Thanks to Harold Camping, an eighty-nine year old Christian radio talk show host, the rapture was on everyone’s radar this past week. I noticed it mentioned in casual conversations. It was written about in blogs and newspapers around the country. On Facebook I was invited to both the post-rapture party and the post-rapture looting.
When I first heard of Camping’s prediction that the rapture would happen on Saturday I just laughed it off. What a wacko, I thought, thinking he can predict something that clearly is supposed to “come like a thief in the night” and take everyone off guard. Then I thought, wait a minute, I don’t even believe in the rapture anymore. I think it’s a bunch of bunk. I think it’s a ridiculous idea that goes against the laws of nature. I don’t think it’s going to happen at all, regardless of whether the rapture, in all of its hypothetical glory, is predicted or a total surprise.
If I say I don’t believe in it, and I don’t, then why does the mention of the rapture still fill me with a sense of dread like nothing else? Why do I have a hard time joining in the mocking and ridicule of the notion that all the true believers will be carried off to heaven while the rest of us, the non-believers, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Jews, the Pagans and anyone else who doesn’t make the cut, get left behind?
There are a few reasons why all of this rapture talk disturbs me more than it amuses me. First of all, it draws a clear line of distinction between groups of people. There are those who believe in the rapture and those who do not. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m not a rapture believer, but lots of people that I love are, and they believe, seemingly without a doubt, that there will be a moment when the great separation will occur. And according to their standards I won’t make the cut. Nothing feels good about that.
Another reason all of this rapture mania makes me uncomfortable is that I spent a lot of years of my life thinking that at any moment my family could be whisked away. If I had been good; no lying, no swearing, no doubting the Word of God, then I could be included. But if I lied, say, about eating all of the leftover chocolate cake, or if I wondered secretly whether Jesus really did come back to life after three days of being dead, then I might get left behind in which case I’d be left alone to fend for myself in a hostile world. That’s enough to make a young girl feel a little jumpy, a little worried, a little confused. And afraid, nearly all the time.
So all of this rapture talk hits me on a personal level. It reminds me of the uncertainty of my childhood. I mean, it’s hard to really grow as a person when you’re scared all the time. It also reminds me that there are a lot of people looking forward to being swept away from all of this hardship here on earth. In that regard, belief in the rapture is the perfect antidote to the hopelessness that is sometimes felt when big things are beyond our control. –We don’t have to worry ourselves with these wars, they’re all a part of the plan.– or – This world is just our temporary home, any damage we might cause won’t matter in the long run.–
So I guess I would be able to laugh about all of the rapture talk if not so many people (people who vote, people who get elected) believed in it. To them it’s more real and of bigger concern than climate change, or crippling inequality, or social justice. And in that regard, the idea of the rapture scares me as much now as it did when I was a little girl.