The Doomsday Prepping Wagon Is Getting Crowded

The Doomsday Prepping Wagon Is Getting Crowded January 10, 2013

It used to be that only paranoid outcasts spoke of doomsday. These folks would fear the falling sky would drop at their feet via nuclear meltdown or natural disaster or viral epidemic or economic collapse or zombie outbreak.

But doomsday is no longer a fringe idea. USAToday reports that “a poll done for National Geographic Channel in September indicated that 28% of Americans knew” someone who was preparing for doomsday. That means almost one third of Americans are storing food and water, developing escape plans, and practicing self-defense (including weapons training).

NatGeo’s television show, Doomsday Preppers, features people around the States who are preparing for the worst. After watching a few episodes, I found myself wondering how long I would survive if the sky fell. Planning is not my thing—I don’t have a stocked pantry or freezer. Survival skills? I don’t camp or hunt. Basically, compared to these people, I don’t stand much chance of surviving if (when?) doomsday hits.

Although Doomsday Preppers is about entertainment—it’s all about gawking at hard-core survivalists—the show also has educational benefits for the general population. Disaster awareness has increased, prompting more people to achieve basic readiness for the more common (and likely?) storms and situations that would limit our access to supplies and power. The NatGeo Web site for the show offers a Doomsday App, a Gourmet Preppers Menu, and a quiz that assesses your chances for survival.

From a biblical perspective, preparation and planning are encouraged. Proverbs mentions the wise man who plans ahead (Prov. 13:16) and Jesus spoke of the wise man who counted the cost (planning) before beginning a project (Luke 14).

But the Bible also calls us to share what we have with anyone in need—without regard for how much we will have leftover for ourselves. John instructed: “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17, ESV).

Foundational to the prepping movement, however, is the me-first mentality, which is contrary to biblical teaching. The USAToday article points out the tendency of prepping to create a self-preservation mentality:

Kenneth Rose, a University of California-Chico professor and author of One Nation Underground: The Fallout Shelter in American Culture, says the prepper movement raises “neighbor vs. neighbor” scenarios and “troubling class issues.”

“Will the well-to-do only be able to afford these types of activities?” he asks.

“Frankly, I think people should put their energy into making a more peaceful world, rather than contemplating saving their own skins,” Rose says.

Rose is correct: Prepping can lead you to a me-against-the-world attitude, one that has no place among Christians. As this movement continues to grow, we can show the way of love and concern for our neighbor even to our own detriment—because that’s what was demonstrated to us in Christ Jesus.

"Radford made a connection between Ender and Hitler.Another possible connection: Could Card have been referring ..."

‘Ender’s Game,’ Genocide, and Moral Culpability
"Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us ..."

Music Matters: David Bowie, Still Not ..."
""that many of us do not accept that a few cells of human DNA constitute ..."

How I Changed My Mind About ..."
"No thought given to the unborn child whose life was 'silenced and oppressed'... sad."

How I Changed My Mind About ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Jamison

    Thanks Erin. I appreciate this article but I don’t think the statistic is quite as much as almost one third. The question is phrased so that each prepper does not have to be unique. I suspect that the question was purposely indirect to get a much more alarming statistic. Also, though it doesn’t matter much and this is USATodays issue but there is no University of California-Chico, it’s only a CSU.

  • Dave Montoya

    Agree with Jamie… also, it should be noted that among many preppers that I know (of the Christian variety) they very specifically are encouraged to plan not just for themselves but for neighbors – in fact, I just talked to a guy who has a friend with 900 acres who is a prepper who is purposely preparing to able to take in lots of people in a doomsday scenario. My point is simply that that may not be the valid line of disagreement with the Christian preppers, as many of them seem to have infused some Christian chariy into their “end of the world” scenarios. Seems to me that the more valid concern runs more deeply: Is there a line being crossed from “prudent preparedness” to “living by fear?” As with many things, there is a kernal of truth but things get taken to unhealthy extremes. That, it seems to me, gets more at the heart of what might be amiss with what some preppers are doing. The question may be how much is too much and why, which recognizes that its not all bad.

  • I’d like to take some issue with one of your major assumptions – the “neighbor versus neighbor” attitude you assume preppers carry.

    Having recently written a book on the subject (420pp, free download at the site), I lay out what many (if not most) preppers have come to realize: without community, there’s no way anyone can survive. This means charity stores, teaching foraging skills, and teaming up to scrounge/scavenge what you will all need to survive together.

    Beyond myself, long-time notable James Wesley Rawles ( goes out of his way to stress that you should always, always keep extra stores for charity (even if given anonymously). Hardly a selfish mentality, no?

    I suggest digging a bit deeper than the NatGeo shows. Small bone to pick: Even in the prepper communities, the show is a cringe-worthy freak show, engineered to marginalize people who are pretty fringe as it is, even among preppers. To be honest, no sane person would seriously prep and go on that show, since discretion is a huge part of the deal. The last thing I’d want is for some yutz with a video camera show all the crap I stock up on, where I live, and my face to one and all in my local area. Bad mojo all around, you know? Seriously – Even if “doomsday” never arrives, criminals would love to get their hands on all those guns, gold, and other valuable goodies.

    Anyrate, tangent aside, honestly, please look a bit deeper into the community before passing judgement on it – it is anything but homogeneous. :)

  • Great additions, Jamison, Dave, and OQ. The NatGeo show focuses much more on the us-vs-them mentality and how to protect what you’ve stored from the looters. My statements on preppers are directed to what I’ve seen on the show—certainly there are preppers who aren’t like them, just like all other reality shows feature the most TV-drama-worthy characters. My apologies for not making it clear. And if Christians you know are taking a prepared-to-be-a-blessing approach instead, that’s great. My concern is for the Christians who may watch the show and see those preppers and the way NatGeo is hyping the fear; if they are swayed to look upon other people merely as looters to fight back, that’s problematic.

  • A lot of preppers are lambasted for being selfish but still more are concerned with the wellbeing of others. Take the guy in Ontario building the fallout shelter for children, for example, or the guy who is opening his property up to young cadets. Preppers can make a huge difference for the lives of those around them or a tiny difference to everyone. And in a disaster situation tiny differences don’t save lives

  • Mike

    I think these people that are prepping need a reality check, first of all this will all start because of our government deciding to chip everyone, second of all God will take his chosen, third of all doesn’t the bible tell us men will live or hide in caves aka bunkers, my point is you need to prep for eternity, get right with God except Jesus and have no fear. Being misinformed is not going to be an excuse because its written to not believe everything you hear but to find the truth yourself. God only knows how many of these preppers will even be alive when Jesus returns. Their tombstones should read here lies another wasted life that listened to the prince of lies. Fear will cause many people to end up burning for eternity. Teaching our young about Jesus is far more important than teaching them how to kill, possibly turning them into the next Ted Bundy or Charles Manson. Think about it!

  • Tom

    I think many “preppers” feel the world around them is out of control and by prepping it allows them to feel they have some control over their lives in an increasingly fragile world. Many preppers are concerned about family, friends and neighbors and are more than willing to help them learn to be prepared.

  • c alan

    I guess the folks ranting against christian prepping have no insurance, no 401ks, and lay on the couch all day with their mouths open to heaven waiting for food to fall in.
    150 years ago this would have been NOP.
    Most Preppers I know are planning to help their neighbors. Including the people in this column who have their heads in the sand and wil be begging for help one day soon.
    What is obvious regarding the author and those he quotes… she does not know any preppres and so can be ignored.