Saturday, September 18, 2010

I don't believe in the Rapture

There's a post in the blog Stuff Christians Like about the Rapture, specifically the feeling you get when you don't see anyone around and believe that you've missed it. There's a lot of people who, as kids, would be shown these 'get saved so you don't miss the Rapture' videos and then spend their childhoods, and sometimes adulthoods, freaking out every time they find themselves alone. After all, anyone who talks about the Rapture also talks about how it's imminent. It could happen any second now, even before I finish typ

Sometimes, if you find someone who's thinks the Rapture is mere seconds away, you can have some fun with them by staging a Rapture. The best way to do it is in a large gathering. Wait for the person to go off alone, then hide. See if they freak out.

The best one I read about was at a Christian college (a hotspot of Rapture-themed prakns apparently) where they organized a prank. The merry pranksters got some of the professors involved, and not only did everyone hide, they also left clothes strewn about, making it seem like everyone but the victim got Raptured right out of their clothes.

Fun stuff.

Here's the thing, I don't believe in the Rapture.

See, after two-thousand years, a lot can be added to the Christian Canon that actually isn't supported by Scripture unless you try really hard to make a verse fit. That's the Rapture, the Holy Get out of Jail Free Card. The Rapture is tied to Christianity's larger obsession with End Times and our belief that we know exactly what's going to happen in the future, and our belief that the End Times are already upon us.

For a better and more thoughtful discussion of where Christians go wrong in End Times theology, I point you to Adventures in Missing the Point by Brian D. McLaren and Tony Campolo.

Obsession with the End Times and belief in the Rapture represent nothing more than escapism with a little bit (if not a lot) of egocentrism thrown in. Whenver times are tough, we Christians like to think that the End Times are upon us and we're about to be whisked away from it all. On the surface, I can see why it's a comforting message. We like to avoid having to deal with the messy realities of life, and so the idea of God just taking us away from it all is appealing. Sadly, such ideas are not supported by Scripture. We are urged to go out and engage the world, not just sit around and wait to be snatched away.

The Rapture is a great marketing tool and you'll often see it used in Scare them into Heaven type preaching, where you get a heavy dose of fire and brimstone and then that extra warning that The Rapture could happen at any time and if you miss it, you'll be sorry. So accept Jesus now to save you from that awful fate. Such messages not only cheapen the Gospel, but also mischaracterize Christianity as nothing more than fire insurance. Jesus offered us a better way to live here on earth and the Hell we were warned about was often the hell we put ourselves through in life because of our sins. If Jesus was only about fire insurance, then this whole Love Your Neighbor business wouldn't have been such a big concern with Him.

Finally, The Rapture is a lot about ego. We get Raptured. They don't. Sucks to be them. We like the idea of being whisked into Heaven and watching everyone who told us we were wrong suffer. It's a superiority complex, which explains all those 'In case of Rapture this car will be unmanned' bumper stickers. What we're really saying is that we're better than you because we won't be left behind in the Rapture, and if this car is suddenly empty and turns into a lethal killing machine, it's your own fault for not being saved.

We use the Rapture too much as a fear tactic, which isn't what Jesus is about. We like to show people films about those left behind (and not just the Kirk Cameron ones) and freak them out. It's especially fun to traumatize children by showign them those movies and having them spend the next ten years of their life freaking out when their parents are out of earshot. (good times). That's one of the many reasons I don't accept The Rapture as true teaching, just escapist fantasy.

When times get tough here on planet Earth, where do you think God wants us? If you answered, preaching the Good News to everyone experiencing those tough times, you are right. God isn't going to give us the easy way out, not when there are seeds to plant and souls to save. If your retirement plan is simply "Get Raptured by 65" then you might want to rethink it.

(this is the first draft of this message, I do intend to eventually include Bible verses and other references to back up my claims.)

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