I’ve heard the expression, “When in Rome” all of my life, and of course this turn of phrase has been in existence for a couple of millennia (Rome was of course the most powerful empire for hundreds of years, and the center of existence, much like New York is now), and during this time it has been used to explain our outward metamorphosis of us human beings to adopt a similar way of dealing with life. Some would even argue it is an “anything goes” way of life. This is only to say, we justify our behaviors by applying a “mob” mentality and adopting a methodology of what’s best for the group behavior. On the surface, this makes perfect sense, going against the larger population isn’t always what is needed. When we constantly run into “walls” of opposition, we tend to change course and this becomes inefficient to our daily lives. We’ve all known the one person, who with little to no effort, makes every situation difficult. Guess what, just like the old joke goes, if you don’t know anyone who does this, then you might be the difficult someone. Though, what are we rebelling against? If my wife were talking to anyone, she might even say, I’m the difficult one, and from time-to-time, I cause a great deal of stress by my attempts to be an opposite of an “easy going” personality. In my defense, I try to go with the flow more often, but I’m just no good at it, and unless I see a logical or even philosophical point to my actions, I usually refrain from doing anything which would detract. I think though, the “When in Rome” mentality is being used to a detriment at every rate possible, and those of us who claim to me of the moral majority, are really nothing more than marionettes dancing on the string of a larger and yes evil force.
There are many books devoted to the explanation of why Rome eventually fell, and most come to a similar conclusion. What strikes me as interesting is, we can all conclude Rome fell, and we can all see distinct points in time when the façade began to crack and then fall to pieces. The major event I’m speaking about is the introduction of Christianity, a movement started at just the right time for the spoken words of God to be carried across the oceans and to distant lands exposing a truth, never before realized. A truth, so terrifying to some, they put those with the message to death. A truth, which illuminated a darkness so replete with sadness, death, and evil the lords of this darkness attempted to stop the flood of the waters of life. However, much like us trying to stop a leak in a dam, this was never going to be possible and so the deluge of the truth of Christ became apparent. A wildfire of sorts seeking to burn down the old establishment was racing across the lips of those few who heard it’s truth, and as each person began to believe the “movement” picked up momentum.
What did these people have which Rome could not offer? Truth, the justice every human being innately desires to be set in covenant. Let me be clear, Rome was the best the world perceptibly had to offer at the time, so one can easily imagine a truth which risks to take the obtained power from the power source and give it to the beggar and the leper. This would shake the most fervent politician to their core. And so, this is what happened, the “When in Rome” mentality began to waver. People began to turn from their hedonism and selfishness to an introspective and selfless manner. So much were they willing to accept the truth, death no longer became a matter of consequence, other than to accept it as a doorway to the eternal life promised by Jesus as he hung from the tree at Calvary.
Ok, so where must I be going? I’m sure you’ve already surmised my point is relevant to today, because fifteen centuries have passed since Rome succumbed to a truth more powerful than the subjective and wayward litanies of sin which it was built upon. The words of the Divine Christ brought the walls of the greatest empire the world had ever known crumbling down like as if it were a child’s toy finally succumbing to the constant abuse of the child. It took time, truth, and love to bring down this empire. It wasn’t about going along to get along. It was never about accepting the behaviors which are as detrimental to a society as they are to our very souls, and embracing them because our neighbors do. Accepting truth may mean we are going to go against the very adulterated nature of those individuals around us, but it may also mean we are the light which will illuminate a path which has been in utter darkness for them. When their path has finally been lit, they will see the “brood of vipers” which awaits to strike at every step they take.
My purpose for pointing this out is to make relevant the issues we face today. I believe the knowledge of history is paramount to understanding and comprehending our now and our tomorrow. When we presume our answers are to be found in one location, we find more often than not, a disappointment and even a profound sadness at being unable to ever find the answers we seek. We are left unsatisfied, the cup of everlasting drink is never full.
In today’s climate, there are points of view which do anything but apply the mentality of “When in Rome”, but by failing to go along with the main stream, they inevitably become a mainstay topic and they’ve recalculated the equilibrium of our society and now they are Rome. Take the example of marriage, before about 50 years ago, divorce was highly frowned upon and so couples would stay in a relationship either out of love or a fear of being culturally put down for being divorced. Especially the women, men seemingly could move on, but as women were homemakers and without skills or a trade, finding a new spouse and one who would take on a potential nest of kids was very difficult to say the least. However, our culture challenged this paradigm, and found people in a “bad relationship” should leave if for nothing more than their health and the health of those around them. Like a pendulum which swings to keep the tempo of the music, we’ve gone from one extreme to the other now. Now, our society lives in a paradigm where it is fully expected for most people to have been married at least twice. As though the first marriage was a test run, and the second is a matter of work because they figured out how to play the game. It has become the Roman rule to look at marriage as a disposable endeavor and one which we should walk away from, especially if the perceived spouse doesn’t capitulate to our wants. A husband who wants to behave as he did when we was unmarried and with no more prospects than to engage in mindless activities with others to pass the time out of boredom. Maybe the wife, who is so needy as to demand her spouse do as she wishes because this is the societal perception of what a loving spouse should do. When these paradigms aren’t met, it’s time to give up and leave the confines of the stifling relationship. Sound familiar to anyone out there? Truth is, society has told us, it’s ok to be a flake, and I’m telling you, based on God’s Will, it is never ok to be a flake. Being mindful, considerate, loving, and willing to accept an objective truth which doesn’t agree with our own subjective thoughts and behavior is a foundational understanding of life. When we are the minority of thought, we must look at Rome and realize it begins with us.
