The Outlook After Sixty Years of World Distress
1, 2. (a) What questions do we ask about the world distress since 1914 C.E.? (b) What age group has done quite well as to living, according to Psalm 90:10?
HOW much more will the present generation of mankind have to take of this world distress that has plagued us since 1914 C.E.? How much more can we take of it without reaching the worst—the end of mankind? Quite a number of us have managed to reach seventy years of age or more. Fewer of us have attained to eighty years of age or more. In times such as these, such an age attainment is very good, according to the age-old saying that set a reasonable time-length for a generation:
2 “The days of our years in this life are seventy years; and if by uncommon vigour they be eighty, yet is their greatness trouble and mishap; for it soon hasteneth off, and we fly away.”a
3, 4. (a) What announcement is good news to such older ones? (b) What things can they tell as part of their life?
3 During those seven or eight decades of our lives, oh, what we have experienced! For good reason, then, the announcement “Man’s salvation out of world distress at hand!” is good news indeed.
4 The big turning point in our conditions of life was the year 1914 C.E. The things since then about which we have to tell younger persons are not things of the dead past about which we read in history books. No, but they have been a part of our own life. We have seen, felt, endured and survived them, and, thankfully, we are alive to tell about them as real facts of this twentieth century.
5. What prediction made by certain Bible students since 1876 disturbed the world’s “peaceful outlook” that obtained until the summer of 1914?
5 Today we do not have the peaceful outlook for the future that we had back there up till the summer of 1914. A “peaceful outlook” back there—yes, except for those International Bible Students who had been saying since the year 1876 that the Biblical “times of the Gentiles” would run out in the autumn of 1914 and that this would mean unparalleled trouble for the whole world. Why, about two thousand of them were peacefully met together in general convention in the Memorial Hall, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.A., on that Sunday of June 28, 1914, when the shot rang out that was heard around the earth, the assassin’s shot that triggered World War I.b Till then politicians and especially religious clergymen who claimed to know their Bible better than those Bible students were inclined to smile at the prediction and brush it off—life in general had been so genial and promising till then. Besides, did we not have back there the Permanent Court of Arbitration, at The Hague, Netherlands, for the arbitrating of international difficulty peacefully?
6. By what new means of warfare were World Wars I and II marked, and what more recent weapons have been added?
6 World War I was bad enough for us. We saw some new things added to modern warfare—the use of airplanes and the introduction of the armored “tank” moving on a caterpillar tread, as introduced by the British, and poison gas that called for gas masks as part of the regular equipment of a soldier. However, World War II, twenty-one years after the first world war ended, was four times as destructive. It came to a frightening climax with the explosion of two atomic bombs over two populous cities in the Far East. Shortly thereafter came the invention of the hydrogen bomb, with far greater capacity for mass slaughter, and then intercontinental ballistic missiles with warheads to carry such bombs and capable of spanning oceans and arriving at target without advance notice. We well remember the air-raid shelters of World War II. Six nations from East to West are now armed with nuclear bombs, and well into the summer of 1974 test explosions of nuclear bombs were being made in the air over the Pacific Ocean.
7. What now poses a threat to mankind’s very existence, and peace of what duration are international statesmen working to establish?
7 The stockpiling of nuclear weapons for missile warfare disquiets the whole world. It threatens the existence of all mankind. Compared with the situation in the first half of 1914, the foundations for preventing international warfare short of a third world war, introduced by nuclear bombs, are very shaky indeed. This holds true in 1975 in spite of the existence of the world organization for peace and security, the United Nations with 138 member nations, and the coordinated International Court of Justice, at The Hague. Well knowing the instability of human relations, international statesmen are grimly working at establishing a “peace for our generation,” or, better, “a peace for generations to come.” The announcement “Man’s salvation out of world distress at hand!” comes not from those statesmen. Peace with endless stability will without fail shortly come to distressed humanity, but not in their way. In a better way!
