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When I first started writing this, I admit it came from a place of anger and fear. My wife, once I told her my initial idea, suggested I wait until I was in a better place emotionally. As always, though I may be the head of our family, my wife knows more than she lets on (perhaps there’s a reason the Greek word for wisdom—Sophia—is feminine). For you see, a growing sense of fear, anger, and paranoia bubbled and wormed its way within me. The worm grew and grew, turning a healthy mind and soul into poison. It got to the point where I’d convinced myself I could see things crumble around me. I was convinced that the will of good men (and women) to prevent the rot had already been sapped and clubbed into submission by the prevailing culture. Turning the world we live in, into a new Babylonian Captivity.
This fear was brought on by the birth of our son—as a father, I wanted to be ever-ready, ever-vigilant to reach out my hand to fight for Truth and to cut down any and all threats to my son. That anger, that tension, only went so far. It strained our home, our shared Catholic faith, and our love. It was through counseling with my confessor and pastor, supplemented by a steady diet of Fulton Sheen and Jonathan Pageau videos (think Jordan B. Peterson, but Greek Orthodox) that the ever-turning, the ever-venomous worm turned no more, and its poison turned to water. With these potions, I’d found that better, calmer understanding.
But the point of this piece is not to tell you how I found my happy place, though that’s how I began. My point is this: time, or rather history, though counted linearly, is inherently cyclical. We struggle, we rise, we succeed and then we fall. It is the way of things. Nowhere is this made more readily available than the books surrounding and spanning the Babylonian Captivity within the Bible.
Please note: all Biblical citations will be coming from the Douay-Rheims translation; it is directly translated from the Vulgate Latin and follows the Septuagint numbering. It is as close to accurate as can be without being present at its dictation. Also, all mentions with regards to Baal, Moloch or others came from the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia (NACE).
Why compare our current culture to the Babylonian Captivity? The culture today finds itself schizophrenic and manic because it has rejected Truth and allowed itself to be held captive by every hedonistic, flourishing and floundering whim. In this rejection, it has become ensnared by the new Babylon and nowhere is this made clearer than in a reading of the Lamentations of Jeremiah. I believe that there are parallels to be made between our culture now and of that of the Israelites of Jeremiah’s time.
The downfall of the Israelites/Judeans spans several books: Isaiah, Hosea, Jeremiah and the Lamentations (amongst others). The narrative purpose of this was to show what leads to the decline of a wealthy and prosperous society. The above prophets came to prominence in a tumultuous time: the Israelites were split into two kingdoms (think Gondor and Arnor of The Lord of the Rings) with the Northern Kingdom of Israel centered around Samaria and the Southern Kingdom of Judah/Judea centered around Jerusalem. The Northern Kingdom during the time of King Jeroboam II (782-746 BC) was at its peak and none could stop it: gold filled the coffers, all territory that was once lost to the Syrians was regained and the kingdom knew peace. Such an external splendor, however, presented nothing more than a brittle shell over rot. Though Jehovah was venerated as the one, true God, the Israelites did so with “the calf of Samaria” (Hos.8:6), which as we all know, didn’t turn out so well the last time a calf of gold took the place of God. And in place of the burnt offering of an unblemished lamb? The Israelites succumbed to a different form of flesh: unbridled “spirit of fornication” and licentiousness as befitted those who followed Baal (Hos. 4:12). Then, as now, the Israelites believed that if they observed the forms and proclaimed Him as God, then they were fine and could sin as freely as they wanted. It is clear that, that which was on the fringe (the frequent meeting place for such cults was the outer limits of the city) became the core, and began degrading and diluting the strength of the Israelites, poisoning their relationship with God. This rot, coupled with the rise of the Assyrians to the east, did not bode well for the Northern Kingdom.
In direct violation of the prophet of Isaiah, the Israelites allied themselves with their former enemies, the Syrians and became a subordinate in order to defend against the rise of the Assyrians. Little good it did, for soon Damascus felled, leaving the Northern Kingdom exposed to the hunger of the Orient, a hunger only left sated with their occupation (4 Kings15:29) and de-population. In 722 BC, over 27,000 Israelites were forcibly removed from their home, The Kingdom to the North was no more and became known as Samaria with the amalgamation of Israelites and Assyrians becoming the Samaritans. Streets emptied, villages burned, the people groaned in misery.
