I am not a prophet to predict the end of the world; the Lord will return when it is time. That doesn’t mean there are no hard times ahead; there have always been hard times. We don’t need a 2012scenario for circumstances to get more than difficult. Throughout recent history people who were comfortably complacent found themselves out on the byways, looking for a meal and a pair of shoes. War, weather, geological conditions, politics, fire, religious conflict – anything can happen, and the cozy suburban home is no better than a dank cave, or it’s gone. Burned, confiscated, repossessed, overrun, wiped out.
That should brighten your day. But how can we be prepared if the bad times overwhelm us? Who can stand alone against the darkness?
No one can.
There’s always the survivalist scenario, where a family or very small group hoards and saves, with dried food, seeds, and stock animals enough for three years, deep within a remote gated compound, surrounded by their weapons. They will be a little nation unto themselves, and they will survive. At least until someone bigger, badder and with armament enough to blow them away comes along. Maybe he’ll let them stay on as slaves. Probably not. The biggest baddest guys will not bother stockpiling anything but weapons, and they will spot the family compound from the air, and come clear it out like an anthill.
I’ve heard that scenario so many times. I’m from the isolated North; there’s always some urban refugees burned out on traffic and crime trying to homestead. They convince themselves that they could defend themselves against the potential enemy, but since some of them seem to have trouble dealing with skunks and raccoons, that’s not likely.
To prepare for the potential disaster, we will have to do it together. And we will have to start now, by forming lasting Christian communities that can network and support each other. We will have to be people of peace, and people willing to sacrifice. In simple words, we will have to be the new apostolic church. Instead of fearing and repelling outsiders, we will have to start learning to take them in, to see what it is we do to care for each other. So we will have to make some real effort to care for each other, and get into practice.
I don’t care what denomination or tradition we are in; it can’t matter. We can’t be concerned about polity, power, or the fine points of ritual. The most important concern will be to love each other as Christ first loved us. That means feeding each other, healing each other, carrying each other. It will mean caring for the unbeliever as well as our own faith group. That’s what the apostolic church taught us two millenia ago. It was how they survived.
How do we get started though? I say put down your weapons. Literally, if necessary. (Shame on Christians who pack weapons! Did Jesus do that? No, and don’t give me the sword argument. He meant the scripture and the faith, not steel.) We also need to put down our weapons of rhetoric. Time to stop the arguing, and get to work, because the dam may burst any minute. Time to move to higher ground, and if we can do that in some organized, purposeful way instead of scrambling like scared deer, that would be good.
It is time to rebuild our communities instead of repairing our church buildings. Shore up the walls, slap on a coat of paint, and stop worrying about sound systems, projector screens, and Power Point. The power of the unamplified human voice, backed by faith, scripture and the Holy Spirit was all the Church needed for all its history.
Plant gardens. Open a food bank. Set up a clothing exchange. Organize a daycare centre. Hire a parish nurse. Take meals to the housebound. Build a homeless shelter and a group house for the disabled. We will need all these people if the world as we know it collapses. We will need to have structures of caring and giving in place.
I don’t think this is difficult. I don’t think it is expensive. We need to get our priorities straight.
We will need to free up some money, whether it is redirected income or invested capital. We need to invest our money and energy in people, not in things. maybe the national churches should liquidate assets, pay off ministers’ student loans, and then cut their salaries. (Oh, that would iconoclastic, wouldn’t it?) Maybe parishes and churches should plant gardens on every rectory lawn, to feed the clergy and the poor. Maybe church members should stop buying new cars and taking travel vacations in order to contribute to the real work of the church.
If we don’t start building community now, it will be too late if the crash comes. I don’t think it gets any simpler than that.