What is a "tiehacker"?

"Tiehacker" is a term originating in the Ozark hills of southern Missouri. It referred to a class of people from WAY back in the hills that made a living cutting trees into ties for the railroad. I first heard the term from my wife shortly after we married. I had been working outside all day and was dirty and stinky. She had learned it from her father, and thought it just meant "a bum". Never having heard it before, I looked it up. Although I am not really a bum, I thought it was interesting, and I do have a life-long love affair going with the Ozark hills, so ... there you have it!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Can a disciple of Jesus be a "prepper"?

Short answer, yes ... and no.

Before I begin, let's be clear what I mean by "prepper".

I consider myself a "prepper" at heart. I am not one of the crazies like those depicted on shows like "Doomsday Prepper". Rather, I consider what I do to be an extension of the old Boy Scout motto "Be prepared!"

To my mind, it's a no-brainer. I have lived through too many power failures, ice-storms, and the like. It only makes sense to have some basic food supplies, candles, first aid supplies, extra propane bottle for the grill, wood for the firepit, and a little cash set aside for those times when the roads are shut down, or the electricity goes out, and the stores are immediately stripped bare by hordes of panicked people.

We tend to drive in out-of-the-way places at times, in our older vehicles. To me, it makes sense to keep a kit in the trunk with basic emergency supplies in the event that we have a breakdown, or severe weather forces us off the road, in an area devoid of shelter and cell-phone signal. A couple of blankets, a small case of bottled water, a day or two's worth of dehydrated or canned foods, and the means to build a small fire to cook it on, that just seems prudent.

I don't give a rat's patoot what the government claims about inflation figures. We all know that the price of groceries goes up and up and up, while interest on bank accounts is about as close to zero as you can get. That being the case, why not use some of the cash that might otherwise sit in the bank actually losing value, and purchase extra things with long term expiration dates. I don't mean those insanely priced "50-meal-buckets" and stuff like that. I mean extra bags of flour, sugar, boxes of pasta, pancake and biscuit mix, regular canned goods, dried beans and rice, dried and/or canned milk, stuff you can get at any grocery store. Especially if you catch them on sale. With the inflationary cost of groceries, that stuff will actually grow in value at the same time your cash money will lose value. If you buy only what you normally eat, and rotate your stock, you don't have to worry about stuff going bad and yet your pantry will get a little more well-stocked every payday.

I do a little gardening, and plan to do more. Why buy it if I can grow it cheaper? Not to mention the proven health benefits of gardening, both physical and mental. Grow enough, invest in a canner and some jars and lids, and that pantry will grow even faster, stocked with good home-grown food that hasn't been filled with who-knows-what-all chemical crap.

"Survivalism", I think, is a misnomer, at least what I practice. I consider myself a neophyte outdoorsman or woodsman, not a survivalist. Yes, much of what I practice when in the woods seems like what is called "survivalism" on TV, but I just don't like the term. I have no intention of becoming the next Grizzly Adams or Jeremiah Johnson. I'm not planning on some crazy "bug-out" scheme that takes me to the deep wilderness to avoid urban catastrophe. But, I also know that things can happen during a routine float trip, or hiking or fishing or camping trip, and so the skills and basic tools to build a fire, put together a shelter, find and purify water, and forage for edible foods is simple prudence, and, in my case at least, also a fun hobby. 

And, just for the record, I worry very very little about the usual crazy prepper things like "When the stuff hits the fan" (or SHTF scenarios), or "The end of the world as we know it" (TEOTWAWKI). Is it possible that the world could blow up in our faces? Sure. Having lived through the mess in Ferguson last summer, just a few miles from here, I'd be a fool to think otherwise. Could our government get a little crazier and a civil war actually flare up? I guess so, but I doubt it will, if only because most of our population just doesn't care enough to bother anyway. Could Putin in Russia, or that little dweeb in North Korea, or some maniac terrorist, lose what little is left of his sanity and launch an EMP or dirty bomb attack on us? Yeah, I guess so. But again, very improbable. It's not enough of a worry to send me running for the hills, that's for sure.

So, what I mean by "prepping" means taking common sense measures to guard against the real situations that anyone might find themselves in.

The question is, does this jibe with being a follower of Jesus Christ?

Let's start with the classic passage about this. Proverbs 6:6-8 urges us to consider the ways of the simple ant, which is diligent in preparing her food and gathering her harvest, compared to the lazy man who prefers sleep to work, and winds up poverty stricken.

Another passage sometimes cited is Matthew 25:1-13. In the parable of the ten virgins, five of them were foolish and did not bring extra oil for their lamps, and were eventually turned away from the Wedding Feast by the Bridegroom.

These are often contrasted with passages such as Matthew 6:24-34, where Jesus says that one cannot serve both God and money, and then points out how even the simplest wildflowers and birds are cared for by God, who will do so much more for us, and thus we should concern ourselves with His kingdom and righteousness, and let the worries of tomorrow go. There are many other passages in the gospels and the epistles that exhort us to not get hung up on money and goods but rather to leave it all in God's hands.

OK. I said at the beginning that the answer to "Can a Christian be a prepper?" has both a yes and a no answer.

