There are basically two kinds of people in the world: Those who go out of their way to keep their vehicles topped up with gasoline, and those who don’t. What I find strange is that a lot of those who don’t will actually scoff at those who do, laughing that anyone would subject themselves to such an absurd inconvenience.
It’s the same with our holster company; we regularly get criticism for suggesting that people carry firearms. Those people who do carry are called pessimistic, fearful, paranoid, and worse. I realize that guns are political hot-button issue, but I, personally, have also been sneered at for carrying pocket knives, flashlights, multi tools… basically anything more useful than a bottle opener.
When I was a volunteer firefighter, everyone was very happy to see that I had a trunkful of tools in my personal vehicle, but now that I’m just a regular person, my industrial fire extinguisher, commercial jack, and heavy-duty tow straps have apparently become jokes. Earlier this week Heidi overheard someone sniff at the idea of buying and storing extra food for emergencies. Where does this attitude come from? Generally speaking, anti-preppers criticize preppers for three reasons:
We see media regularly making fun of preppers, especially those reality TV survivalists who amass a lifetime supply Hershey bars so they can make it through the coming Venusian invasion, because they are just plain dumb. Preparing for the future is always something that is done by crackpots who believe that Reptiloids run the government, the zombies are coming, and we all need to stock up on tinfoil before the aliens melt the planet down for scrap.
The idea that prepping always involves hiding from some Sci-fi Channel apocalypse makes it easy to ridicule anyone who is preparing for anything, even if all they are doing is filling their gas tank before the warning light comes on. But what does the Bible say about prepping? Obviously Noah and Joseph gathered resources to prepare for hard times, but God told them to do so about specific times. More general commands for us can be found in Proverbs, where the ant is commended for its diligence and wisdom in gathering up food for the winter, and the fool is rebuked for not storing and not preparing.
Of course, the Bible also contains cautions about materialism. It was God who preserved Noah and Joseph, not their stored food. We don’t boast in chariots and horses, we don’t rely on our own strength, and we don’t put our hope in riches. But trusting in the Lord doesn’t mean rejecting His physical provisions, either. In 1 Timothy 5:8 we learn that a man who does not provide for his household has denied the faith, and in Greek that word “to provide” means to perceive or foresee or think of beforehand, implying preparation as much as production. In Proverbs 27:12 it is the wise man who foresees and avoids danger and the fool who ignores and runs into it.
Ironically, some of the most vociferous anti-preppers really do believe that climate change is going to turn the entire earth into some kind of Mad Max Armageddon, but they’d rather not worry about regularly occurring floods, tornadoes, and really bad disasters, like when we forgot the diaper bag yesterday.
The other argument I tend to run into is that Preppers are only acting out of fear. In this case it doesn’t matter if they worry about the Mole Man uprising or a tree falling on their house, anyone that keeps extra food in the basement must be terrified. Anyone who carries a concealed handgun surely sees rapists and muggers hiding behind every mailbox.
This is a false premise. It is entirely possible to prepare for the future without living in quaking dread of it. Heidi and I weren’t kept awake at night by the terror of a road trip without the diaper bag, and yet, we had a few extra diapers in the car for just such an occasion.
The Bible tells us we should not live in the spirit of fear, and that we should not fear men, but it also says that we should not be surprised when we encounter various trials. We know that God both blesses and judges individuals and nations. To expect trials and difficulties is not fearful but wise.
But this is not what most experts say. Most financial experts teach us that we can spend our way out of a depression, borrow our way out of a debt crisis, and strengthen a weak market by simply having confidence in it. This is actually a fearful kind of denial. I have talked to people who admit that the consequences of an earthquake on a particularly shaky fault line would be unthinkable, and so they’re just not going to think about it.
Another criticism of the strawman prepper is his focus on self-preservation. This is a valid complaint if he plans to hide in his bomb shelter while giant winged crabs take control over Earth’s blasted surface. What could be more selfish than to calmly eat whole pallets of MREs alone while the rest of the starving humans are getting messily devoured?
But is refusing to help others actually worse that refusing to be capable of helping others? I’ve seen anti-preppers suggest that smart motorists ditch car jacks as a gasoline-saving “lifehack.” Don’t be the idiot who lugs the useful tool around; if you get a flat, some idiot with a jack will stop to help you. Don’t be the nerd with the flashlight on his belt; let someone else carry the flashlight until there’s a power outage. Don’t waste your money on canned goods; eat someone else’s.
This cannot be the Christian’s position. As we have read, Christian preparedness can’t be based on our trust in mere material goods, and it can’t be motivated by fleshly fear, but it also can’t be selfish. We’re called to bear one another’s burdens, to care for the orphan and widow, to give food and water to those who are hungry, and more. How can we do this without resources? Heidi and I can’t even afford to do basic hospitality without buying bulk foods, let alone any kind of community-wide disaster relief.
Last week, an Alabama pipeline failed, and several states suffered minor gasoline shortages. I doubt anyone predicted that exact scenario, and yet some people had full tanks of gas over the weekend, and some didn’t. Lots of folks went scrambling around Nashville trying to find overpriced fuel, but in a few weeks some of them will probably go back to mocking preppers for foolishly, fearfully, and selfishly hoarding gas.
I’m afraid that most criticism of cautious prepping is actually more foolish, more fearful, and more selfish than what is being criticized. This blog post isn’t a blanket approval of all prepping, of course, but it is a reflection on the need to examine what we are doing, and why. It takes a lot of work, study, and meditation on God’s Word to be wise, bold, and selfless in this area.
And in case you think I’m patting myself on the back for how well prepared I am, perhaps I should describe last Saturday night. Heidi had to go get enough gas to get us to church, because I hadn’t left enough in the tank for that. Why didn’t I go? Well, I was out cleaning our drainage ditches in the back yard in the pitch dark and pouring rain. I could’ve cleared those ditches at any time that was light and dry, but I waited until they were overflowing into our basement. I will say, however, that it was a good thing that I had that flashlight.