Well, if you can read this, you too have not been raptured.
Turns out, nobody has.
Or at least, no one whom anybody has noticed is gone missing.
Which you have to grant would be discouraging even in absentia.
To some, this threatened doomsday of May 21 might be old news. But I’m still thinking it’s of the newsy sort; even more so now that it appears that we have been given until October until the reckoning.
Be it for libraries or reckonings, I’m all for grace periods.
Look at how the notion that the world could end garnered astonishing media coverage. Reputable and questionable outlets alike splashed the impending disaster, not to mention faces of those who believed it to be imminent, across their front pages and home pages.
And as a personal aside, the next time I hear REM’s The End of the World as We Know It I will wish for sure that Jesus had come on May 21st.
A lion’s share of the attention, it ought not be missed, made Christians out–implicitly even those of us who did not buy into the May 21 rapture hype–into being righteous doofuses:
Look at these crazy Christians believing in this crazy myth.
Can they even think?
Can we have their abandoned cars?
Let’s admit it: these barbs might not be nuanced, but they are also not always so undeserved.
One could say.
I worry that a fairly healthy number of Christians know that we say that Jesus is coming back, but not why we say that, what we mean when we say that, nor how such a claim is any less crazy than people waiting to hop on a comet.
The only difference between those of us who believe that Jesus will return and those who believe Jesus will return on a certain day is that one group simply makes one additional madcap claim.
One could say.
Not only that, but there are numerous thoughtful questions that could be posed about the validity of the rapture idea alone, even without going so far as to name a date.
Like, when we say, “Thy kingdom come,” what sort of kingdom do we mean? Come when?
Or like, doesn’t both the Old and New Testament witness of a God who expects–and frees–us to love mercy, feed the poor, forgive our enemies, and, for Christians, the witness of a God who says that life is more powerful than any imaginable death….doesn’t that witness suggest that if Jesus and Jesus’ followers were to be anywhere, it would be precisely with those left behind…assuming any would be left behind at all?
Or like, why is there such fear, such anxiety associated with this promised End Time? (I heard some time ago a quip: Jesus is coming! Quick! Look busy!)
I’m not naive: I know and respect that many religious traditions believe that we need to “accept Jesus” before he comes, or need to repent, need to be clean. But there are many people who proclaim things such as “we cannot save ourselves” (yes, fellow Lutherans, that part is for you) who find themselves shaking in their shoes and pews at the thought of Jesus coming.
Why is that? Do we believe in grace, or not, and/or under what circumstances?
And, looming judgment day or not, could it not be said that death is not exactly a particular surprise? And given that, to use my mentor Walt Bouman’s words, is now there not more to do with our lives than preserve them?
Temporally or eternally?
That is, could it not be said that we really have nothing to lose?
And given that, we have everything to give?
So this one might sneak up on you a bit:
I think that the whole notion of picking a date upon which Jesus will come again–well-calibrated according to scripture and the stars even so–is unhelpful, misguided, and poorly intentioned–let alone the product of multiple grave and unfortunate misinterpretations (not least of all that of the Scripture which states that nobody knows of “that day” except “the Father.” My New Testament prof Mark Allen Powell asserted, whenever anybody says that on such-and-such a day Jesus will come again, you can darn well be sure its not gonna be that day).
However, I do respect the dedication to their faith displayed by those who are willing to live utterly in the trust of their interpretation of God’s action.
There’s much to be gleaned from that.
Many years ago, a friend of mine wrote a paper he shared with me, a deal about the movie Field of Dreams as a mirror for the craziness of claiming Christianity. I can’t watch it even yet today without seeing it through his eyes. Ray Kinsella gives up everything to quite publicly do the insane: plow under his field. Even Patsy Cline makes an appearance, singing “Crazy” in the background.
It made no sense.
Ray Kinsella made no sense.
Until a person got caught up in his alternate reality.
And then they found it astonishing that anybody could not see what they saw, clear as day.
I’ve got troubles, pretty decent theological troubles, with what these adherents to doomsday predictions put out there, and why they put them out there, and on what bases they put them out there. And there is dire risk if one believes myopically, with no interest in engaging the possibility that one might be wrong.
Lots of dictators, terrorists, and simply mean-spirited people are awfully passionate.
And one can’t pass over the fact that Harold Camping and many of his followers have caused full-blown panic to rise in easily-swayed, vulnerable people.
So that is not o.k.
But that said, there is something admirable about total commitment, total dedication, and total passion, even when the rest of the world looks at you and says, “You’re crazy.”
Like Terence Mann said to Ray in Field of Dreams: “I wish I had your passion, Ray… Misdirected though it might be, it is still a passion.”
And perhaps that’s another reason that we gawk at those who did the apparently crazy: we wish we had it in us to throw ourselves into our convictions with equal abandon.
Upshot is this: Perhaps rather than focusing on “being raptured” or “being left behind,” Christians could instead focus on what we do with our lives now that that there is more to do than preserve them.
Maybe we could even instead direct our focus toward those who already feel as if they are left behind.
Perhaps we could give some defined flesh and blood to those words, “thy kingdom come,” and do it with passionate abandon.