1938 - Discerning The Times

A few weeks ago I was praying about the troubled world situation and I had a sense of impending perilous times, that things could get much worse in the next few years. The only way I could describe it was in terms of the build up to war in Europe in 1939. My article is therefore called '1938', where I describe some of the factors that led to war, even as life was still very pleasant for most people. They are: Pragmatic Governments; Dangerous Ideologues and Antisemites

"I believe it is peace in our time ...Go home and sleep quietly in your beds"
On September 3rd, 1939, Great Britian declared war on Germany. My Father, a young Canadian in his mid-twenties, when he heard this news was washing dishes at the Admiral Beattie hotel on King Square in Saint John, NB. That same day, together with other young men, George Carson joined the Canadian army to go to Europe, win the war and be back in six months! This horrendous war would change things forever in many nations and millions would die or be wounded. George came home in one piece after six years in Europe.

Mindful of family history I have recently become apprehensive that the world today is much more dangerous than in 1939. Then, no nation had an WMD. Today, 32 countries have weapons of mass destruction. Nine nations have between them over 5000 active nuclear warheads. Iran is straining toward being the tenth nation to go nuclear. I have been thinking about the build up of events that led into 1939 and what we could learn from them as the 'signs of the times'. Hence 1938!
In 1938 life went on. Oil was discovered in Saudi Arabia, the first Superman comic was published, Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling in the first round in New York, Laszlo Biro patented the ballpoint pen in Britain, The Vienna Philharmonic recorded live Mahler's 9th symphony, the Mallard set the speed record for a steam train by reaching 126mph, Du Ponts new synthetic yarn was called 'nylon', and Italy beat Hungary 4-2 to win the 1938 soccer world cup! Sounds familiar?
The climate and nature did some strange and awful things: A sample:
Jan 25th: A brilliant aurora borealis described variously as 'a curtain of fire' and a 'huge blood-red beam of light' startled people across Europe and was visible as far south as Gibraltar.
Jan 27th: The Niagara Bridge at Niagara Falls, NY, collapsed due to an ice jam.
Feb 6th: Black Sunday at Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia: 300 swimmers were dragged out to sea in 3 freak waves; 80 lifesavers saved all but 5.
Mar 3rd: The Santa Ana River in California spilled over its banks during a rainy winter, killing 58 people in Orange County and caused trouble as far inland as Palm Springs
Jun 24th: A 450 ton meteorite exploded about 12 miles above the earth over Pennsylvania
Sep 21st: A giant hurricane slammed into the east coast of USA with little warning. The hurricane caused 40 ft waves to hit Long Island and sixty three thousand people were left homeless and some 700 dead.

Politically things got complicated in Europe, but Japan had already made a full invasion of China in July, 1937, and was challenging the Soviet Union in Mongolia. Hitler, the Nazi dictator, advanced his plan of uniting German speaking peoples by marching into Austria on March 12th. He then turned his attention to the Sudetenland, the German speaking part of Czechoslovakia. The only problem was that France and Britain had treaties with Czechoslovakia to defend her in the event of a German invasion. The obvious implications of this made war all too likely if a solution could not be found. The brilliant answer for France and Britain was to renege on their treaty obligations and allow Hitler to have his way. After two weeks of negotiations with Hitler, Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, could naively return from Munich on September 30th and wave a piece of paper with an agreement that England and Germany should never again go to war! Later that night, the Prime Minister leaned out of a window at 10 Downing Street and said to the crowds below:

" I believe it is peace in our time ...Go home and sleep quietly in your beds".

He could not have been more wrong! In six months time, Slovakia would declare independance and the next day Germany would annexe Bohemia and Moravia, the Czech provinces.
But other countries were not blameless. Poland and Hungary demanded slices of Czechoslovakia where their nationals resided. Britain was wheeling and dealing quite pragmatically. Sir Nevile Henderson, British Ambassador to Germany, presented a proposal to Hitler, on March 3rd, for an international consortium to rule much of Africa, in which Germany would be assigned a leading role, in exchange for a German promise never to resort to war to change her frontiers. Hitler rejected the British offer.
On April 16th, London and Rome signed an agreement that saw Britain recognise Italian control of Ethiopia in return for an Italian pledge to withdraw all its troops from Spain at the conclusion of the civil war there. No thoughts for the poor Ethiopians.
Then there were the Jews and the Gypsies. In June the Roma and Sinti peoples in Germany and Austria were beaten up and jailed. In July the Mauthausen concentration camp was built in Austria. The Evian conference was convened in France but no country in Europe was prepared to accept Jews fleeing persecution and the USA was only willing to take 23,370. The prospect for European Jewry looked very bleak.
In October the Arabs massacred 20 Jews in Tiberias. Germany expelled 12,000 Polish Jews living in Germany but the Polish Government would only accept 4000 and refused 8000, who were forced to live in 'relocation camps' on the Polish border.
November 9th was Kristallnacht in Germany - 'the night of broken glass'! 7500 Jewish businesses were destroyed, 267 Synagogues burned, 91 Jews killed and 25,000 men arrested. In December, Neuengamme Concentration Camp opened near Hamburg.

Also in December, Adolf Hitler was Time Magazine's Man of the Year!

What can we discern from all of this that is relevant to 2011?
First of all, on a day to day basis, life seems very ordinary and a lot of things happen that seem to be good or inventive - iPhone, iPad, bluetooth, etc.
Secondly, On the other hand disasters are not uncommon! Every earthquake or tidal wave does not mean the end of the world! But God could use them to get our attention (recent earthquake and hurricane on E. Coast)
Thirdly, here are three similarities with 1938 that should get our attention:

1) Governments in 1938 were acting largely in their own interests and were capable of changing alliances and betraying allies. Although Hitler wanted to conquer the Soviet Union, in 1939 Germany made a military pact with them and together they actually held a victory parade in Poland to celebrate their joint invasion! Many countries were quite prepared to declare themselves neutral. We need to be very discerning in our analysis of the news and in our prayers as the reality could be quite different from what it seems on the surface. Pray for our Canadian Government and leadership that they will be principled and not pragmatic.

2) Passionate ideologues not afraid of destruction are a very dangerous threat today. Instead of Hitler we have Ahimnahjad of Iran, Kim Jong Il of North Korea, the emerging Muslim Brotherhood and the volatile nation of Pakistan. We could also mention elements within Russia, China and even the US that could be willing to engage in a serious conflict. As 32 nations have a WMD, a third world war is a distinct possibility. In 1922 Hitler laid out his vision in a book and then proceeded to carry out that vision whatever the cost. Only Churchill seemed to understand. Pray for our Government to have godly influence especially in NATO policy.

3) Antisemitism is a strong indicator that something very bad is about to happen. Jerusalem is once again surrounded by hostile armies bent on the destruction of the State of Israel as a Jewish homeland. In Matthew 5:35, Jesus called Jerusalem the City of the great King. The book of Revelation refers to Jerusalem as the holy city, the great city and the beloved city! Hitler was another Haman (see Book of Esther) ruled by an occult spirit and ideology that opposed the purposes of God for 'all' Israel to be saved. Their failure and rejection will one day result in their fulness and acceptance and it will be glorious, and Satan hates them for it as it means his time is very short (see Romans 11). Thank God that we have a Prime Minister that is courageous to stand with Israel and rebuke anti-semitism.

So what do we do now?

'When people say, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as travail comes upon a woman with child, and there will be no escape. But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of light and sons of the day;' 1Thess 5:1-3

We are to be sons of the light and pray in the Spirit and understand the Ways of God from the Word of God. May we grow in discernment of spirits and move in wisdom and knowledge.