Saturday, May 21, 2011

Reflections Upon Another Rapture Which Hasn't Happened


When I was a child my parents belonged to the Assemblies of God church. When they were missionaries on Okinawa I went to a school which was run by evangelical, fundamentalist Christians, so I've been around this rapture stuff all my life. As a child I was always scared that I would be left behind when the Rapture took place. I was very relieved when, as a young adult, I did some research and discovered that the idea of a Rapture of the Saints was not a teaching of the ancient church but a nineteenth century invention. The return of Christ is the hope of the Church, but this Meet-Jesus-In-The-Sky-While-All-The-People-Who-Disagree-With-Me-Suffer-Terrible-Plagues-Oh!-Won't-THEY-Be-Sorry! stuff is something I left behind many years ago. I believe in living my life as if Jesus will return at any moment, but I don't spend any time worrying about it anymore.

I've had a lot of fun this week and especially yesterday and today mocking this belief system and I believe it deserves to be mocked, but now it's after 6:00 pm Eastern Daylight Savings Time and nothing predicted by Harold Camping has taken place, just like the last time he made such predictions. However, last time the only people really aware of his heresy were those in the San Francisco Bay Area; this time, thanks to the innertoobes, his claims have spread around the world and many people have given up everything to spread the word. They've left their jobs, they've stopped saving for their children's education, and they've given their life savings to Family Radio to spread the word. I'm expecting a lot of people around the world who have been crushed, spiritually.

So, as my friends James Holloway and El Profesor Jay Johnson have pointed out, we are going to be dealing with a lot of people whose faith has been severely damaged. I believe we need to be there for them, we need to help them through their disappointment and the destruction of their trust (that's how I define "faith"). They were sincere, yet misled, and they have been spiritually abused, in a way. I spent some three years in a cult and I can understand their pain in realizing that all they believed was a crock. It takes a while to recover from such spiritual betrayal. We are also going to have to deal with Harold Camping. Will he be humbled by this experience and finally decide to quit treating the Bible like some cryptic puzzle he could only decipher with the right formula, or will he realize the error of his ways, apologize and perform retribution to those he led astray and STFU from now on? I must say that, from observing Brother Camping's past behavior, he's gonna figure that there was some mistake in his calculations and STILL work on figuring out when Jesus will return in the sky and kill everyone Brother Camping disagrees with. As extremely difficult as it will be, we will also have to treat Brother Camping in a loving manner. If we take this Christian stuff seriously, we have to do a lot of stuff we don't like. I'm actually hoping that this will be another nail in the coffin of Fundamentalist Christianity, but, since it is so much a part of the nationalism of the U.S.A., it may not make any difference in their belief that God created 'Murica.

Many years ago I helped administer a password protected website for people leaving Divine Light Mission/Elan Vital/The Prem Rawat Foundation, a psuedo-Hindu cult, providing a safe place for them to work through their issues. It wasn't as safe as we thought, but I believe many people were able to work through much of their spiritual betrayal. Perhaps we, the Christians who don't accept nineteenth century Christian innovations, can help these folks in such a place. I would be interested in hearing from anyone so inclined.

This is a sad situation, but also an opportunity for evangelization amongst The Churched, and opportunity to expose them to the more traditional and ancient traditions and beliefs of the Christian faith. I'm wondering how we will all deal with this situation. ¡Maranatha!

21 comments:

Matty Boy said...

On my tabloid blog, I call all these apocalypses Skeeter Davis Alerts. I was listening to the song and the bridge is particularly apropos this weekend.


I wake up in the morning and I wonder
Why everything's the same as it was
No, I can't understand
No, I can't understand
Why life goes on the way it does.


There are going to be people in real pain, and laughing at them is not the best solution.

Padre Mickey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Padre Mickey said...

Thanks, Matty Boy! We gree on most things in this world, don't we? That's why we've been BFFs for ages.

Fred Schwartz said...

Yes, but how do you know this is not "Groundhog Day"?

Padre Mickey said...

