Some guys at my church recommended that I read One Second After by William Forstchen. They don’t seem to be the reading type so I was curious to see what kind of book would have hooks strong enough to draw them in. If you haven’t read it or heard about it, the book takes place in a small town in North Carolina and details what would happen after an EMP strike on the US (I get so irritated with movies that take the time to explain what an EMP is, even though everyone who has ever watched a movie should know by now, so I’m not going to bother). I’m still reading the book but so far, it’s what you would expect: a flawed but well-meaning ex-military man with skills and charisma tries to keep his family alive and his beloved town from falling apart, with mixed results. What has attracted so much attention to this book is the supposedly realistic portrayal of how American society would break down without electricity. There is no zombie outbreak, no spikes-and-leather warriors of the apocalypse, no cannibal motorcycle gangs. Just normal people thrown into an extraordinary situation.
This isn’t a book review, but I will have to say that the writing is pretty bad. Exposition abounds, and the author, editor, and proofreader apparently don’t know the difference between “have” and “of” (as in “must of” instead of “must have.” This is a pretty frequent infraction, and I can’t help but wonder if this is a devious attempt to further corrupt the English language, like what happened with “alright” becoming mainstream). But I digress. The story is gripping and the reader immediately feels empathy with the characters. I get a similar feeling with Dean Koontz books – completely ridiculous but I can’t stop turning the pages.
As I’ve been reading, one thought remains on my mind: this is the kind of apocalypse book that conservative Americans, and I believe American Christians, would devour. It’s definitely a dyed-in-the-wool, traditional American values book, which I agree with by and large. But here it’s on full display – the independent American spirit, family sticks together no matter what, take care of your own, don’t trust the government, don’t take any chances when it comes to your family’s safety, etc. Newt Gingrich, who has collaborated with Forstchen in the past, wrote the ominous foreword, and the book’s claim to fame is that it was recommended before Congress as prophetic reading. This is a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work apocalypse, not a fanciful sci-fi bloodfest. It’s the kind of book that makes you proud to be an American.
There’s nothing wrong with this, but as a Christian, I began to wonder how I would react. Honestly, my first reaction to an event like this would be to grab my guns and hunker down with the family. The Bible does not prohibit this, but it doesn’t advocate blowing away trespassers either. In fact, I get the impression that we as Christians should err on the side of love and compassion. We are told numerous times to love our neighbor, love our enemies, bless those who curse us, etc., and in an apocalyptic situation, this would seem to mean share food stores and shelter, help people defend their families, and sacrificially help those in need. God is still God even if society goes down the toilet, and He doesn’t stop loving us or providing for us. It’s not a matter of, “Well, the fat lady has sung for civilization. Guess it’s just us with our wits and our guns.” We would need to trust Him no matter how dire the circumstances and to show love and compassion no matter what.
I’m not saying we should let our homes be overrun by bandit hordes or give away everything we had for sustenance. But I do think that we, as American Christians, shouldn’t be so quick to rely on ourselves in a time of crisis, even if we are well-prepared and suited for it. Our first reaction would be to circle the wagons and keep others out, but I don’t think that’s what Jesus would do at all.
Except the zombies. Shoot every one of those suckers in the head.