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News You Can Use – Thinking of Rome
By David Bachelor, PhD
The 21st century may go down in history as the most polarized period in human history. This week a new form of bifurcation is in the headlines. If a TikTok trend can be believed, there are now two kinds of people in the world: Those who think about the Roman Empire and those who don’t. Spoiler alert- it appears to be men who think about the Roman Empire!
On Sept 15, Time had the headline, “According to a New TikTok Trend, Men Think About the Roman Empire All the Time.” The social media trend is attributed to a Swedish man who is also a Roman reenactor. In August this wannabe Roman posted a video suggesting women ask the men in their life “How often do you contemplate the Roman Empire?” Time Magazine notes, “The hashtag #RomanEmpire currently has over 893 million views, and the videos have been racking up hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of views across these creators’ pages.” These interrogation videos not only capture the man’s confession of his Roman obsession, but the woman’s surprise that her man had this mental oasis.
The Friday edition of TODAY featured this section, “Carson explains why he — and other men — think a lot about the Roman Empire.” One of TODAY’s five panelists, Carson Daly rationalized his interest in things Rome by saying, “First of all, the movie ‘Gladiator’ is in every guy’s top five favorite movies… and there’s this trend to have this modern understanding of ancient philosophies like stoicism… looking for guidance and self-improvement and it all harkens back to Marcus Aurelius. This is the Roman Empire.” Carson’s fellow panelists did not share his enthusiasm for the regime that gave the world Latin. However, over on X (formerly Twitter), one celebrity who partially agreed with Carson was NFL great Rob Gronkowski. The former Super Bowl star was asked about his Roman cogitations, and he replied, “Only when I watch the movie ‘Gladiator,’ so once every three years.”
If watching ‘Gladiator’ qualifies as contemplating the Roman Empire, anyone reading the New Testament is a wannabe Roman. This second half of the Bible is shaped by the context of the Roman Empire. Originating in Italy, it was a Roman order that was the human factor determining where Jesus was born: “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered… So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town… Joseph also went up to his hometown of Bethlehem… to be registered along with Mary who was pregnant” (Luk 2:1-5). Over thirty years later, the Roman Empire was instrumental in the conclusion of Jesus’ life on earth: “But the crowd shouted, ‘Take Him away! Take Him away! Crucify Him!’ Pilate [the Roman governor of Israel] said to them, ‘Should I crucify your king?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar!’” (Joh 19:15). So Roman soldiers carried out the death sentence (John 19:18).The book of Acts and the Epistles are also set within the events and places of the Roman Empire, including the book of ‘Romans’, sent to believers in the Eternal City.
In this age of equity and inclusion, nobody likes to be excluded. The New Testament is the vehicle that allows women to participate in this TikTok craze. Every woman who reads her Bible can now say, “I think of the Roman Empire all the time too!”