Are You Watching the Food Riots?

Global civil unrest over skyrocketing food prices gives us an unpleasant glimpse at what human nature can do.
From the June-July 2008 Trumpet Print Edition

Watching civil unrest and riots spreading nation to nation like a communicable disease raises some important questions. We do ourselves no favors by ignoring them.

Rising energy and food prices are hitting pocketbooks worldwide. Developing countries—which tend to be the most populous—are being hurt worst, as staple foods grow too expensive or too scarce. Global grain supplies are dangerously low. Exporting nations, out of self-preservation, are getting stingy and turning the export spigot way down.

The resulting hunger pangs are being felt around the world. Why? Because they’re turning up on our television screens—in the form of angry protests, which are turning into violent food riots and social breakdown. Several African nations, including Egypt, Ivory Coast and Cameroon, have had citizens killed in riots. There is talk the government in Bangladesh could be toppled over soaring food prices. Unrest is breaking out in Central Asia, Southeast Asia and South America. In the Philippines, armed soldiers stand watch over rice distribution. Closer to home for Americans, demonstrations have seized Mexico and Haiti. The World Bank’s president estimates that 33 nations are at risk of “conflict and social unrest because of the acute hike in food and energy prices.”

That’s a lot of suffering. And suffering tends to bring out the worst in human nature.

It’s easy to click away or change the channel when you’ve got plenty to eat yourself. But America and other First World nations are hardly invulnerable.

Even in America

In fact, food rationing has already begun. At certain Costco stores across America, store managers have said no to shoppers wanting to purchase more than their allotted amount for certain food stuffs, including flour, rice and cooking oil. “Due to the limited availability of rice, we are limiting purchases based on your prior purchasing history,” read one sign in a store in Mountain View, California. In Queens, New York, quotas are being imposed on oil and flour purchases.

For over 12 years, the Trumpet has warned of food shortages gripping the United States; now, they are starting to arrive.

Stockpiles of wheat in the U.S. have hit a 60-year low. And 60 years ago, America had a population of less than half of what it does now.

The Department of Agriculture says that in the year ending May 31, U.S. wheat inventories could be down 47 percent from a year earlier, to 6.6 million tons. That means there is a U.S. emergency wheat reserve supply of only about 43 pounds per person. And low supply means high prices.

The dollar is quickly losing value, and the U.S. is more dependent on foreign food production than ever. Already, grocery bills are rising quickly. Coupled with energy prices pushing skyward, more and more Americans are feeling the pinch.

Not yet a pinch like Indonesians are feeling—but then again, Americans are used to a far higher standard of living. Suffering can be relative.

Also, that higher standard of living means we have much further to fall.

Look at those riots spreading globally, and ask yourself: What if grocery prices got completely out of reach here at home?

What If?

What if the convenient food ran out—if Americans by the millions faced boarded-up fast food joints and grocery stores with empty shelves?

What would happen if gasoline first became too expensive to afford—and then too scarce to find?

And in this age of nuclear terrorism, what if far more sudden and catastrophic disruptions multiplied these problems?

How much patience would Americans exhibit? For how long would they peacefully suffer such conditions?

How well would they work together under the rule of law?

Perhaps the vast majority would bear up relatively well. But what about the rest? And how long before the criminals emerged?

The reason these questions are so important to contemplate is that the Bible actually prophesies such terrifying circumstances besieging America—as well as Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other affluent countries.

Try to envision it.

Imagine that the U.S. economy continues to slump. The dollar is shedding its value. Factories are shutting down. The number of homeless and hopeless grows in the cities. Shipping grinds to a halt as companies close and energy prices climb.

The inner-city poor are hit hardest. Charity efforts are unable to meet demands. Lines form at grocery stores for dwindling supplies of food at rising prices. Some, desperate for sustenance, resort to crime.

Racial tensions and resentment against the government escalate. Police officers are trapped between restoring order and being indicted for discrimination. As more people are victimized, both by economic depression and rising crime, emotions boil over.

The evils of human nature begin to emerge in force. Riots and looting break out in a handful of cities.

And then, capitalizing on this edgy atmosphere, terrorists detonate a crude nuclear bomb in New York or Chicago.

Eighteen thousand people are instantly vaporized. Power is out; the sanitation system has been disabled; there is no water; electronic communication from the area dies; information is blacked out; interstates clog with city-dwellers desperate to escape and suffering the first symptoms of radiation sickness.

Emergency units from neighboring states rush in to tend to the untold tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands who are slowly dying from radiation exposure, straining state and federal crisis management resources to their limits within days. Vast mobs of refugees migrate to neighboring cities.

The ripple effects of the strike further paralyze the country’s already-crippled economy and overtaxed police force. Effects are felt nationwide. Reports emerge of people starving to death in what until recently was the most prosperous nation on Earth.

As disorder mushrooms, government intervention buckles. Urban predators go on the offensive. Gangs take over. Pillaging and rioting increase. Buildings burn in the night. The worse the violence and burning become, the worse the famine gets. The worse the famine becomes, the more intensive the violence gets.

In the midst of the chaos, reports emerge of a spreading sickness. Unsanitary conditions in the city have facilitated an aggressive outbreak of cholera and a particularly deadly influenza virus. People begin dying in dozens, then hundreds. Then, the diseases begin popping up in neighboring cities—spread there by the refugees. A massive quarantine effort is needed, but with local law enforcement at its breaking point and the military already maxed out, only so much can be done. The plague spreads, and with it the crime.

Don’t Be Caught Unawares

This is only one of a thousand possible scenarios we may soon witness. Independent analysts and federal officials are imagining such eventualities based on observable evidence in order to plan their responses and to mitigate the devastation.

What these individuals don’t realize is that—barring national repentance—these disasters are prophesied to claim the lives of an enormous number of the people within our borders. Read our book Ezekiel—The End-Time Prophet to grasp the severity of these forecasts (available free upon request).

The human mind rejects such scenarios—even after we have seen them play out to no small degree in New York and Washington on 9/11, in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Naturally we want only to put such thoughts out of our minds. We want things to stay as they are.

It is because of this tendency that Jesus Christ warned specifically, “And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day”—that is, the period of destruction just ahead of us—“come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:34-35).

That day should not come upon you unawares; it need not ensnare you. The same great God who is measuring this destruction of America and the nations of Israel also seeks your repentance. And to those who truly turn to Him with supple hearts, He offers individual protection—escape—from the worst of the coming storms (verse 36).

There is purpose in prophecy. In the midst of terrifying and tumultuous events, prophetic warning is nothing less than our Creator reaching out to His creation.

A terrible period of darkness is prophesied to occur. But also prophesied is that within this darkness—shining in a sin-sick and war-weary, increasingly terrorized world—would be a burning light: a bold message calling for repentance and proclaiming, beyond the darkness, the glow of eternal hope.

Luke 21:27-28 declare that hope to the disciples of Jesus Christ: “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”