The bumper sticker on my neighbor’s truck says that he’ll be a first responder in case of a Zombie Apocalypse. One popular TV show chronicles doomsday preppers while another show gathers survivors of a nuclear holocaust in Jericho, Kansas. The movies, Ender’s Game and Hunger Games, are not about games, but about the loss of childhood innocence in a post-apocalyptic world. One of the unexpected consequences of the shift to a secularized/post-religious worldview, is that the end of days can be spoken about without any reference to the Book of Revelations or Judeo-Christian prophesies.
Suddenly, Jesus’ “Nobody knows the day or the hour,” has become very main stream. We have seen enough of the horrors of 20th century technology and violence to almost believe that every day of the 21st century could be our last. Having said all of this, I don’t think Jesus is calling his people to master the crossbow, stock their basements with years of rations, or wear a gas mask clipped to their belt. He is instead inviting people to be spiritually ready. This seems to be a good place to begin Advent.
One of the themes of Matthew 24:36-44 is that having a things be normal today, doesn’t prevent the next day from being total chaos. On the day before the apocalypse, people will be getting married, women will be grinding wheat in their Cuisinart, men will be chasing a golf ball across the green — all will seem normal. This is true of our world, this is also true of our individual lives. Tomorrow we might have a heart attack, a serious accident, or become victims of a senseless crime. Our children might be hit by a bullet while at school, or in a movie theater, or simply while sitting on the porch of their home. How then, should we live?
Much of the cruelty we exhibit towards each other is because we feel that we are owed full lives of predictable security, comfort, and privilege. We don’t see our neighbors as fellow travelers on a road that could become a minefield at any moment. If the rug might get pulled out from under us at any moment, then we will lose our right to take pride on our position. Tomorrow we might truly become, beggars showing other beggars where to find bread.
What if we decide not to wait for tomorrow? What if we live today like Job, who knew that he came into the world naked and could be made naked by fate at any time (Job 1:20-21)? Real doomsday preppers live ready to bless the Lord when life becomes crazy. I don’t see how this is possible without committing oneself to a season of simplicity. Like Henry David Thoreau, we have to intentionally fast from what has become “normal” for us. He writes:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
(Walden, Chapter 2)