SURVIVAL OF SCOURGES, FOOD DEARTHS
8. How has the disease factor contributed to world distress since 1914?
8 However, there were other factors that contributed to the world distress. The sickle of Death reaped a tremendous harvest of human lives by means of pestilence, the scourge! Well can we remember the scourge that excelled the Black Plague of the Middle Ages. Toward the end of World War I in 1918 it came like a wave that swept over the whole globe. Because of its place of origin it was called “the Spanish flu.” Many of us can remember being laid low with this dread fever and being kept away from our working jobs, but, happily for us, we did not prove to be among the 20,000,000 victims that were prostrated in death. Other pestilences have taken a heavy toll of our generation. For example, now, owing to a society (including religious clergymen) that defies the natural laws for sexual health, loathsome sex diseases have become epidemic, baffling the modern medical profession. Unknown to many, the widespread resort to blood transfusions has resulted in the spread of crippling diseases, fatal in many cases, not to speak of deaths directly caused by this medical practice, still pursued by many.
9. What has led up to the prediction of world famine shortly?
9 Not alone is world health under attack by pestilences from time to time, in addition to the chronic diseases like malaria, but world health is also being affected by undernourishment on account of food shortages. We vividly remember the devastating famines that resulted from the ravages of international wars, from droughts, from floods, from pests. Even in the days of good crops by the farming nations, thousands have been poorly fed, or left starving. But today, as never before, the world’s breadbasket is threatened. Yearly there are more mouths to feed, by the tens of millions, without more farming land being available or being put under cultivation. The farming population decreases, but the world population increases. In our experience since 1914 C.E., in spite of World War I, pestilence and famine, the world population swelled to 2,000,000,000 in 1930. In just thirty years more, it swarmed up to 3,000,000,000. And now, in just fifteen years, the population growth is reaching four thousand million. So, even world famine shortly is predicted!
10. How has the threat to human existence on account of pollution become dangerous?
10 All of us like to be secure in our persons and property, do we not? When we oldsters were young people back in the first two decades of this twentieth century, life felt more secure; it was more secure. We did not hear much about pollution. We did not know of this thing called “ecology,” which has to do with our natural living environment. But now, since some fifteen years ago, we have been hearing more and more insistently about the growing pollution of our natural surroundings upon which the security of our persons, healthwise, depends. Now, to an alarming extent, pollution of the air we breathe, the water depended upon for bodily needs, the soil from which come foodstuffs, also the rivers, lakes and seas that are a source of fish and marine foods, yes, pollution of about every aspect of our natural, life-sustaining environment nears the point of crisis. The damage already done has gone too far to be counteracted within our generation. The way in which our modern industrialized, commercialized, mobilized, concentrated society has been living for decades is to blame for this recent threat to human existence.
11. How has security for our physical persons and material properties been reduced?
11 Little do most people think of security for their vital natural environment. They are far more aware of their need for physical security and security of properties. We remember the statement of one authoritative voice not so many years ago, that, at the current rate of crime increase, the world would become too dangerous a place in which to live. More and more people are coming to think that we have reached that state of affairs now. One big reason for this is not hard to find. Historians agree that with the engaging in world war with total mobilization in 1914 an age of violence was introduced on the earth. The rise of unprincipled dictators and the six years of World War II with aggravated violence and terror have spread and intensified the spirit of violence. What people learned during wartime they carry over into peacetime. The violent, lawless elements resort to the latest types of weapons, such as machine guns, bombs, as well as unbridled rioting accompanied by looting and wanton destruction of valuable properties.
12. How is pagandom impressed with the “Christianity” of Christendom, and why?
12 In the lands that, according to what they religiously claim to be, should be models of right conduct and conscientious respect for law and order, namely, in the lands of Christendom, we have observed the worst offenders against moral law and security of others. Why, today Christendom estimates it has more than a quarter of the world’s population as members of its churches, and these people are supposed to be examples of Christian living to the so-called “pagan” world. But, in fact, pagandom has learned many bad things from Christendom. Pagandom does not forget that two world wars started in Christendom, that in her the nuclear bomb was developed, and that in her is the birthplace of international Communism. “Pagans” have not been impressed very much by the “Christianity” of Christendom. According to the Holy Bible of Christendom, her church members are more pagan than the unbelieving pagans themselves!
