Tag Archives: rapture

The unquenchable end-times thirst

There’s no better guarantee of a good laugh than the steady stream of batshit crazy quotes from such Christian sites as Rapture Ready and Rapture Forums, which are a mainstay at Fundies Say the Darndest Things.  Here’s one choice example, preserved in all its ungrammatical glory:

When I got saved in 1973 I went to a lot of prophecy meetings listening to Jack van Impe and really thot the rapture was near then,A lot of it was emotions,but now w/what,s going on in the world,IT IS FACT!!!! (24thchance)

I remember as a teenager my fundamentalist Christian step-mother handing me a copy of Hal Lindsey’s extremely popular The Late, Great Planet Earth, one of but a series of books going back centuries predicting the end-times, and her telling me that Mikhail Gorbachev was the anti-Christ. I was pretty convinced by the book’s arguments, and watched developments in the Soviet Union with “rapt” attention.  Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out as thought for poor Gorby, nor for “Magog” (as the Soviet Union was known in end-times parlance), as both faded into the dustbin of history.  The same couldn’t be said for Lindsey, who went on to write more end-times novels and make further boat-loads of money, despite a perfect track record of failed prediction.  But even Lindsey’s success can’t compare with the latest and greatest incarnation of end-times hopes, the Left Behind novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, which spawned a host of movies, and even video games.

Today, I’m still fascinated by the end-times.  No, not when they’ll occur, but by the seemingly unquenchable thirst for them among a persistent minority of religious believers.  Every failed end-times prediction seems only to serve as fodder for the next.  There’s no better example of the triumph of hope over experience than end-times belief.  Why?

 To understand the history and theology behind Christian eschatology (the fancy name for end-times belief), I picked up Bible scholar Robert Price’s recent work The Paperback Apocalypse: How the Christian Church Was Left Behind.  Price, too, is interested why end-times belief is the cat of infinite lives, and he arrives at a satisfying – at least for me – answer:

So, as Russell says, we do in fact see a consistent, long-enduring pattern throughout Old and New Testament concerning prophecy, only it is not what he thinks it is.  Instead of Jesus following in the footsteps of the prophets with their use of spectacular symbolism to describe historical developments, what we have is the New Testament writers continuing to do as their Old Testament predecessors did: banking on soon-coming events as heralding the end of the universe in fire and meteor storms.  They were wrong and they kept being wrong.  And that is why today’s fundamentalists, following the same trajectory, keep striking out, too.  Perhaps if they allowed themselves to understand that the biblical writers had so grossly and repeatedly erred, they would learn their lesson.  But that they will not do, for fear of forfeiting scriptural authority.  And this traumatic truth about the Bible they repress, but it is a burden their consciences bear with difficulty, so it manifests itself in neurotic, repeating symptoms, notably the incorrigible desire to calculate the end of a world they are not mature enough to deal with apart from magical fantasies.

I’ll be the first to say, Price is venturing into a field here for which he possesses no particular training; he’s not a psychologist, so take his opinion with a grain of salt.  But his explanation, which he elsewhere attributes to cognitive dissonance, has the ring of truth.  Have you ever noticed that believers most fanatical in their idolotry of  a religious work or of some “prophet” seem the most susceptible to neverending end-times mania?  I also think Price is on to something when he  connects end-times thirst to a lack of personal maturity, though what causes the other is unclear.   Could this immaturity drive another tendency common among end-times enthusiasts: antipathy, even hatred, of the world?  When we’ve made a serious mess of things and just can’t seem to summon the will to correct them, one inclination, most often witnessed among children, is to smash the whole project and start afresh.  I suspect something’s similar at work with these last-days believers.  It also conveniently relieves them of taking any responsibility for partaking in common human endeavors to alleviate the world’s troubles.  The earth sucks and it’s going to be blown away soon by a divine nuke, so why bother?

As I wrote before, this is one of the most worrisome aspects of end-times belief, though such apathy does not compare to the dangerous lunacy to actually effect eschatological doctrines through open conflict.  While such a vile strain is mostly isolated, it’s come too close to having one of it’s own in real power for me to breathe easily any time soon.  History, sadly, is littered with the victims of apocalyptic preaching.  Could it just be a matter of time before the rest of us are victims too?

Edit: Reflecting more on believers’ loathing for the world, I think a better, simpler explanation for it derives from the belief that God will one day blast it to smithereens.  What a terrible place this must be for him to do that!

Well, He did say “creature”…

Stunning exegetical breakthrough?  Or merely the latest in a string of misinterpretations that have resulted in dubious achievements such as the 2,000 year unbroken record of failed predictions of the Christ’s return? You be the judge…

In a discussion generally expressing confidence that their pets will be raptured along with them, one contributor to the Christian Rapture Ready message board (motto: Where hope springs eternal!) observed:

well I always found it weird that Jesus said in Mark 16:15 “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (emphasis in the original)

Folks, have Christians been grossly remiss in their evangelical calling?  The implications are staggering.  Billions and billions of animalian souls possibly lost due to the singular failure to preach them the Gospel as Jesus commanded.  It’s an oversight our dear contributor has fortunately not been a party to.  She continues:

Always hit me as odd…and maybe it’s even odder that I tell my cat about Jesus =)

That is one blessed cat!  It is not given to us to know whether it repented of its sins and accepted Jesus into its heart, but we can trust that it will almost certainly not die an atheist, which cannot be said for every other creature that has ever existed, including those dear pets the Rapturians hope to share heaven with.

Ok, seriously.  What would we atheists do without sites like Rapture Ready?  For one, it’s highly doubtful we’d get our recommended daily allowance of laughter.  I mean, even the master himself couldn’t make up material this good.

And who’s not a little awestruck by the willful delusion that results in this sort of reasoning?  I figure that if I can one day understand it, solving world hunger should be a piece of cake (no pun intended).