I’m not writing to scoff at Harold Camping’s Rapture date that has come and gone like the stink of a passing garbage truck. There are plenty of other people poking fun, and doing it better than I could. Everything that could be said has been said, twisted every way to expose every angle and to squeeze out another laugh. I admit I’ve laughed and I’ve chuckled. There might have been a guffaw or two.
Some have begun to offer the pastoral approach to help teach those who were misguided and other words of wisdom to aid in the cleanup. These words are needed.
But now that everyone has caught their collective breath, its time for some additional reflection. And to remind the laughers and the pointers, in the tradition of banal, elementary school proverbs, that when you point at someone, you have three fingers pointing right back at you.
There are four broad categories of scoffers and pointers that I noticed. What follows is what I imagine those three fingers are implying as they point in accusation at their respective owners.
1. The Establishment Media
While not direct scoffers per se, they made the whole feast possible by spending so much time telling us about it. With a wink and a smirk lurking behind the thin veil of their “neutrality” faces, they handed out invitations to the freak show and shouted out the meeting times from the rooftops. They never laughed in public, but you could tell they really wanted to.
You can’t blame them. It was newsworthy, and its their job. But a locomotive doesn’t need someone to get out and push once it gains some speed and momentum. Anyone who thinks a little bit of pushing can help, if only they are the ones who are doing the pushing, can rightly be labeled as someone who has an inflated sense of their own importance. Which, come to think of it, describes the establishment media pretty well.
2. The Atheist Blogosphere
Yes, there is a sphere o’ blogs whose name is based on something that they all don’t believe in. So even though they gladly curse His name and deny His existence, all of their thoughts and ramblings orbit the Truth, in some form or another. The poor things just can’t escape the inevitable. It’s like the moons of Jupiter formed a club whose core, foundational principle was denying the existence of planets.
And oh how they cackled in glee. Another chance to point and laugh at Christians and their silly doomsday scenarios.
One, most of these atheists are leftist progressives, and therefore hold to their own doomsday apocalypses and eschatons, which are also based on spurious and questionable mathematics. Just ask them about global warming or climate change, and they will get dead serious. Not serious enough to stop themselves from breathing and releasing more of the obviously deadly pollutant known as CO2 into the atmosphere, but hey, there are fair-weather Christians too. Not everyone has the same level of faith.
Since they tend be pretty gullible, there are many more examples that I don’t have time to expound upon. Chesterton said through his character Father Brown
“It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense, and can’t see things as they are.”
But their gullibility helps lead into…
Two, most are also amateur evolutionary biologists. That means they go around quoting Richard Dawkins at each other. Evolution in itself is pretty funny, but then you get people extracting self-righteous morality from it, as many are in the habit of doing, and it becomes downright hilarious.
In a world where actions, including laughter and why we laugh, are reduced to simple chemical reactions in the brain, it really doesn’t matter what someone else’s chemical reactions are causing them to believe and do. Shake up a can of soda and open it, and you have a chemical reaction that is just as important as anything that happens in the brain. Well, maybe not. At least the can of soda has an ultimate purpose for it’s existence…
So they can claim that it gives them pleasure to mock and ridicule. I don’t doubt they know how to set off the right chemical reactions in their brains to tickle their funny bone. Any animal can do that. But based on their world-view, they cannot claim any sort of intellectual superiority over those they are mocking. They would just be comparing one meaningless set of chemical reactions to another. Different, yes. One set better than the other? Who cares?
3. Other Christians Who Believe in the Rapture
While they found it easy to scoff at the prophecy of Camping, they didn’t realize that the idea of the Rapture is pretty goofy in itself. You don’t have to put an arbitrary date on something to make it ahistorical and unbiblical. This is where a large swath of American Evangelicalism falls. It is characterized by extreme pessimism, an idolatrous gaze cast toward the physical nation of Israel, and a continuous lookout for signs in current events like a witch looking at the entrails of a slaughtered calf.
4. Other Christians Who Don’t Believe in the Rapture, but Still Maintain a Good Dose of Worldly Pessimism
A large minority of Christians take the pilgrim and citizen language of the New Testament, unknowingly filter it through Greek and gnostic philosophy, and then combine it with a dash of Enlightenment thinking. It treats the world as God’s Vietnam, getting worse and worse, descending further and further into darkness. His ultimate plan is to rescue the troops, whoever he can get out in time, and then napalm the whole place. The troops he was able to fit on the rescue craft will then live in disembodied bliss in s0me heavenly realm. The Bible says that Christ came to save the world and fulfill the promises of Abraham…except not really. He certainly gave it his best shot, though. Bless His heart.
This type of thinking is just as ahistorical and unbiblical as the Rapture and the bad theology that surrounds it. And the pessimism it encourages is just as corrosive. Why have kids? Why work? Why pay your credit card bills? Why do anything? The world is going to hell, despite God’s efforts, and regardless of anything I could possibly do. Its all going to burn anyway. With this conceptual scheme, the sooner you die after your baptism, the better.
Some ancient Stoics had similar ideas. To remain logically consistent in their framework, they committed suicide. Better to die sooner rather than later. Especially if things get unbearable, as they did for Cato when Julius Caesar’s victory was assured. I was reminded of the Stoic’s choice while reading the following snippet from an article in the LA Times, about people who quit their jobs or did other foolish things because they believed this false prophet:
Keith Bauer, a 38-year-old tractor-trailer driver from Westminster, Md., took last week off from work, packed his wife, young son and a relative in their SUV and crossed the country.
If it was his last week on Earth, he wanted to see parts of it he’d always heard about but missed, such as the Grand Canyon. With maxed-out credit cards and a growing mountain of bills, he said, the rapture would have been a relief.
If he is so eager to leave this world, the Stoic’s answer of suicide would seem to solve the same problems. What a relief! That may sound harsh, but it’s where this theological framework logically leads.
Instead of the battalions of God conquering the world (but not with the weapons of the world), we become content to hold down the fort while everything collapses around us, waiting for God to come to the rescue, even though he has already equipped us for every good work. Occasionally, we muster up the courage to open the gates and attempt to break the siege, but we always go back behind the walls to our spiritual ghettos.
This is where I used to fall. I laughed at the idea of the Rapture, even though my eschatology caused me to have the same outlook and attitude as many of those who hold to the Rapture. But at least I didn’t believe in the Rapture! I bore the same sour fruit, yet assumed I was a different tree. Now that’s true silliness.
Eschatology matters. We dismiss it sometimes, thinking, for some baffling reason, that the destination has no bearing on the journey. But it influences the path taken. It influences the mode of travel chosen. It influences the mindset of the travelers. In other words, it colors everything about the journey. This is one lesson we can’t afford to miss, and one this Rapture nonsense should drill into our heads.
Did you see other categories of mockers during this latest Rapture scare? Did anything cause you to step back and look at your own beliefs?