Are your minds bereft of reason? You are not merely mistaken; this is madness. Here are people in the East bewailing Rome’s humiliation, and great states in remote regions of the earth holding public mourning and lamentation—and you Romans are searching for theaters, pouring into them, filling them, behaving more irresponsibly than ever before. It is this spiritual disease, degeneration, decline into immorality and indecency that Scipio feared when he opposed the erection of theaters. He saw how easily ease and plenty would soften and ruin you. He did not wish you to be free from fear.
He did not think that the republic could be happy while walls were standing, yet morals were collapsing. But, you were more attached to the seductions of foul spirits than to the wisdom of men with foresight. That is why you take no blame for the evil you do, but blame Christianity for the evil you suffer. Depraved by prosperity and unchastened by adversity, you desire, in your security, not the peace of the State but liberty for license. Scipio wanted you to have a salutary fear of the enemy, lest you should rot in debauchery. Though crushed by the enemy, you put no check on immorality, you learned no lessons from calamity; in the depths of sorrows you still wallow in sin.
Yet, you owe your survival to that God who, in sparing you, warned you to amend your lives by penance. Despite your ingratitude, He made it possible for you to escape from the hands of the enemy—either by professing to be His followers or by taking refuge in the churches of the martyrs.
Romulus and Remus, we are told, with a view to increasing the population of their city, opened an asylum where refugees were to be immune from every molestation. That admirable example redounded to the honor of Christ. The destroyers of the city re-established the institution of its founders. But, what is remarkable is that what the founders did to increase the number of their citizens the destroyers did to save a number of their enemies.
This—or something fuller and fitter, if it can be found—is the core of the reply that the redeemed followers of Christ the Lord and the pilgrim City of Christ the King should give to their enemies. But, our city must remember that, in the ranks of its enemies, lie hid fellow citizens to be, and that it is well to bear with them as enemies until we can reach them in their profession of faith. In like manner, the City of God itself, so long as it is a wayfarer on earth, harbors within its ranks a number of those who, though externally associated in the common bond of the sacraments, will not be associated in the eternal felicity of the saints. Some there are who, covertly or overtly, join the enemy in abusing the God whom they have promised to serve. They are to be seen flocking sometimes to the theatres with the godless, and at other times to the churches with us.
There is little reason to abandon hope of reclaiming some of these persons, for among our most notorious adversaries are men destined to be friends, however little they know it. On earth, these two cities are linked and fused together, only to be separated at the Last Judgment. And now, with God’s help, I must turn to what I think ought to be said about the origin, progress, and respective destinations of the two cities, in order to exalt the glory of the City of God, which by contrast with other cities will gleam the more brightly.
Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, Books I–VII