The Spiritual Abuse of Christian Doomsday Prepping

February 1, 2013

You know how some things are really good, but then they get so much exposure, everyone gets sick of them?7trumpets (1)

Like your favorite song being ruined by constant radio play.

Or bacon.  For crying out loud, it’s bacon.  Yes, we all know everyone likes it.  Just shut up and eat it.

Or zombies.

Or the apocalypse.

Seriously, can we just get past the end of the world already?

It’s that last one that really sticks in my craw.  Everyone has their own brand of doomsday theory.  Elizabeth Esther wrote a great post last week about the spiritual abuse of “doomsday preppers,” (which is so widespread, it warrants a cable tv show.)

But if there is child abuse in prepping for the world, I think there has to be equal parts spiritual abuse in Christians prepping for the rapture.

Always Be Prepared

A few weeks ago, I had a familiar exchange.  I was sharing a conversation with a new acquaintance, and the subject of faith and theology came up.  But before too long, the conversation had veered straight into the apocalypse with this question:

“What are your thoughts on the rapture?”

And just like a dolt who fails to stockpile dehydrated food and ammunition, I answered, “I just don’t think about the rapture.”

My new friend was not impressed.  People who place a high priority on the end of the world never seem impressed with anyone who doesn’t. When you find yourself with a Christian doomsday prepper, there really is nothing else they want to talk about, so the conversation dies quickly.

A rather innocuous conversation, sure.  And people have long been obsessed with wanting to know how the story is going to end.  But here’s why I think an obsession with the end of the world really does heap spiritual abuse on people.

It’s a Waste of Time

It amazes me how well so many Christians are able to focus all of their energies on one verse of the Bible, and ignore the very next.  How can Christians pour over Revelation so much, trying to decipher the meaning, or the date, when Jesus plainly says that no one knows when it will happen?

Besides that, when Christians start obsessing over Revelation, they get that glazed look in their eyes, meaning they are looking at everything through the lens of Revelation.  Every news story is a harbinger of the end.  People start looking for clues in pop songs.  And pretty soon, you’re watching John Hagee burst out of his suit in a fit of righteous indignation.

It Emphasize Fear

Just as with doomsday preppers awaiting a meteor or economic failure, I believe the underlying emotion driving Christian preppers is fear.  You can’t read Revelation literally and not be afraid.  So to obsess over it, to make it the lens through which you see the world, to make it you primary book of the Bible has to saturate your thinking with fear.

As Christians, we are told (again, plainly for anyone with a balanced reading of the Bible) that we need not live in fear, because of who Christ is.  Sure, bad stuff is going to happen.  That’s life.  But to live in constant, overwhelming fear is not a life that builds faith in God.  So obsessing over events that actually make people more fearful, is not only not helpful, but it is spiritually abusive.

When people are afraid, they want answers.  They will cling to prophets to try to cope with their fear.  And that’s what I think is really behind the Christian preppers.  Preachers making people afraid, so they will continue to cling to them for answers.  The more fear they feed their audiences, the more control they have over them.

It’s Not the Gospel

Like with my new friend, the conversation always dies quickly with a prepper if you don’t share their spiritual hobby.  If you are not a prepper, then you two really don’t have much in common.

That’s what irks me the most about Christian doomsday preppers.  They have nothing else to talk about.  I think if the Bible just contained Revelation, it would make little difference to them.

Jesus didn’t go around telling people about the apocalypse.  He didn’t command us to breed fear and prepare for a fiery end.  His message was love and forgiveness, reconciliation with God.  And somehow, when you are abusing people by obsessing over the Beast, that message gets lost.  The gospel gets replaced by fear.

And if there’s one harbinger of Satan’s thousand year rule on earth, that’s it right there.

What do you say?  Are you a prepper?  Or will the apocalypse catch you completely unprepared?  Have you had experience with Christians or churches who overemphasized the end of the Book?

26 responses to The Spiritual Abuse of Christian Doomsday Prepping

  1. The other thing I’ve noticed about Christian preppers is that once they start focusing all their attention on the rapture, they pretty much stop giving a crap about the rest of the world.

    I remember having a conversation with a family member after one of the big school shootings (not Columbine but one of the several that followed–it’s depressing that I even have to type that), and she basically told me “Well, that’s one of the signs of the end times.”

    What else is there to say after something like that? Nothing. She had no interest in whether or not anti-bullying programs work, or whether she thought more gun control would help or not, or really anything else. With these people, it pretty much boils down to “the world’s going to hell, but it doesn’t matter what I do about it because I’m getting raptured out of here anyway.”

