This series of essays has been inspired by the book, When Money Dies, which is about the hyperinflation that occurred in Germany in the 1920's. The book presents a scenario of chaos, despair, desperation and violence.
In learning of the history of the event, we can learn some very useful things about how to get through such a crisis, and that was the subject of Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 of this series. In this essay I'd like to discuss the importance of maintaining a proper perspective as America appears to be hurtling headlong into an economic crisis.
Proper perspective is, of course, a subjective thing. My idea of proper perspective comes from my Christian faith and biblical worldview. People who have a different faith-belief will have a different worldview perspective.
It may well be that America's economic crisis will make the hyperinflation of 1920's Germany seem mild by comparison. There are certainly a lot of economic prognosticators who are promoting the idea that we're headed for some form of apocalypse. The internet is awash with prepper and survivalist web sites. Sometimes I read what they are predicting and, frankly, it resonates with me.
It resonates with me because, as a Christian, I can see that America has become a wicked nation in so many ways. I see the industrial era, and the modern, centralized civilization that has grown out of industrialism, as being more Babylonian than ancient Babylon ever was, and we are, therefore, more deserving of God's judgement. Beyond that, I have long recognized that Professor Walter Prescott Webb's Boom Hypothesis of Modern History is spot on. When you combine the moral breakdown of America with the end of cheap, plentiful natural resources, it's not hard to see that we are in for something epic.
Please don't mistake me for a doom-and-gloomer. While I'm concerned about my country and the troubles that may lie ahead for myself and my family, I'm looking at the big picture, and when I do that, I'm optimistic. When I look at the big picture, I actually feel pretty good about things.
The big picture is what the big picture has always been—that God is sovereign over all of His creation. Proud earthly empires come, and proud earthly empires go, but God's kingdom is eternal. And God rules his kingdom with wisdom and power, perfectly and beautifully, according to His good pleasure, and His eternal plan. Not one single thing will happen in the history before us that God doesn't decree through His providence. That's powerfully comforting to me. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, it should be powerfully comforting to you too.
That said, I know that when I read those survivalist web sites for long, or even news stories about how our government is becoming more tyrannical, it's easy to become fearful. There are so many terrible scenarios, and there is a tendency in the human mind to imagine so many horrible possibilities. When this happens, the big picture gets little; God fades out of our consciousness. A fear of man comes. Anxiousness and depression come from the fear of man. The fear of man is a snare (Proverbs 29:25).
So, when it comes to scenarios of the future, my advice is to keep the big picture in mind. God is at work. The Great Maestro of the universe is orchestrating the history of the world, down to the smallest details.
Bearing that in mind, I'd like to point out that When Money Dies is not the whole story about the history of the Wiemar hyperinflation. No book can tell the whole story, which is to say, no book can tell the experiences of all people and families through such a crisis. When Money Dies explains the history of this hyperinflationary event by presenting only incidents of deprivation, rioting, theft, cruelty, greed and hopelessness. While I appreciate knowing about these aspects of the history, there isn't a doubt in my mind that there is another side to the story.
That side would, of course, be the story of God caring for His people in so many ways in the midst of crisis, as He has always done, and will always do. Were it possible to fully know and tell this kind of history from the German hyperinflationary years, we would hear stories of love and kindness, of self-sacrifice, providential protection, and miraculous blessings.
Remember this.... When a crisis arises, and there is no place to go, but to God, that is not a disaster.
This isn't to say that God does not, at times, according to his will, take His people through tremendous hardships and suffering, even unto death. That has always happened. But He provides grace and strength to get through those times. There is a familiar poem, by Annie Johnson Flint, that is so appropriate to understanding this view of the Christian life...
God hath not promised skies always blue,
Flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
joy without sorrow, peace without pain.
But God hath promised strength for the day
Rest for the labor, light for the way,
Grace for the trials, help from above,
Unfailing sympathy, undying love.
God hath not promised we shall not know
Toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
Many a burden, many a care.
God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
Swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
Never a mountain, rocky and steep,
Never a river, turbid and deep.
I think it is safe to say that Annie Johnson Flint did not believe in the "health, wealth and prosperity gospel" that so many modern American evangelicals cleave to. But I digress.
So, as a Christian, looking at history, I see my role in this grand panorama-in-the-making as that of obedience to what God directs me to do. My objective is not survival, but obedience to a higher calling. That higher calling is God's law as found in scripture.
In Matthew 22:36-40 there is an exchange between Jesus and a Pharisee that goes like this...
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Jesus replied, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
Thus, survival at all costs is not a Christian teaching. Some Christians may be called to not survive a crisis, either out of love for God or love for another person. Obedience to God's calling and His law is the most important thing, and Jesus Christ was the perfect example of that.
In any event, I think my essay on The Puritan Theology of Suffering (and the book that prompted me to write it) should be required reading for any Christian who sees trouble ahead.
Mike Tyson, the boxer, once quipped, "Everybody has a plan, until they get punched in the face." That quote makes me think of survivalists who are planning for every frightful apocalyptic scenario. The fact is, you can't plan for every scenario, and it's folly to try and do so. The only plan in a crisis that will cover all possible scenarios, that will never let you down when life and circumstances "punch you in the face" is a deep and abiding faith in the sovereign God of all creation, through Jesus Christ. I'm infinitly more confident in the grace and mercy of God than I am any earthly preparations.
Now, having said that, let me also make it clear that there are certainly instances in the Bible when God directs His people to prepare or flee in order to preserve their lives. Those who understand that a crisis is probable, and feel it is prudent to take measures to protect themselves and their families, should do exactly that.
Personally, I've felt called to separate (flee) as much as possible from the dependencies and expectations of the ungodly industrial-world system for a very long time. Those who have read much of my writings know that I am a Christian-agrarian. The combination of Christianity and agrarianism is completely antithetical to the pagan-industrial world system. My focus on this separation has been out of obedience to what I believe the Bible teaches.
This Christian-agrarian lifestyle may look like "prepping" or "survivalism" to some people, but it's actually an old way of life that I've pursued for decades. Though I am a minority, there are many like me out there. You know who you are.
I hope that this hyperinflationary series has been thought provoking and helpful. I think I will write one more essay that takes a look at the subject of a "hopeful vision" for the future.
To go to Part 6 of this series