I'm going to start with an emphatic "NO!". Now, before all my prepper friends get themselves into a frenzy, let me explain. We must admit, there are certain aspects to the "prepper lifestyle" that are definitely NOT things a Christian should be doing or involved in.

I am no friend of the current regime in Washington, or in Jefferson City for that matter. I am convinced that our political leaders are leading us headlong into disaster. I see our rights and freedoms being stripped away as fast as they can figure out the next step. I long for the "good ol' days" when Americans were, mostly, a free people. 

There is a very vocal percentage of "preppers" that advocate stockpiling and training with military-caliber arms in order to, if necessary, fight effectively against the government. I am sorry. As sympathetic as I am with their frustration, for I feel it myself, that is still wrong. Scripture is quite clear. As Christians, our primary citizenship is in heaven, and our role here is as ambassador for Christ to the unsaved world. The governments of the world, from the smallest village council to the most pwerful presidents and kings, are in place because God chose to allow them to be there, for whatever reason He has. I have written about this before, in my post just a few days ago. CLICK HERE to read that if you missed it. We are to be peaceful and above reproach. Armed rebellion against our own government, no matter how heinous it is, is just plain wrong. If this is what you mean by "prepping", then no, a Christian has no business anywhere near it.

Besides, from a purely pragmatic standpoint, this is pretty much a no-brainer. This is not 1776. In 21st century America, even a half-trained and equipped squad of soldiers is going to take down even the most determined and well-defended home. A platoon will take out almost any "compound". Plain and simple. Armed rebellion is just a slow and painful method of suicide.

What about things like stockpiling food and supplies? That is, unfortunately, not such a clear-cut issue. What it boils down to is attitude and perception.

"God helps those that help themselves". That is NOT in the Bible, despite what some think. Ben Franklin used it in Little Richard's Almanac in 1757. The earliest known usage is from one of Aesop's Fables. In actuality, God helps the helpless. Is. 25:4, Rom 5:6, and so forth. On the other hand, Scripture also tells us that the lazy will fail, that those who refuse to work should not be allowed to eat, and so on.

As Christians, we are responsible for toiling for our food. We are responsible for providing for ourselves and our families. We are also responsible for being hospitable and charitable, responding in open-handed joy to those in need. We absoutely trust God, 100%, to provide the means to do this, but, though He has the sovereign power to do so, He is not in the habit of simply dumping a truckload of food on our porch. Normally, He supplies us with the ability to find and keep a job that will pay for these things, either a "regular" job, or perhaps as a farmer or rancher or the like.

I trust God 100% for the very air that I breathe, the water I drink, the health I need to go about my daily business. I honor Him buy using these gifts to work to provide for myself and my family, to further the work of expanding His kingdom, and to be charitable to those that have less and may be in need.

It is not dishonoring to God, it is not being distrustful of Him, to be prudent in salting away extra foodstuffs and supplies against a day of need, IF, and ONLY IF, I do so in a clear-eyed manner that gives the glory to Him and not to my own "foresight" or "prudence".

If I take the attitude, even unspoken, that "I don't really need God because I have a fully stocked pantry, a huge garden, and plenty of guns and ammo to hunt with", then that is sinful pride, dishonoring to God, and not a Christian activity. It is practically inviting God to "show me who's boss".

If God provides me the wherewithall to store supplies, and I do so in thankfulness to Him and with the intent to use them to His glory, and I do not "skimp" on day-to-day charity and God-honoring activity to do so, then all is good.

There is one other aspect that I want to look at briefly. A common theme in the prepper community is fortifying your home and protecting your stockpiles from "the zombie apocolypse". This does not, usually, refer to "the living dead" a la George Romero movies, but to the crowds of unprepared starving people that are expected to arise in periods of really widespread and prolonged social upheaval.

As Christians, we are commanded to give to those that ask of us. To be sacrificial in our charity and our hospitality towards those in need. To be mindful of self-defense and protectful of my supplies is one thing. To refuse to help even the most wild-eyed stranger that may present himself, is quite another. If I have a large stockpile of beans, and an unruly crowd demands to be fed some of those beans, I must do so, giving God the glory for providing them. And that may mean putting some protection around the pantry, to keep someone from destroying the supplies and preventing me from serving the greatest number possible.

The bottom line is this. 

A Christian has no business being in armed rebellion against the government, no matter now terrible. If that is what you call prepping, then no, a Christian may not rightfully do so.

Stockpiling of food and supplies may or may not be done in the framework of a Christian lifestyle.

If it done out of pride, and greed, and a sense of trusting only in self and not in God to provide for future needs, then no, that is not a Christian way to live and should be shunned for the evil that it is.

If it is done in a spirit of humble thankfulness, and a sincere desire to honor God by providing for your family and for others as may need it, then yes, a Christian not ony can, but should, do so as God provides the means.

And, as Frank and Fern, "Enola Gay" of Paratus Familia, and Patrice Lewis of Rural Revolution, so often exhort on their blogs, never forget that the most important prep of all is be sure of your place in His kingdom. For it will be absolutely useless to store and stockpile and consume twenty years worth of food, only to eventually die and wind up spending an eternity in hell. Prepare for eternity first, and then look to earthly concerns.

Thanks for reading!
Ron, and the Debster

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