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Ethics at the Shelter Door

Ethics at the Shelter Door
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In the 50’s Time magazine published an article called Ethics at the Shelter Door.  This article discussed bomb shelters and the ethics of letting your neighbors in, even if it meant your family would not have enough to survive.

A friar named McHugh wrote a dissenting article.  He explained how the Christian thing to do in the event of a nuclear attack would be to get your family inside and lock the door.  Even if that excluded your neighbors from safety.

Obviously his opinion controversial.  Some even believe the uproar caused the Kennedy administration to move from helping build individual family shelters to building fewer community shelters.

Not too long ago I mentioned that to a friend of mine and he expressed STRONG feelings about that idea.

He was loudly vocal on “What Would Jesus Do”.  He could not comprehend how excluding someone from your fallout shelter was Christian.

Here are the assumptions of the article:

There is a well-known threat, the 50’s was the civil defense era. The duck and cover video was played in schools and at the start of movies. Civil Defense (later FEMA) gave out scores of pamphlets on how to build a fallout shelter in your home.

Everyone was told to prepare, not everyone did.  What if you choose to build a shelter while your neighbors choose to buy boats, better cars, season tickets, or just go out to eat more than you.

Similar resources, dissimilar values

If you built a bomb shelter you are limited by your resources as to how big it could be.  Resources determine how it was stocked.  Both determine how long you could stay inside.  Once you’re out of air, food, or toilets you have to come outside – even if it’s not safe yet.

Your family is your responsibility.  If you let extra people in your shelter you are reducing the safety of the people who you have a duty to provide for.

“Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent.”- Adam Smith

So it’s pretty easy to see why a man would decide that after all his work and sacrifice that he would be justified in locking the door to his shelter.

If you have ever spent time around me you have heard me say “I love everybody, but I love me (and my family) more”.

I would have tears in my eyes as I did it.  Most likely I would never sleep well again.  However, if you choose not to prepare and bombs were falling, I would let you and yours die.  At least I would do so rather than let my own son suffer for your lack of planning.

The Bible has several verses that deal with preparedness.  The Bible is clear on a man’s role as the protector of his home.

God also gave us a set of rules that if we followed them we could have everlasting life with him.  Since no man can follow those rules he sent His Son to die for us so that if we have faith we can still go to heaven.

If we choose not to have faith and to disregard what God has done for us then we suffer the consequences.

Anyone who has read the Book of Revelations has the image of Jesus smiting the world for not believing.  The world during Tribulation and Apocalypse is very reminiscent of the world in a nuclear holocaust. The Bible is clear in Romans 6 23 “The wages of sin is death”.

God loves us and wants us to follow his word,  However, he gave us free will so that our love would be real and not contrived. If we choose to disregard his warnings then he allows us the choice to die alone.

God clearly tells us to work and save and prepare for lean times. He gives strict instructions for men to take care of their families.

If commit a crime and go to jail would you let your kids go hungry to feed mine? No, you would say, “I am sorry about the kids; they have a really crappy dad”.   That is not to say I would not give extra to feed your kids.  I would not let mine go hungry to do it.

I believe in charity, and have made provisions for it. I try to get others to prepare for future disasters both small scale and catastrophic. But my charity ends at the last box of noodles.

My wife and my son get taken care of first. Anyone that does not think my life and work should go to my family needs to see if they are willing to give their life and their work for mine over theirs.

If not, then they are not just a hypocrite, they are a thief and a looter.

“But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” Timothy 5:8


Published inGeneral Articles


  1. Eleanor Fielding Eleanor Fielding

    In the Biblical parable of the 10 virgins, these gals were waiting for the Bridegroom (Jesus) and needed to be ready to light his way. Some of the virgins were not prepared with sufficient oil for their lamps and ran out before the Bridegroom arrived. The Wise Virgins refused to share, reasoning correctly that if they shared, there would be insufficient for all. So the Fools had to go off to get more oil. When the Bridegroom finally arrived, the Fools were not there, and when they finally returned, they were not allowed into the wedding feast. Matthew 25:1-13.

    My take on this is that if you don’t prepare for what you know is coming, you don’t get a free pass.

    • That is my take on it also, but I am amazed at how unpopular that concept is. I have had a close friend go apoplectic when I was discussing my viewpoint as I was preparing to write this article. He screamed how unchristian this idea is. I tried to explain my viewpoint, but it went to deaf ears. I guess the concept of Judgement day is also considered by him to be “unchristian”. I was at a loss then, and still am.

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