A few weeks ago I read that doomsday shelters are making a big comeback. Now, I’ve never been in one of these safe havens, but I am told they were all the rage fifty years ago. At the height of the Cold War, with atomic weapons rolling out like automobiles off the assembly line, and a shoe-pounding-Khrushchev with his hand hovering above the red button, it was not uncommon for a family to have a bomb shelter stocked with food and water in the event of a nuclear war.
Understand, this was much more than a tornado or fallout shelter. It was a long-term final retreat in the event that the world suddenly went to hell in a hand basket. Now, two generations later, these things are flying off the shelf again and being installed every where.
One company in Texas sells fiberglass shelters that can accommodate ten to two-thousand people who can live underground for up to five years with power, food, water and filtered air. You’ll need some coin, however, to plant one of these things in your back yard. They range in price from $400,000 to $41 million. But have no fear. If you can’t buy a private shelter for you and your family straight up, then you can purchase partial ownership in one of the larger facilities (I think that’s called a timeshare). One of these nuclear condos will set you back $50,000 for adults and $25,000 for children.
And just like something out of a science fiction movie, if you survive the initial bomb, attack, asteroid impact, plague, or pestilence and can get to your designated shelter, they will let you in so long as you have proper identification and have made all your monthly payments.
Proponents of these shelters say, “We are not paranoid. This is an investment in life.” And one of the manufacturers (who conveniently has a doomsday clock on his website counting down to the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012) said, “We’re not creating the fear; the fear is already out there. We are creating a solution.”
I wonder if this manufacturer is the chairman of the board of some churches I know, because their proposed solutions to the troubles of the world are identical: “Retreat into the safe confines of our sanctuaries and hide from the destruction on the outside.” But this won’t do, because shelters have a way of becoming tombs, buried beneath the earth.
Part of the vocation of being a follower of Jesus is to enter the world with the good, living news of hope, love, and transformation; to be “holy priests who show others the goodness of God.” And this can’t be done by huddling with a few others underground. We have to get “out there” where the dangers are.
Those of us living in the early years of the twenty-first century have a splinter in our mind that tells us something is badly wrong with the world – there’s no denying this. We have this inescapable sense that something must transform the world, or the world may not survive much longer. We try to ignore, sedate, and fight this sensation; and yes, many people of faith try to escape or retreat altogether.
But to lock ourselves away in a concreted cathedral is to refuse to be a part of God’s solution for the world. Yes, this world will end, but it will be for the purpose of a new beginning. God will make all things new. And rather than scrambling for the last seat in the apocalyptic bunker seeking to save our own necks, the way of Christ is to give ourselves to the gospel work of renewal.
That work means going out to a confused and confusing world and living out this great good news: God’s grace is bigger than the all sin, corruption, crises, and disasters of this present world. If it’s not bigger than these things, then it would not be worth believing, for it would not be the good news we and this world need.