The Assyrian Beast turned its glutinous eyes southward.
With the fall of its Northern sister, The Kingdom of Judah found itself between a rock and hard place: the hungry Assyrians to the north and the rival Egyptians to the west. Soon, a siege gripped Jerusalem, its might turned back by the king Ezechias (who remained loyal to God) by paying off the Assyrians with 300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold (who remained loyal to God), though the countryside burned and starved, its cities and towns captured by the son of Sargon, Sennacherib. The butcher’s bill totaled 200,150 people and herds upon herds of wildlife taken into Assyria (4 Kings 18:13-16; NACE). At the cost of much wealth and production (talents were large lumps of precious metal, about the size of a pumpkin), Jerusalem averted the disaster of Samaria. It also helped that Assyria soon found itself alone, surrounded and the subject of Babylon and King Nebuchadnezzar.
Babylon’s sphere of influence grew to the point where a form syncretism—the blending of various cults—re-emerged amongst the Judeans. And then the same demonic duo came back with them: Baal and Moloch with the goddess Astarte. The Southern Kingdom repeated the mistakes of its sister, making that which was on the fringe its center: the licentious worship of Baal and the Molochean roasting of the fruits of said license (Jer. 7:31; 17:2; 19:5; etc.). Babylon crept ever closer. Despite a brief, patriotic fervor which saw the rejection of Babylonian influence and an attempt to push them back (despite the warnings of Jeremiah to cease and turn back to God), the damage was done. God made up His mind and judged the Judeans accordingly (emphasis added):
“Wherefore a lion out of the wood hath slain them, a wolf in the evening, hath spoiled them, a leopard watcheth for their cities: every one that shall go out thence shall be taken, because their transgressions are multiplied, their rebellions are strengthened. How can I be merciful? Thy children have forsaken me and swear by them that are not gods: I fed them to the full and they committed adultery and rioted in the harlot’s house. They have become as amorous horses and stallions, everyone neighed after his neighbor’s wife. Shall I not visit for these things, sayeth the Lord? and shall not my soul take revenge on such a nation?” (Jer. 5:6-9).
When God declares that he plans to visit, especially in the Old Testament, one should be filled with dread, for He who created the universe does not visit…lightly.
Jerusalem fell for the first time in history in 597 BC. The Babylonians took with them a great, many things and left a husk in its wake. The Prophet Jeremiah, devastated at what became of his people, Lamented.
Each verse of Lamentations is introduced by a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, of which there are 22 letters total. The reason for this ordering is that in the original Hebrew, the first letter of each verse begins with the corresponding letter; the first chapter itself consists of 22 verses, one per letter. It is a mournful piece, with each verse acting as a powerful expression of sorrow, remorse, and despair. Jeremiah, under the Holy Spirit, attempted to warn the Judeans of the coming cataclysms, a cataclysm which could only be averted through a new covenant; said covenant eventually found its fulfillment in Christ. This link between Jeremiah, the Lamentations, and Christ is so strong, several verses from the first chapter are used in the Catholic Divine Office during Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday–a solemn book fit for a solemn period. Faithful Catholics move through this cycle every liturgical year by preparing themselves for the coming cataclysm (Lent), mourning the resulting disaster (Triduum) and rejoicing in the return of peace and grace (Eastertide). It is a continuous cycle. Keep that in mind, it’ll become important later.
The Lamentations are important for they remind us of what comes after a defeat and exile, the desolation of body and soul to follow. It is no secret that there has been an ever-growing cry and demand for socialist policies in the forms of a universal income, universal medical care and government control for “the people sigh, they seek bread: they have given all their precious things for food to relieve the soul” (Lam. 1:11). Why do we cry for it? Is life in the West truly so horrible, so difficult, so draining that an umbrella governmental organization must swoop in, wrap us in our binkies and pop a bottle into our collective mouths to keep us alive? In one word—no.
