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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Why nations fail: Part IV

  • Maps on 1952 Pan Am menus of Caribbean island nations and Mexico shown here don’t include any advanced industrial nation. Though island nations were founded by sea navigators from other European nations (UK, France, Denmark and Netherlands), the others were all “discovered” by Spaniards and Portuguese — nations led by devout Roman Catholic kings. Why did they fail?
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  • Geography
     
    Maps on 1952 Pan Am menus of Caribbean island nations and Mexico shown here don’t include any advanced industrial nation.
     
    Though island nations were founded by sea navigators from other European nations (UK, France, Denmark and Netherlands), the others were all “discovered” by Spaniards and Portuguese — nations led by devout Roman Catholic kings.
     
    Why did they fail?
     
    Disease
     
    Jared Diamond traces the supremacy of the West to guns, germs and steel. [1]
     
    Epidemics or “crowd diseases” arise from dense populations living with domesticated animals.
     
    This occurs only in agricultural societies required to support cities.
     
    Societies cultivating food grains can support population densities 10 to 100 times greater than hunter gatherers.
     
    In China, I avoided eating their fruits and vegetables because they spread their human waste on the fields using “honey buckets” which gives the morning air quite a pungency.
     
    People in the West have lived with domesticated animals for 9,000 years, during which time they developed immunity to their bacteria and viruses.
     
    The measles virus, for example, morphed from the rinderplast virus in cattle and cholera from fowl.
     
    Christian missionaries took both the gospel and western germs to Cuba, Central and South America.
     
    European explorers didn’t find the Western hemisphere uninhabited.
     
    It was full of people who were quickly infected and killed in what we would term germ warfare.
     
    With only 600 men, Cortez overcame hordes of Aztecs because the year before he fought them an infected slave from Cuba had arrived.
     
    Mexico’s initial population of 20 million was by 1618 down to 1.6 million due to plagues.
     
    Pizarro reached Peru with 168 men and conquered millions because of small pox.
     
    Many histories estimate there were only two million American Indians when settlers arrived.
     
    It is now estimated that there were 20 million, of which 95 percent were killed by European diseases spread mostly by Spaniards.
     
    Religion
     
    Every credible historian identifies the crucial role of religion in culture and civilization. Western Civilization is aka “Judeo-Christian.”
     
    Scripture and DNA research claim that man began from a single set of parents which makes us brothers — dispelling ideas of race and the natural moral superiority of any people group. [Gen.2]
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    Beginning as hunters and gatherers in family and tribal groupings dictated patriarchal and matriarchal leaders.
     
    As population increased according to God’s prescription to “multiply and fill the earth,” governance evolved into kings of nations.
     
    At that stage in our development, God advised, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities for the authorities that exist have been established by God.” [Rom.13:1]
     
    Jesus said little about government because governments did little for or to citizens then and Rome actually provided good protections and services for citizens of Israel in what has been dubbed Rome’s “golden age” of Pax Romana.
     
    Within one century, Christian missionaries like Paul and Thomas were able to take the gospel to much of the known world.
     
    Consequently, Jesus did not side with the Jews who wanted to rebel against Rome and in fact asked his followers to pay their taxes and to leave the government to its sphere of operations. [Mt.22:21]
     
    On the Mount of Temptation, the devil tempted Jesus. He implied that he, the devil, controlled national governments (suspicions confirmed!), and offered to delegate his governing authority to Jesus.
     
    Jesus declined this coercive, top-down, outside-in strategy of ministry in favor of heart transplants issuing in a transformed, self-disciplined lives not needing man’s laws to live righteously. [Mt.4]
     
    Jesus and his learners left examples and advice that was written and collected into a new set of Scriptures.
     
    Jesus made clear the enduring importance of the first set of Scriptures but shifting the emphasis from the letter (means) to the purpose (ends) or “spirit.” [Mt. 5:17]
     
    This, of course, provided much more flexibility in application — overcoming legalism.
     
    He said he was the “light,” the truth, and would lead them into more truth through his indwelling Presence.
     
    This means that anytime a scientific truth is established, it has to be consistent with the correct understanding of Scripture and God’s nature and purposes. Science was, therefore, to be embraced, not resisted. [John 14:6]
     
    Jesus’ most frequent phrase was, “I tell you the truth.”
     
    He gave us new truths only as we developed in our ability to understand them — similar to how we adjust our communication to them as our children develop.
     
    For example, circumcision was required of Jews and later made optional for others.
     
    Sabbath day worship was one of the Ten Commandments and later changed to Sunday for Christians.
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    In this way, Christians and the West adapted — and progressed — as civilization changed.
     
    Our Muslim brothers, by contrast, were given a non-linear record of their founder’s life and advice.
     
    The Qu’ran, like the Psalms, is not chronological. It is a collection of sayings in no particular time order.
     
    Hence some of their followers stress one set of sayings and another to a different and contradictory set with there being no way to resolve the contradiction by accepting the later over the earlier.
     
    We have Muslims in the U.S. claiming Islam is peaceful based on their preference in scripture and Muslims conducting jihad against us in the Middle East based on their scriptural preferences.
     
    Christianity has thus supported the progress and development of the West.
     
    Some Muslim nations have developed because of oil-based economies, and Turkey and Indonesia have developed aided by secular governments.
     
    Many Muslim nations, however, have been held back by Islamists wedded to 7th century religious preferences.
     
    In this column, I have focused on Spain, a Western nation, to provide context for next week when we look at Spain’s colonization of Cuba.
     
    [1] Diamond, Jared, Guns, Germs, and Steel, NY: W.W. Norton, 1997, Ch.11.

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