I have left My heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of My soul into the hand of her enemies. My heritage is to Me like a lion in the forest; it cries out against Me; therefore I have hated it. My heritage is to Me like a speckled vulture; the vultures all around are against her. Come, assemble all the beasts of the field, bring them to devour! Many rulers have destroyed My vineyard, they have trodden My portion underfoot; they have made My pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. They have made it desolate; desolate, it mourns to Me; the whole land is made desolate, because no one takes it to heart.
There is the apathy, right there. This is what happened in Judah. It happened in Israel 150 years before that. It is happening in America right now. The same sort of thing—the leaders have destroyed this nation, and the people have not taken it to heart.
That is where we are. We’ll just have to learn to observe it, sigh and cry, and pray, and prepare for worse.