Our culture “hath grievously sinned and therefore she hath become unstable.” (Lam. 1:8) and we see it everywhere. What brought the end of Jerusalem and the fall of the First Temple was the backslide of the Judeans and Israelites into idolatrous worship of Baal and Moloch. Fast forward 2600 years and look around: Panama City, Ibiza, and South Padre. What are they all known for? Spring Break. What image came into your mind with those two words: students voraciously studying in preparation for exams in warm locales, or something a little more…venereal?
Don’t lie, I know where you went.
Then, as now, the people returned to periods of degenerate sexual practices and promiscuity, followed by sacrificing the fruits of those practices on the brazen fire of desire and temporal wealth. The act which generates the new is used and abused to support the living ghouls of the past. At the cost of ourselves, our freedoms, our souls—and the culture cries for more. We fool ourselves into thinking this excess will continue unabated. The Roaring Twenties and the depravities of the Weimar period lasted for only a decade with the Great Depression and World War Two being the inevitable hangover. As the souls of men became “desolate, wasted with sorrow all the day long,” (Lam. 1:12) in those times so too have we seen, with apathy and false concern, see the desolation of our own nations. Birth rates in the West, in particular, the United States (for she now bears the mantle) has finally fallen below replacement rate; this also includes a large number of illegal immigrants that have flooded in. The media portrays this as a positive, citing declining teen pregnancies, contraceptives and women pursuing careers. There is nothing wrong with being prudent and ensuring a safe, stable home before having a child (for yours truly is 31 with his first child) but, what is glossed over here is the truth: we have abdicated our primary purposes—ensuring our families, our nations and our species continue on. There has been a desolation of the soul and a desolation of the womb will follow. In place of true children, young and virile couples cart around dogs, going so far as to call them “fur babies;” The Children of Men wasn’t too far off the mark in that regard.
Coupled with this is the Neo-Manichean ideals found in transgenderism. Remember: Manicheanism was a heresy believing that the human form–that which carries the soul–is an evil and misshapen thing and must be overcome or manipulated to fit the emotion of the day. We see this and know that the soul has become desolate, the people groan and the fringe has become the center. In a sense, as in Judea, “the Lord hath accomplished His wrath,” (Lam. 4:11) though not with an army of Babylonians, but us through the devotion of our sins. We of the West have let our victories over the last century defeat us and we have left ourselves to a new rising menace to the east. Look to Europe, for she is always the canary in the coal mine, and you can see the disintegration happening on live television. To watch these things is to feed into the ever-growing sense of dread and to compare it to the slow ends of our forefathers’ empires and kingdoms. It is a bleak outlook indeed.
History is cyclical, as I’ve attempted to emphasize several times. Now, how does one prepare for this cycle? If history is cyclical, how or when does it end? Two things (and yes, there is an end): knowledge and faith. We have the knowledge and the history that preceded us and the unprecedented gift of near-universal literacy and access. One can read and through reason come to some conclusion or solution on how to right the ship. Faith. It comes with hope. We must have faith, primarily through God (for it was faith in God that built the West) that the coming captivity will end. Christians, for the most part, believe that the coming of God was so important, so powerful, so significant that His incarnation on this earth split time in two: Before Christ and Anno Domini. Even the secular world must acknowledge this significance and this splitting of time, for all calendars are based on 1 AD. Knowing that time itself can be split, this gives us hope that cycles can be broken, patterns can be changed, and vices converted to virtues. The constant rise, fall, and rebirth of Israel, Jerusalem and the people of God are presented as reminders and warnings. They also show us how to move forward and how to avoid coming cataclysms through faith and works. It takes work to participate in this cycle and faith. For when it does come to the final moment when time itself comes to its conclusion and consummation through God, that it does so lightly.
Written by David Van Vranken. David works as a QA/QC Inspector for Vaughn Construction out of Houston, Texas. He also serves as a Company Commander in the Army Reserves. David has previously published at Entropy Mag and Every Day Fiction. Enjoy the article and want to buy David a coffee? Click here. ☕