13. How has the cooling off of love become apparent?
13 Love of fellowman is becoming a scarce article nowadays. Even some of the popular songs have taken up the theme of love—about What the world needs is more love, and about liking to teach the world to love. As the world distress grows more poignant and the need for self-preservation becomes more acute, inborn human selfishness is bound to rise above any remaining traces of love of fellow humans and to seek primarily physical, material comfort of oneself. For the most part, the adhesive, unifying force of sincere love is gone. What wonder that there is so much rivalry, contentiousness, prejudice, resentment, covetousness, greed, cheating, stealing, taking advantage of others today! And if there is lack of love for fellowman, whom human creatures can see and have contact with directly, how can there be love for the One whom Christendom claims to worship, God, the Creator of man in His image? So, with the loss of the love of fellowman, the love of God has cooled off. Religious hypocrisy takes the ascendancy!
WHAT IT ALL ADDS UP TO AT THIS LATE DATE
14. To what do all the things thus far considered add up, and so what question arises?
14 What does all of this, which we oldsters have observed personally since 1914, total up to as three quarters of this twentieth century closes? Does it add evidence that, after sixty years of acquaintance with world distress, man has learned by experience and now knows how to adjust himself to the distress of nations? Does it add convincing evidence that man is able to solve his problems by himself? Not that we intelligent observers in our seventies and eighties can see. And man himself has come to realize that hard fact. So, when problems are not worked out, then what? Failure! Man cannot encourage himself with the old slogan, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” The problem at which to try again does not remain the same. It becomes worse! Harder! The question is forced on us, How long will man continue to fail, to the endangerment of his own existence?
15. What likelihood is there that materialistic men will turn back to religion for aid in solving problems, as illustrated in the case of Communist Russia?
15 Where is man to turn for salvation from the disastrous problems of his own making? Materialistic men, believers in the theory of man’s self-evolution, see only man to whom to turn. Will such men turn to the once-popular traditional religions that have long been practiced in the temples, mosques, cathedrals and church buildings? For example, Will Russian Communism turn back to the Russian Orthodox religion that it overthrew in 1917 and give up its dictum that “religion is the opium of the people”? Since disestablishing the Russian Orthodox Church, the Russian Soviet Union has used what remains of that church system as a mere handmaid of the State, and this weak religious tool has provided no solution for the problems of Communist Russia.
16. What questions come up with regard to a future appeal to religion, in lands where religion still has some respect?
16 In other parts of Christendom outside Communist lands, will the politicians and scientists turn to the religious clergymen, Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, for salvation? These clergymen the State has used as chaplains in its fighting forces and as “men of God” to invoke the divine blessing upon their lawmaking bodies. These religious clergymen, although they have turned from a purely religious Gospel to a social, materialistic Gospel, have come up with no solutions to world problems. Will Communist Red China, now engaged in war on Confucianism, feel obliged at length to go back to dead Confucius for aid? Also, in other lands that still have a large non-Christian religious organization, will the politicians and rulers of state keep turning to their priests whose religions have till now offered no explanation of the present world distress and so cannot show the way out of it?
17. What question here arises regarding any future application of an ancient proverb?
17 Many are the political leaders and the economic guides who have found their long-held religions disappointing. They have even lost faith in such. Will they now call for a religious revival as the last resort and act as the ancient proverb has said: “The dog has returned to its own vomit”?c
18. What argues against such application of the proverb?
18 Such a thing is hardly to be expected! Common sense and reason do not argue for such a thing. The faith of those worldly men in what is superhuman, in what is spiritual, has been weakened, or worse, destroyed. Under such circumstances they feel left to only human resources. When, at last, all human resources fail them, they will be at their wits’ end!
19. In order to avoid being induced to go along with such men, what is the thing about which to inform ourselves teachably?
19 Surely it is now the time to ask ourselves, Do we want to be among such perplexed men when they are reduced to desperation? They will not turn from the course of fighting against their own interests, unfortunately to the endangerment of the eternal interests of everybody else! Will we let ourselves be induced to go along with them? We do not have to do so. On the very best of authority it can confidently be announced, ‘Man’s salvation out of world distress is at hand!’ We have somewhere to turn, without becoming liable to disappointment, frustration, destruction. The increasing stress of the times makes it urgent upon us to be teachable and to inform ourselves where to turn in the hope of complete satisfaction.
b See The Watch Tower under date of June 1, 1914 (page 174), and July 15, 1914 (pages 217, 218).