Well, Fred, probably because I don't hear Sonny and Cher when I wake in the morning. EVER!!

Grandmère Mimi said...

Padre, your post is wise and compassionate. A lot of people are going to need some help.

JCF said...

Great post, Padre.

JCF said...

I note we've (me and Harold!) have 3 minutes to the Rapture, here...

Fred Schwartz said...

Padre Mickey,
Are you telling me the beat never goes on?

Fran said...

I'm so grateful for your reminder to pray for those who put their stock in Harold Camping and not in God.

This is a great post and I will be linking to it from both my church and personal blogs. Thank you; this is real witness.

"Sir" said...

Great Post Padre.

The irony is that one day, one of these nutters will turn out to be right.

KJ said...

We are agreed. I too grew up in a "Rapture Tradition" (and conservative Christian school), though my parents were more of "It all works out in the end" types, as opposed to consumers of end-times charts (I remember my dad deriding those and my mom, the Hal Lindsey films shown at church. Oh how she hated the song, "I Wish We'd All Been Ready!"). Now, as a kid, I was pretty sure I was going to make the cut, but I did worry about our pets, of which there were many. As I matured, I did become concerned that my sexual orientation would exclude me for sure.

To this day, I have many family and friends who believe in "Rapture theology," and they assume I believe as they do, as I nod my head and say "Hmm." However, I always end such conversations with something along the lines of, "All I know for sure is that God is in control, so I don't need to worry about it. I believe that who we are in Christ right now, and how we live that out, is far more important than what we believe about his return."

I have yet to have that offend an evangelical. However, for those whose faith is more "fundie" and heavily loaded toward "correct belief" regarding eschatology, the thought provides no peace.

Jim said...

It is hard isn't it? On the one hand I want to be compassionate, pray, and care for those whom Camping defrauded. And yet, I know, you know that these people were not merely misled.

The think about the "Rapture" fraud is that it offers losers a mountain top from which they expect to look down on the "lake of fire" and laugh at everyone else's pain. That is in large part what sells it. These may be victims but they are also abusers who dream of eternally abusing gays, women, blacks and anyone else who sees that the are indeed losers.

I will work on it, I really will. I am churning through rosary beads praying for the ability to pray for them. It is still hard.

FWIW
jimB

Ciss B said...

You said it the best way possible. Thanks.

IT said...

This is very wise and compassionate. I would just like to remind the author that he has another blog where this would be a great contribution.

You know.

Sincerely,

Your fellow Group Blogger!

Padre Mickey said...

Okay, IT, I'll post it there, too.
Thanks for reminding me!

susankay said...

I have been struck that Campings followers had moved out to say "join us" rather than "you are already screwed". Some of that had to come from the obviously otherwise confused Camping. I think he also upped the number to be raptured from the typical tiny number. They need a lot of love.

Harry Allagree said...

Good post, Padre...you covered all the basis with your accustomed humor, but with sensitivity and seriousness about the deeper issues. Lotta good comments above, too!

Matty Boy said...

As you said, Padre, forgiveness for Camping is harder than forgiveness for his followers, but let's recall his reason for this apocalypse was that God would destroy the world because of teh gays.

There's a whole lot of scales that have to fall off a whole of eyes.

Anonymous said...

An excellent post! I also agree that these people need compassion... and THERAPY! My feeling is that those who follow rapture or any other "I'm in and you're out" scheme are really saying, "I want to die, but don't have the nerve enough to do it myself."

Still, I couldn't resist a jab in my sermon yesterday and it got a huge laugh.

motheramelia said...

I had a colleague at the lab where I worked before ordination who was convinced that the end time was coming on a specific date (in the 90s) and he went up to Montana with a group to wait for the time. He gave me a copy of his calculations and scripture references, but I didn't have either the time or inclination to read it. Fortunately he hadn't given up his job and had work to come back to. People at the lab, for the most part, were not "snarky" to him and I think just welcomed him back. I believe that gentleness and compassion are in order.

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