My wife and I watched The Dust Bowl on Amazon Prime over the weekend. It’s a fascinating period in our nation’s history. The United States was hit with a double whammy with the stock market crash of 1929 and nearly ten years of drought and devastation that was the Dust Bowl.
The series begins with some words from folk singer Woody Guthrie who was famous for his Dust Bowl Ballads, based on his experiences during the 1930s, that earned him the nickname the “Dust Bowl Troubadour.”
On April 14, 1935, a huge dust storm blew up. “A whole bunch of us was standing just outside of town,' said Woody Guthrie. “We watched the dust storm come up like the Red Sea closing in on the Israel children. It got so black, when that thing hit, we all run into the house, and a lot of people in the crowd that was religious minded, and they was up pretty well on their Scriptures, and they said, ‘Well, boys, girls, friends, and relatives, this is the end—this is the end of the world.’”
Dust Masks Worn During The Dust Bowl
Well, it wasn’t the end of the world. Watching the series will put some perspective on what we are facing today as well as serve as a warning about the overreach of the government.
If you think the response to the COVID-19 is bad, take a look at some other times in history.
The Oak Beams of New College, Oxford
New College, Oxford, is of rather late foundation, hence the name. It was probably founded around the late 16th century. It has, like other colleges, a great dining hall with big oak beams across the top, yes? These might be eighteen inches square, twenty feet long.
Some five to ten years ago, so I am told, some busy entomologist went up into the roof of the dining hall with a penknife and poked at the beams and found that they were full of beetles. This was reported to the College Council, who met in some dismay, because where would they get beams of that caliber nowadays?
One of the Junior Fellows stuck his neck out and suggested that there might be on the College lands some oak. These colleges are endowed with pieces of land scattered across the country. So they called the College Forester, who of course had not been near the college itself for some years, and asked him about the oaks.
And he pulled his forelock and said, “Well sirs, we was wonderin’ when you’d be askin’.”
Upon further inquiry it was discovered that when the College was founded, a grove of oaks had been planted to replace the beams in the dining hall when they became beetly, because oak beams always become beetly in the end. This plan had been passed down from one Forester to the next for four hundred years. “You don’t cut them oaks. Them’s for the College Hall.”
A nice story. That’s a way to run a culture. ((Gregory Bateson, The Next Whole Earth Catalog, 1981.))
The Cornerstone at the Crossroads
By Josef Tson
This is a historic time. It is in fact one of the great turning points in human history. I wonder if you here in peaceful America grasp the magnitude of the change we have experienced in Eastern Europe. Radical changes, however, are taking place not only in Eastern Europe, but also in the whole climate of the intellectual life of the world.
It shouldn’t be necessary to speak about the importance of understanding the times, but let me remind you of that great insight that we find in 1 Chronicles 12:32 in the description of the 200 men of the tribe of Issachar “who understood the times” and because of that understanding of history, “were able to tell Israel what to do.”
Let me illustrate the importance of understanding the times from my own experience. The communist disaster fell on my country [of Romania] when I was a teenager. For many years after that, my life was a battle for intellectual and spiritual survival under Marxist indoctrination and totalitarian and Christian terror. I struggled to understand the nature of that calamity, and the Lord gave me that understanding. In the forties, I wrote papers on the nature of the failure of communism. One of them, published under the title The Christian Manifesto landed me in six months of house arrest with harsh interrogations by the secret police. But for me the crucial moment came in 1977, when a friend of mine challenged me to set up an organization that would openly expose communism.
Here is what I told him: “Communism is an experiment that has failed. It wasn’t able to fulfill any of its many promises and nobody believes in it any more. Because of this, it will one day collapse on its own. Now, why should I fight something that is finished? I believe that our task is a different one. When communism collapses, somebody has to be there to rebuild society! I believe our job as Christian teachers is to train leaders so that they will be ready and capable to rebuild our society on a Christian basis.”
To my surprise, here is what my friend said to me: “Josef, you are wrong. Communism will triumph all over the world, because this is the movement of the Antichrist. And when the communists take over in the United States, they will have no restraining force left. They will then kill all the Christians. We have only one job to do: to alert the world and make ready to die.”
A few years later my friend was forced to leave Romania. He came to the U.S. and settled down. Then I was forced into exile, and I moved to the U.S. as well. Since then, my friend has not done anything for Romania. He simply waited for the final triumph of communism and the annihilation of Christianity.
On the other hand, when I came here in 1981, I started a training program for Christian leaders in Romania. We translated Christian textbooks and smuggled them into Romania. With our partners in the organization, The Biblical Education by Extension (BEE), we trained about 1200 people all over Romania. Today, those people who were trained in that underground operation are the leaders in churches, in evangelical denominations, and in key Christian ministries.
You see, the way you look to the future determines your planning and your actions. It is the way you understand the times that determines what you are going to do. ((Josef Tson, “The Cornerstone at the Crossroads,” Wheaton Alumni (August/September 1991), 6–7.))
At the end of the year 1492 most men in Western Europe felt exceedingly gloomy about the future. Christian civilization appeared to be shrinking in area and dividing into hostile units as its sphere contracted. For over a century there had been no important advance in natural science, and registration in the universities dwindled as the instruction they offered became increasingly jejune [boring, undemanding] and lifeless. Institutions were decaying, well-meaning people were growing cynical or desperate, and many intelligent men, for want of something better to do, were endeavoring to escape the present through the study of the pagan past.
Islam was now expanding at the expense of Christendom. . . . The Ottoman Turks, after snuffing out all that remained of the Byzantine Empire, had overrun most of Greece, Albania and Serbia; presently they would be hammering at the gates of Vienna. ((Samuel Eliot Morison, Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1942), 3.))