By John R. Guthrie
“Jesus merely raised one hand a few inches and . . . they tumbled in, howling
and screeching.” From Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins best selling “Left Behind” series.
For the uninitiated, “Rapture” might sound like another club drug, say Ecstasy with an extra side chain tacked on. But really, it’s about Jesus, a big, bad-ass Jesus who’s into serious, eternal, torture for those who either didn’t hear about him, didn’t care, or dissed him in some way. This version of Jesus is a creature who will roast you like a marshmallow if you get on the wrong side of him. He will do this on a sort of divine life support so that you have neither the benefit of opiates nor of a merciful death. And this includes everybody, young or old, good or bad, who has a different belief system: most Catholics, Methodists, all Hindus, unconverted Jews, including those who died at Auschwitz or Dachau, agnostics, secularists, atheists (perhaps the most clearheaded of us all), the Muslim and Hindu victims of the recent Tsunamis in Asia, all are resurrected and beamed down, landing in the bright and hungry flames of the everlasting fires of hell.
To read more on a complex of superstitions worthy of a Paleolithic hunter, naked, painted blue, and dancing around an open fire, Google “Rapture.” You’llfind more mind rot on the “premillenial dispensationalism” that forms the basis for the Rapture than you thought possible. Sometime quite soon, we are told, all those who believe in this particular brand of Christian loose-screwism, those who have “accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior,” the “born-again” will be beamed up. Of those taken up, all their worldly possessions will be left behind. This includes, apparently, dentures, artificial hip joints, big hair wigs, breast implants, toupees, body piercing jewelry, trusses for inguinal hernias, pessaries for prolapsed uteri and other such appurtenances.
… The scariest thing about this involves the fact that people, particularly fundamentalists, create God in their own image. A torture-minded God indicates a torture-minded person, as events at Guantanamo and elsewhere, events inspired by leadership at the highest levels indicate.
Of course, Christian groups have been predicting the imminent end of the world since shortly after the time of Jesus. And of course, for the last 2,000 years, the prophets of imminent Armageddon are batting zero. Leon Festinger’s 1956 book, When Prophecy Fails, provides an interesting perspective on this:
“A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point.
“We have all experienced the futility of trying to change a strong conviction,
especially if the convinced person has some investment in his belief. We are familiar with the variety of ingenious defenses with which people protect their convictions, managing to keep them unscathed through the most devastating attacks.” But man’s resourcefulness goes beyond simply protecting a belief. Suppose an individual believes something with his whole heart; suppose further that he has a commitment to this belief, that he has taken irrevocable actions because of it. Finally, suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong. What will happen?
The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convinced of the truth of his beliefs than ever before. Indeed, he may even show a new fervor about convincing and converting other people to his view.
Believing in current Rapture theology might be considered simply a matter of personal choice, … except that the affairs of the Middle East are of great importance to these believers. … They assert, are coming into play in our time. Christian Coalition founder Pat Robertson, for instance, believes that the Six-Day War of 1967 was the kick-off event for the Second Coming of Jesus. The return of all the Jews to Israel is important enough that one group of Christians, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, seeks to help the Second Coming along by raising millions to return them. The restoration of Jewish control of the Temple Mount and the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple on the Dome of the Rock is a precondition for the Rapture. The Dome of the Rock is also the site of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam; thus this concept provides another excuse for war. Premillennial Christians find themselves, despite the example of a loving savior, in the position of encouraging West Bank settlement by Jews and hoping thus to foment the war that will be the fulfillment of their understanding of biblical prophecy. And there is other political spin-off. To take one example, James Watt, former Secretary of the interior, noted that there was no need for environmental concern, because when the last tree is cut, “Christ will return.”
A Gallup Poll indicated recently that some 44% of U. S. citizens believe in the Premillennial Rapture. This puts America, with this genre of religious belief, or superstition, more in keeping with that of Pakistan or Nigeria than other Western industrialized societies. To paraphrase one of my favorite theologians, Willie Nelson’s song, “Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth?” What, my Rapture-obsessed friends, ever happened to “God is Love”?
(Reprinted, with permission, from The Chickasaw Plum – Volume II – Number 1 – January 2005.)