    That’s the thing that seems to stand out with the Left Behind books that Fred Clark has been reviewing over on Slacktivist. One recurring problem with those books is that the heroes that we’re supposed to be sympathizing with all act like selfish a–holes. When the Antichrist drops a bomb on Chicago, one of our heroes big first response is to kick a door in on his boss (in her own office), “borrow” her car (which he then abandons in the middle of the city without a second thought), and generally act like an arrogant blowhard to everyone else around him–yelling at clerks on the phone, driving in the right-turn lane and then yelling at the cop that pulls him over. The writers seem to think this is all okay because, unlike the rest of the poor slobs that just got nuked, our hero is a RTC (or a Really True Christian as the commenters lovingly refer to them.)

    It’s just a piece of fiction, but a lot of preppers seem to have this mindset–“I’ve got mine, screw the rest of you.”

  2. Uhmm… well. Most “mainline” Christians love to focus on that one not forsaking fellowship verse. GOD FORBID you don’t worship every week (and give tithes) in an (insert denomination name here) church. And we need lots of programs to bring in the “unchurched”… why?

    I’m not saying it’s not in there, but there are far fewer verses about “go to church each week” than there are about the end times.

  3. I love those totally absorbed and obsessing about the end times. They had it figured out in the 40’s, the 50’s, the 60’s etc. and we are all still here. They take miniscule verses and make theological treatises out of them; the fig tree, a generation, a half week, locusts firing missiles and of course the BIG ONE…the ANTICHRIST!!! It was Carter, Reagan, Obama, Hitler. Miss, miss and more misses. All we know is that he is coming and we don’t when but we better be ready. So live life like He means for you to live it until that last day comes….by the way…let me give you 88 reasons why it will happen in 1988 (remember that????).

  4. You are going to laugh or be very concerned Matt, but the kids and I have started going through Revelation because we are studying the beginning of history and I think reading about the two things makes for an interesting juxtaposition. We are still in the middle of the letters to the churches, which, by the way, could be very scary if Jesus didn’t end each letter with encouragement. And that is what I want to encourage my kids as we read it: God takes care of His people, so don’t be afraid. Of course, sometimes, it is hard to see that in the midst of horrible times or illness or end times, But most Christians that I have spoken with agree that after getting out of the situation, they can see that God was with them all along and that He took care of them. Or we can see how God healed one of His children by bringing them home with Him. And to Abby’s point, He takes care of us so that we can be a blessing to others, not so that we can wallow self-righteously in our blessings.

    I am a half-hearted prepper–i am learning to knit so that if the economy collapses, I will know how to make socks and maybe sweaters. I am encouraging my kids in learning fiber crafts, too and when my daughter wanted to get a book on the medicinal properties of herbs, I encouraged her. But whenever I think of all the things I would need to to be truly serious about it and remember that God fed His people for forty years in the desert and gave them water from rocks, I figure that my best plan is to trust Him to show me what to do if that time ever comes.

  5. How can we prep for something we have no control over. There’s very little faith in this, its mostly fear – fear and control…

    It’s all “adventures in missing the point”.

  6. You mocked bacon.

    Now you must die.

    Or repent by having a BLBTB for lunch.

  7. There’s a parable about the foolish virgins who weren’t ready when the bridegroom came, so I understand the desire to have some understanding of the “end times” and some of their signs, and because it is so ill-understood, I also totally get the sci-fi-ification of it all (although I’ve never read a “Left Behind” book). BUT, as with everything, there are people who take it too far.

    We shouldn’t go about pretending that the world is never going to end, because a) God said it will (Revelation), and b) Jesus told us to be ready (foolish virgins), but we also shouldn’t go about saying “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we may die” (and/or “screw you because I’m ok”) because we’re told to love God and others (and very few people who have a “tomorrow I may die” attitude are thinking of anyone other than themselves).

    As will many things, I’ll defer to Paul – “All things in moderation.”

  8. I have a cousin-in-law (I have to claim him, but only by marriage for his ideas :) ) who is a great conspiracist – one world government, one monetary system, government cover ups etc. and sends on articles and videos and so on. All of which I take with a LOT of salt. (It probably doesn’t help that he lives alone…….) There are some things which I might read, but a lot of what he sends I’m not interested in, or already know about (Israel, flouride, etc).

