There is currently a trend on social media where women ask their husbands or boyfriends how many times they think about the Roman Empire, and are amazed when the answer is “often”. Some of them admit to entertaining such thoughts on a daily basis.
Here’s a compilation:
Time for some full disclosure: My lovely wife is not very active on social media, and thus is immune to such trends. But if that were not the case, and she had pulled out her phone and asked me this question, my answer would have been in the vicinity of “at least once a day, often more”. Indeed, I was heartened to find that there were other guys like me out there. A lot of them, apparently.
I’ve seen some posts disparaging the guys who admit to this seemingly random thought pattern, chalking it up to “machismo” or some other such fashionable sociological theory. Here in Brazil (yes, the meme has officially crossed international lines) a popular online theologian (who publishes some really good material, let it be known) posed the question to his father, who answered that he never thinks about the Roman Empire. In the background a female voice (presumably his wife) can be heard saying “It’s because he has things to do!”
So ladies, sisters in Christ, I want to put your minds at ease. If your man confesses to thinking about the Roman Empire…a lot…and you’re not quite sure how to process that, let me suggest that it is a good thing. Possibly a VERY good thing.
Hear me out.
The New Testament was written in the context of the Roman Empire
If you are a serious student of Scripture, you must put the writings of Scripture within their historical context. And the context of the New Testament is the Roman Empire. The Apostolic writers all wrote from within the Empire, and their writings are full of allusions to Roman culture, Roman politics, even Roman military attire. You simply cannot read the New Testament without thinking about the Roman Empire.
The aforementioned Brazilian theologian’s father may not reflect on Rome, but I certainly hope HE does.
The Roman Empire has important lessons for the Church
The first half millennium of Western Church history played out within the Roman Empire. In that span of time the Church went from a persecuted minority, to a tolerated sect, to a politically powerful majority. At the beginning the church was a weak group within a powerful Empire. Five hundred years later the Church was a powerful organization within a crumbling Empire.
All of this to say that the lived experiences of the Church within the Roman Empire offer us a myriad of lessons as we make our way through today’s challenges. How can the Church respond to persecution? Look at how it survived and thrived in the Roman Empire. What is the relationship of the church to political power? Go back to the time of Roman Empire for some positive and negative lessons. Indeed, those involved in the whole “Christian Nationalist” controversy could benefit from a serious and impartial look at the events surrounding the conversion of Constantine.
The fall of the Roman Empire has important lessons for society
In the compilation above, one of the more frequent reasons given by men for their reflection on the Roman Empire is the perceived similarity between the fall of Rome and current events. This, I think, goes to a fundamental element of masculine nature – the desire to protect their families. We look around us and see things going from bad to worse, and so we naturally look for similar times in history that will help us navigate the current storm. In our looking, we happen upon the fall of Rome.
Fragmented culture? Check
Corrupt politics? Check
Top-heavy bureaucracy? Check
Uncontrolled immigration? Check (fun fact…for the most part the invading “barbarians” did not want to destroy Rome…they wanted to be Romans)
Constant warfare? Check
Bread and circuses? Check
Failure of republican systems and rise of powerful overlords? Check
The list goes on. Suffice to say, if you want to get a better idea of what is happening, and a sneak preview of what could be around the corner, you should probably read a book or two on the Roman Empire.
The Roman Empire created the language you speak
This is true whether you are reading this in the US, or if you are one of my Brazilian readers. If you speak a Western language, you speak a language heavily influenced by Latin. For English speakers, it comes to us by way of Norman French, which combined with the Germanic Anglo-Saxon and the language of the Norse Vikings to form our language.
Here in Brazil, we basically speak a corruption of Latin, with some words stolen from the Visigoths and Moors. (Most people would say “borrowed”, but I don’t think we’re planning on giving them back!)
If you want to understand the language you speak, you have no choice but to go back to Rome.
The idea of the Roman Empire has never really died.
Ever since people realized the Rome had fallen (and that realization was not immediate…historians still argue about when it really happened), they have dreamed about bringing it back. Sometimes those dreams are tongue-in-cheek, as in this tweet and response from a couple days ago:
Some, however, are not. Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Empire, Napoleon, Hitler…all serious attempts to bring Rome back. As is the current unification of Europe under one government and currency. It doesn’t have to have the name “Roman Empire” to be the Roman Empire.
So, in conclusion, ladies: if your husband or boyfriend confesses to thinking a lot about the Roman Empire, at the very least it means that he occupies himself with better, more substantial things than does most of our society. At best, it means that he is a student of Scripture, that he takes his leadership role at church seriously, that he wants to communicate better, and that he is doing the best he can to guide himself and you through the confusing labyrinth of the times we live in.
Of course it could just mean that he secretly dreams of being this guy:
In which case, don’t discourage him. You could do a lot worse.
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