I remember 25 years ago saying something to a supervisor at work about maybe developing the skills to grow a garden because, “you just never know what might happen.” That seemingly innocent, off-hand comment brought upon me his very public pronouncement of being of a “doom-and-gloomer” and the ridicule of every one of my fellow workers with whom he gleefully shared our conversation. While his immature and idiotic rebuke was stinging I can’t say that it changed my thinking or altered my behavior, but I just never began the hard work of preparing. Even though I knew in my heart that I should, I didn’t make time to pursue it. Being the sole financial provider for a family of six and serving in my local church, Cub Scouts and Little League can keep guy pretty busy, I suppose. But things are changing. After a couple decades of ignoring the gut instinct that I should be prepared to provide for my family in the case of some kind of economic, societal, or natural calamity, I read JWR’s book How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It and became a regular visitor to SurvivalBlog and now the journey has begun. While I don’t have the financial resources to fill a barn like the guys on the reality television shows, I’ve committed $10 per week to my efforts – less than many folks waste on fast food and soda each week. I’m gradually filling galvanized steel trash cans with vacuum-packed bags of rice, beans and oatmeal and my wife keeps our pantry stocked with hundreds of jars of home-canned vegetables from our garden. My storage shelves are slowly gathering an assortment of cooking oil, peanut butter, Coleman fuel and small propane cylinders. The two-way radios we take camping are now stored in insulated steel ammo cans as is my old marine radio and a dynamo powered weather radio. The pitcher pump for my shallow well is on a shelf in the garage, the garden is in and I have an acre’s-worth of heirloom seeds in the deep freeze. My firewood is cut, split and stacked. I have oil lamps and a kerosene heater along with spare wicks for all. Emergency candles and a brick of strike-anywhere matches are next on the list as is building a Faraday Cage for my generator and chain saws. I picked up a big stoneware crock at an Amish hard goods store and I’m having a blast canning my home-made sauerkraut. I’ve mastered raising chickens and pigs and will be adding a calf later this spring. My next goal, in addition to continuing to fill the shelves, is to learn the art of cold smoking meats in case the freezers go down. I’ve come a long way and have even farther to go and I’m loving every step of the journey. This is truly an adventure.
But there’s a nagging issue that keeps tugging at my heart. There’s a Question that goes beyond the mind straight to my soul. You see, I’m a Christ-follower. And I believe that being a Christian is far more than just religion and a free ticket to the non-smoking section in eternity. True Christianity is an all-encompassing worldview. True Faith captures our hearts and causes us to see the world in a way that shapes the way we live in it. And that should impact the way we approach TEOTWAWKI, should it not? JWR does well reminding us often to set aside extra provisions for those who are unprepared. And the December 2011 SurvivalBlog writing contest winner, Barter, Post-TEOTWAWKI: The Micro Store – is a great encouragement to all of us to think about how we can help others help themselves while improving our odds of thriving at the same time. There’s more going on in this movement than just working for self-preservation and that’s something my worldview embraces.
I dream often of a retreat location somewhere in the American Redoubt. Wyoming perhaps, or Montana, or maybe even the Ozarks. Or more exciting yet – my late-maternal grandfather was a freelance photographer with a serious case of wanderlust and spent a lot of time in the Coeur d’Alene country of northern Idaho. He fell in love with it and always wanted to return there when he was older and though he never was able, he left us with his photographs and the memories of his adventures. Maybe I should go there in his stead – talk about adding thrill to the adventure! But then there’s that Question that haunts me. That unresolved issue that goes beyond whether or not I have the time and the financial resources to pursue the dream of a retreat. A Question with its roots implanted in the very foundation of my faith. That voice that keeps whispering to me, “Is that the right thing for you to do?” Is fleeing to the mountains to protect myself and my family from “the golden horde” in keeping with my faith’s call to “see the world in a way that shapes the way I live in it?” I can’t answer that question for anyone else – and I don’t believe the answer is the same for every one of us – but I must answer it for myself. JWR’s done an excellent job of laying out a Biblical rationale for food storage, self-defense and charity in the SurvivalBlog Prayer Page. As with all things Biblical, there’s a wealth of wisdom there whether you believe in God or not. I won’t repeat it all here but if you haven’t read the page, you should as you’ll be stronger and wiser for the time spent there. And isolating those Biblical missives from the full context of the whole of Scripture, life and eternity seems to make them scream, “Run for the hills!” In fact, those words are actually in there. When people start to ruminate about the end of the world (the real end, not just “the world as we know it”) I like to say, “I’m not worried about it. I’ve read the end of the book. I know how it ends.” I have read the end of the book and I do know how it ends so I’m really not worried about it but the fact is some of the stuff at the end of the book isn’t very user-friendly and running for the hills isn’t a bad idea. But that’s not really what we’re talking about prepping for here. The end of one civilization (ours!) in reality would be just another footnote in history, not an eternity-ushering cosmic cataclysm, even though it might seem like it at the time. But escaping even that “footnote in history” doesn’t seem like such a bad idea and providing for and protecting one’s family is unquestionably a Biblical mandate and I take those very seriously. Oh, that it were all so simple!
The Question comes to me as the result of the reading I’ve done on Christian worldview. One of today’s most prolific writers on the subject is Chuck Colson and in the prologue of his excellent treatise on basic Christian beliefs – The Faith – he tells the story of the early Christians of the Roman Empire and how their response to the 1st century smallpox epidemic was used by God to fuel the explosive growth of God’s plan to restore humanity to himself. Because of the squalid living conditions in the cities of that day – much like will become of our cities when the water and sewers stop flowing – they were ripe for the spread of communicable disease and plagues of various kinds that would often decimate the population. At the onset of these unnatural disasters, the wealthy – the physicians and elites – would flee to their country estates and leave the hordes to die and rot. But then along came this new group of people called Christians who believed that every human being is a precious life created in the image of God. They would go around the city, picking up the moaning bodies covered with putrid, oozing pox and take them to a place where they could, “give the victims water, keep them as clean as possible, and encourage them with kindness and prayer.” Needless to say, many of those early Christ-followers performed this ministry at the expense of their very lives. But somehow, by giving up their own lives, they added to their number, so much so that they, “progressed from being a small sect to the dominant cultural group.” People saw the sacrifice and said, “I don’t know what it is that they’ve got, but whatever it is, I want it. I want to be one of them.” And the world will never be the same. By “surviving in place,” – or in many cases not – these folks were used by God to change the world.
And so the Question pursues me. I’m blessed with a four-acre place in the country surrounded by hundreds of acres of farm fields and woods but we’re within a day’s walking distance of a city of 100,000 and an hour’s walk from a major interstate. It’s impossible for me to lay up enough to help everyone who might come to my door even if I were to give it all away. And how long could we really hold out against a horde of desperate hungry people or against the authorities who might come looking for something to “fairly redistribute?” Probably not very long. By trying to survive in place, could I lose my life and endanger the lives of my wife and my four children? It would seem so. But might that be a chance that at least some of us who call ourselves Christ-followers could be called to take? I suspect it might.
And so I continue to ponder the Question. In the mean time, am I laying up a supply of food? Absolutely. Have I established a sustainable source of water? Yep. Do I have guns? Better believe it. Do I have ammunition? Yes (even though somehow the word “enough” just never seems to apply here.) Am I prepared to defend my family against an invasion by those who would steal us blind and leave us without the ability to survive? Lock and load! I will do what I need to do to protect my family and at the same time look for ways to live out my faith and honor my Lord by serving “the least of these.” And whatever else happens . . . happens. As pastor and author Charles Stanley says, “Obey God. Trust all the consequences to Him.”