    Now ME, I believe that there is a lot more to the Bible and Jesus’ teachings than the world is going to end. As Jesus said, even He doesn’t know when, and He was telling His followers to be prepared (virgins and oil) AND love their neighbour, living as He taught – feed the hungry, care for the widows and orphans, and so on. So, that’s what I try to do. Live the way the Gospels teach (grace, but not forgetting the law), love people, show Christ’s love for them by caring for them as they are, not trying to change them into what I think they should be, but getting to know them, listening to them, asking if I can pray for them and if they ask about my faith, then sharing with them.

    • I think you’re right. God hasn’t told us what heaven is like, I think because we would never believe it. And our minds just aren’t prepared for finding out all the intricacies of how God is going to work it all out. It’s going to be mind blowing.

  9. As to the end times, I am pretty much a twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew kind of guy.

  10. I recently joined a new social community based around the Bible Series that will be airing on the History Channel in March. I have found it a GREAT place to express my faith and to talk about it with others. I think you would really enjoy it and it would even be a good blog post to talk about it if you enjoy it as much as I do.

    The site is http://community.bibleseries.tv you can watch the trailers for the Bible Series too if you haven’t seen it yet.

    I hope you like it and thank you for all the work you put into your blog!

  11. (I came across the following snippet on the web. Any reactions?)

    Pretrib Rapture Pride

    by Bruce Rockwell

    Pretrib rapture promoters like Thomas Ice give the impression they know more than the early Church Fathers, the Reformers, the greatest Greek New Testament scholars including those who produced the KJV Bible, the founders of their favorite Bible schools, and even their own mentors!
    Ice’s mentor, Dallas Sem. president John Walvoord, couldn’t find anyone holding to pretrib before 1830 – and Walvoord called John Darby and his Brethren followers “the early pretribulationists” (RQ, pp. 160-62). Ice belittles Walvoord and claims that several pre-1830 persons, including “Pseudo-Ephraem” and a “Rev. Morgan Edwards,” taught a pretrib rapture. Even though the first one viewed Antichrist’s arrival as the only “imminent” event, Ice (and Grant Jeffrey) audaciously claim he expected an “imminent” pretrib rapture! And Ice (and John Bray) have covered up Edwards’ historicism which made a pretrib rapture impossible! Google historian Dave MacPherson’s “Deceiving and Being Deceived” for documentation on these and similar historical distortions.
    The same pretrib defenders, when combing ancient books, deviously read “pretrib” into phrases like “before Armageddon,” “before the final conflagration,” and “escape all these things”!
    BTW, the KJV translators’ other writings found in London’s famed British Library (where MacPherson has researched) don’t have even a hint of pretrib rapturism. Is it possible that Ice etc. have found pretrib “proof” in the KJV that its translators never found?
    Pretrib merchandisers like Ice claim that nothing is better pretrib proof than Rev. 3:10. They also cover up “Famous Rapture Watchers” (on Google) which shows how the greatest Greek NT scholars of all time interpreted it.
    Pretrib didn’t flourish in America much before the 1909 Scofield Bible which has pretribby “explanatory notes” in its margins. Not seen in the margins was jailed forger Scofield’s criminal record throughout his life that David Lutzweiler has documented in his recent book “The Praise of Folly” which is available online.
    Biola University’s doctrinal statement says Christ’s return is “premillennial” and “before the Tribulation.” Although universities stand for “academic freedom,” Biola has added these narrow, restrictive phrases – non-essentials the founders purposely didn’t include in their original doctrinal statement when Biola was just a small Bible institute! And other Christian schools have also belittled their founders.
    Ice, BTW, has a “Ph.D” issued by a tiny Texas school that wasn’t authorized to issue degrees! Ice now says that he’s working on another “Ph.D” via the University of Wales in Britain. For light on the degrees of Ice’s scholarliness, Google “Bogus degree scandal prompts calls to wind up University of Wales,” “Thomas Ice (Bloopers),” “be careful in polemics – Peripatetic Learning,” and “Walvoord Melts Ice.” Also Google “Thomas Ice (Hired Gun)” – featured by media luminary Joe Ortiz on his Jan. 30, 2013 “End Times Passover” blog.
    Other fascinating Google articles include “The Unoriginal John Darby,” “X-raying Margaret,” “Edward Irving in Unnerving,” “Pretrib Rapture Politics,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrets,” “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty,” “Pretrib Hypocrisy,” “Pretrib Rapture Secrecy,” and “Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism” – most from the author of “The Rapture Plot,” the most accurate documentation on pretrib rapture history.
    Can anyone guess who the last proud pretrib rapture holdout will be?
    (Postscript: For another jolt or two Google “The Background Obama Can’t Cover Up.”)

  12. Do you have life insurance? A retirement plan? 401K?
    Yes?
    Welcome to the world of preppers..