Our behavior and the very nature of everything we do is a matter of God and how we fit into the narrative of everything since time began. I would never presume to insult anyone and explain the unexplainable, but even to this point my faith makes sense of everything I know. It fills in the gaps, so to speak, of all I’ve ever seen or knew. Marriage, death, life, abortions, agreements, disagreements, abuses, the Catholic Church, and everything under the sun become relevant and no longer can I just go with the flow of the popular majority. It also doesn’t mean creating a rule by force, it means the very slow and methodical processes of attaining an understanding and teaching those we are most influential of and by the ways of Christ. We may never see the results of this, but God does, and this is why it matters. We have the power through every little act of life to bring the equilibrium back into the objective truths we need in order to follow those pathways illuminated by God.
As we traverse the slippery slopes of conversations with others, what matters the most, isn’t how we “destroyed” the other in a debate or how we “obliterated” them with a heady comeback on social media, but how we knew not to stray from the path and how we prayed for our detractors. In many debates, when I was willing to love the other person as they spouted vitriol in my direction, I was unable to hate, I was willing to listen and it was as if my thoughts were clear and concise. They could tell, I cared about what they had to say, even to the most vile commentators, they eventually broke down their defense and although they didn’t agree with me, we came to a common ground of kindness. This is all God needs, a foot in the door, so to speak. We can help to open the door and the Holy Spirit will do the rest. The phrase “When in Rome” as an effect to the hardness of our hearts, we become swayed to doing those things which we thought weren’t possible and now have become the rule of the day, until they’re not. This is the danger with following the subjective, it can turn on us like a dime, and when it does we could be in the wake of a very destructive wave of hate. This is the devil’s plan and purpose all along, to get us away from the light and then reign down destruction in an effort to destroy our life and the lives of everyone around us. The devil’s purpose is to destroy, to rip and tear apart. Have you ever tried to put together something which has been ripped and torn apart, it’s very difficult and takes time and patience. When in Rome is the force behind the gash which threatens to destroy us all.
When in Rome is a seemingly innocuous phrase utilized by the masses to explain away those things which we don’t desire to change or think about, but if we’re unwilling to question what is being presented to us, aren’t we as much to blame for the goings on as those we allowed to commit the behaviors?
In our cultures today, life is no longer held to be a sacred gift from God, and hate is a manner of behavior, and not something so repugnant as to risk staining one’s soul. We march around talking about how we will destroy this and that and lifestyles which were once culturally and religiously disordered are now the normal accepted behavior, and anyone who doesn’t agree is sent to the desert until they capitulate to the “Roman Rule”. These are wrong, without a doubt. The Church and the Bible are our two sources to know what is right and what is wrong. However, these sources aren’t a matter of telling us what not to do, but instead showing us the path to walk. The path of truth is illuminated and we must have the strength to turn away from subjectivity as a matter of course and focus on an objective truth. We must risk being sent to the desert, for who we desire to be. I’ve been told, “Love the person not the sin” from my wife for years, and it is so completely true and has carried with it the benefits of wisdom for years. I don’t have to agree with homosexuality to love the homosexual, and in doing so showing through my actions a considerable compassion. I don’t have to accept a hedonistic lifestyle of those around me (a man slut who sleeps with every woman he can find is not ok), but I do want to love the individuals and pray I can be a good alternative to the life they are choosing to lead.
I’m not perfect by any measure, and I’m constantly looking for those examples in my life as well. We are a collective of people searching, it is imprinted on our souls to search, we are looking for those who’ve found the way and can show us where to go. When we follow blindly, by being the Roman, we’ve stopped looking and are now just desiring to take an easy path and covetous path, a pathway designed to be full of good intentions but very rarely a path which leads to something good. Love is hard work, and it is a matter of the soul. Why would I trust the decisions of my soul to those who neither have an interest nor even believe a soul exists? Short answer, I won’t and I don’t. I pray during these hard days, God blesses you and your family and gives you the much needed light to show you a path which is hard but the truth!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!