SALT LAKE CITY — A recent survey found that nearly half of the Christians in the United States believe the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will happen relatively soon — sometime in the next 40 years. This belief in the hastening of the Christian "End of Days" and the world events associated with it is perhaps contributing to the rapid rise of the "prepper" movement in America.
The survey, conducted in 2010 by the Pew Forum on Public Life, was re-released last week, just before Easter Sunday. According to the survey, 48 percent of Christians in America say they believe that Christ will return to Earth in the next 40 years. Of those respondents, 27 percent answered "definitely" and 20 percent answered "probably."
Christians believe the world will grow increasingly more wicked in the last days before Christ returns to reign on Earth. The Bible in particular foretells of chaos and turmoil in the End of Days, including widespread violence, natural disasters, war, immorality and disease.
The Pew survey, about American life in 2050, seemed to reflect the public's belief in these events and their probability of imminent fulfillment. The survey found that "the public sees the next 40 years as a time of violent conflict," both in the U.S. and around the world.
- Keep cash at home. In a severe economic disruption, access to credit or investments may not be available. Experts recommend $1,000 in $20 bills.
- Get out of debt and beef up savings. A mortgage, car payments, credit cards, medical bills - they all limit the amount of money one can set aside for an emergency, whether it be a job loss or something worse. Start by slashing credit card debt and only use plastic if you're going to pay off the bill each month.
- Stash some gold and silver. Many investors have put their money in precious metals in recent years as a hedge against the declining value of the dollar. When the value of the dollar declines, gold prices rise. Gold and silver coins can be purchased from many dealers, but expect to pay a 6 percent premium on gold coins and a 10 percent markup on silver coins, Scatigna says.
- Set aside items for bartering. Take stock of items around your home that could be valuable to others in an emergency situation. These can include goods like food, water and medicine, and also liquor, coffee, chocolate, candles and batteries.
- Buy supplies now, or pay more later. Ask anyone in the aftermath of a hurricane how much a bottle of water or a gallon of gas cost. Disasters drive demand and prices for critical goods higher. So the best way to save money is to prepare well in advance, but gradually.
- Keep end-of-the-world concerns in perspective. Perhaps the best way to be prepared for the worst is to remain grounded about end-of-the-world scenarios. The biggest disaster many are likely to face would be the loss of a job. So evaluate your savings and have your records in order. If the time comes, you'll be able to determine which expenses you can cut quickly.
"Most say that war, terrorism and environmental catastrophes are at least probable by the year 2050," according to a report on the complete survey. In addition, "Public opinion about the condition of the planet and the energy situation over the next 40 years includes several dire predictions."
Looking at these beliefs, it's easy to see a parallel between them and the "prepper" movement that is gaining traction in America.
Preppers are part of a loosely-organized self-reliance movement whose activities range from stockpiling food storage to preparing for the end of the world. Preppers seek to prepare themselves and their families for the turmoil that may lie ahead, whether it be as simple as financial fallout from job loss or something much more dire, like terrorists attacks, natural disasters, or economic and societal collapse.
It's difficult to say just how many Americans identify themselves as "preppers," but in the last few years, "a growing number of Americans — 3 million, by one estimate — have started preparing for the apocalypse," according to Men's Journal magazine.
Now, thanks in part to the popularity of the National Geographic reality TV show "Doomsday Preppers," the phenomenon has gone mainstream. The show features preppers from all walks of life — and a variety of extremes. While they have their individual reasons for going to such lengths to prepare for "the end of the world as we know it," many with religious backgrounds say their faith has played a factor.
Braxton Southwick, a West Jordan man who appears with his family in the second season of "Doomsday Preppers," told USA Today that his Christian faith "turned him into an evangelist" about prepping, "urging people to prepare."
According to the article, "Southwick is convinced a weaponized smallpox terrorist attack, or something similarly horrible, is inevitable. He's read Revelation (in the New Testament). He watches news about nuclear saber rattling, financial meltdowns, mega-storms rendering populations helpless for days."
And so, the father of six and his wife, Kara, have stored thousands of pounds of food at their home, as well as 4,000 liters of water, 1,000 pounds of coal, 14 guns, and 12,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as gas, diesel fuel, chemical suits, charcoal and eight chickens. Beyond that, the family has a cabin and a 5-acre plot in the nearby mountains, also stocked and ready for whatever may lie ahead.
Despite his fears of a crippling natural disaster or biological attack and his gung-ho attitude about prepping, Southwick says he's aware of how far-out his beliefs may seem to others.
"It sounds crazy, doesn't it?" he told Men's Journal. Still, he says, "everything we do is practical. ... We're preppers through and through, but I still love to have fun, and I want my kids to do the same."
It's unclear just how much a biblical belief in the End of Days may be motivating preppers, but those who are on board with the movement say their efforts are not in vain; you can never be too prepared.
Jay Blevins, a former deputy sheriff and SWAT officer in Berryville, Va., told USA Today that "his Christian faith drives him to help others prepare, and although he is not certain the end is near, he thinks getting prepared is an act of personal responsibility."
Of his family's view toward doomsday predictions and scenarios, ultimately, Blevins says, "We watch and pray."