This piece could have easily been entitled, "One Pastor's Precise Prediction." Why? Because Pastor Charles Taze Russell, the second president of the Zion's Watch Tower Tract Society and the man who spearheaded the work of the group known today as Jehovah's Witnesses, precisely predicted the current environmental and economic crises well over one hundred and twenty-five years ago. (A philanthropist named William Henry Conley, who mightily assisted African American orphans, was the Society's first president.) And with the recent freak snowstorm down South and along the Eastern seaboard, coupled with a worsening economic crisis, Russell is worthy of posthumous honors! "In writings as early as 1883 (and through to the end of his life)," states Wikipedia, "Russell repeatedly expressed the view that the world would see a significant but gradual change in global climate conditions as a prelude to the re-establishment of Eden-like conditions. These changes, he said, would include the gradual melting of the Greenland sheet, the Arctic and Antarctic polar ice caps, and the general warming up of the earth's temperatures." Move over Al Gore.
'Climate Crisis Spiritual Challenge': Former U.S. Vice-President Gore won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize and his film on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, won two Oscars for Best Documentary and Best Original Song. He said that global warming is "the greatest challenge we've ever faced," and that though he was "deeply honored...We face a true planetary emergency." Identifying humankind as the culprits, he went on to say in a written statement that "The climate crisis is not a political issue; it is a moral and spiritual challenge of all humanity." Russell also believed there were "moral and spiritual" implications in foretelling a "climate crisis." While his understanding of a few minor details may need adjusting, note the stunning accuracy with which he wrote in Zion's Watch Tower, September 1883:
"It seems certain that to make the earth into a paradise like Eden, such as the prophecies picture, and a fit place for the restored race [of humans], some great changes of climate, etc., must occur. Looking back, we find that some important changes of climate, etc., took place at the time of the Deluge...These changes occurred at the end of the first world or dispensation...and we think that a proper time to expect another change to a better condition would be at the close of the present evil dispensation, at the threshold of 'The world...to come,' wherein dwelleth righteousness. That these changes will be sudden we do not believe." (Italics his.) Russell understood that in the Bible "world" and "earth" sometimes meant people. For instance, Genesis 11:1, King James Version, says that "the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech." And 2 Peter 3:6, 7 (KJV) says that "the world...of ungodly men" perished in the Flood, and will perish in the coming "day of judgment." As was the case in Noah's day, human survivors will populate "The world...to come" that Russell spoke of.
In Zion's Watch Tower, September 1886, Russell mentioned "the quakings of society," and that "We may be sure that great changes must take place in the climates...Cyclones, earthquakes, thunderbolts, and alternations of drouth and deluge, and of blizzards of cold and simoons of heat," and that "amid all the troubles of this day...the physical convulsions" would accompany "moral and social upheavals."
Warming Leads to "World War"?: Although Vice President Gore said that the "climate crisis is not a political issue," Lord Nicholas Stern, "a prominent British economist and author of a major report on the cost of global warming, said that if climate change isn't dealt with decisively, it could cause 'extended world war.'" He went on to lament that "as weather patterns change, it could create mass migrations which would, in turn, set off mass conflict." And what did Russell say about these sentiments in Zion's Watch Tower, August 15, 1896? "Great physical changes in nature may reasonably be expected as part of the impending trouble (intermingled with the social, political, financial and religious troubles of this day of the Lord." Russell then went on to discuss "the changes" and "present conditions of climate" in connection with "the impending trouble," and noted "fearful signs connected with the grand changes now." Indeed, earth's warming trend in deadly. "More than 250 people died in a heat wave that baked much of the United States in 1999, and in 2003 extreme heat waves killed 20,000 people in Europe and 1,500 in India."
Perils of Polar Ice 'Prophesied': In Zion's Watch Tower, May 1, 1903, Russell keenly observed: "Polar ice, both Arctic and Antarctic, seems to have been steadily decreasing, and...The ice from both poles seems to be drifting toward the equatorial regions, to such an extent that, in the north, it has become a menace to commerce, and it may be a work preparatory to" end times. There was no hue and cry at the time. But is this the reality today? Consider these facts: (1) "The rate of ice melting doubled between 1996 and 2005." (2) "More than 100 cold-dependent species are in trouble. Polar bears have started dropping in numbers and weight and emperor penguin populations have shrunk by a factor of 30 in some areas." (3) "A rise in methane has scientists worried that melting Arctic ice could be releasing ancient stores of the gas." (4) "Two studies released in 2006 found that despite the increasing snowfall that comes with global warming, Antarctica's ice sheets are losing far more surface area than the snow is adding."
Greenland's Glaciers Going?: In The Watch Tower, January 1, 1913, Russell affirmed: "Scientific Bible students are having their faith in God's Word established more and more. Without affecting the torrid zones, the warmer temperature is not extending itself into the frigid zone quite rapidly. 'Greenland's icy mountains' will soon be things of the past. The poles are warming up. The ice caps are dissolving. Last winter was called the 'straw hat' season of Alaska, because of the higher temperature then ever before known." What have today's experts observed? (1) "A massive crack in Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland has at least one scientist predicting that a big part of the Northern Hemisphere's largest floating glacier will be gone within a year." (2) "A record amount of Greenland's ice sheet melted last summer-19 billion tons more than the previous high mark. And for the first time on record, the Northwest Passage was open to navigation."
Without a doubt, when it comes to the environment and economics, we're experiencing "anguish of nations, not knowing the way out," leading people to become "faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth." (Luke 21:25, 26) Not to worry, a paradise earth where righteousness is to dwell will follow. (2 Pet. 3:13) If Jehovah's Witnesses (arguably the most active religion in America's Black Communities) haven't been to your 'hood and knocked on your door to inform you of the coming end of this wicked system of things and the composite sign of the times that precedes it as recorded in the Bible at Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, then you're a Martian. In fact, it's been joked that if you really want to know where Osama Bin Laden is, just ask the Witnesses. They'll find you whether you're hiding behind curtains and couches or sneaking out in caves and crevices. Kind of makes you wonder what else they might be right about? Stay up. Stay strong, and preach on. Amen.
Dr. Firpo Carr can be reached at 800.501.2713 or