Blasphemous Rumors

Christina Engela's picture
I know I have been quiet lately, but it's just because I've taken the weekend off. Honest. Rumors of my being raptured are greatly exaggerated - in fact, I am still here, and so is my underwear drawer, which still needs tidying. Damn.

I am typing this article on the morning of Sunday 22 2011. I am still here, and so is the house I live in - and the cars parked outside tell me the businesses across the road are doing their usual booming breakfasting business. The city around me is not on fire and there haven't been any tsunamis during the night. My mother woke up this morning, as usual, and shuffled past my door - so I knew she was still here. All is right with the world then.

As I expected, the May 21 "rapture" was a bust. Partly I was a little disappointed, because I had accepted invitations to several events on Facebook, such as the "Post-Rapture Party" and the "Post-Rapture Looting", which I admit, I had been looking forward to a little. In fact, I already had been eying those fancy cars some of the folks from Harvest and Word of Faith drive around in - unless they took to selling or giving them away in anticipation of being "raptured" of course. Hehe. I can only imagine the arguments to follow.

Be that as it may, it is now May 22, and nope, no Rapture. Some of you, a very few, may wonder what this "Rapture" is supposed to be. My mother, who has been a Christian her whole life, is one of them. Simply put, the Rapture is supposed to be the start of the end times, when all the "good Christians" vanish from the Earth, cars and planes crash with nobody to fly them, to be taken to God, Jesus, Heaven etc. People just disappear, leaving behind perhaps no more that a set of empty clothes and maybe a half-eaten hot-dog - which has prompted some folks to attempt some interesting pranks!

The Rapture supposedly leads up to the rise of the "anti-Christ" and ultimately the end of the world - because, as everyone knows, civilization simply could not exist without the Conservatives.

What is this Rapture? Why have we never heard of it prior to about 30 years ago, is it even a "Christian" concept - where did it come from - and why do people spell it with a capital 'R'? Why does it seem to be an obsession of the "modern" Church - i.e. that part of Christianity which is normally focused on discriminating against others and persecuting and excluding them?

 Perplexed by the recent fracas on the interwebs about this "Rapture", and it's perpetual failure to realize - much to the embarrassment of many modern Christians, I decided to do a little digging.

One source I found says "Almost all Christians are interested in prophecy. This is especially true if the prophecies show what will happen to Christians themselves." Now for my part, "prophecy" is tantamount to visiting my local seer, witch, or psychic for a good old tarot reading - and judging the track record of so-called "prophecy" over the past few centuries, about as accurate and subjective to free will.

The author is quick to point out that "the word “Rapture” is not found in the King James translation." [The King James version is the "holy grail" of the religious right groups filled to the brim with fanatical fundamentalists who like to take the 'fun' out of life and persecute other groups they don't like very much - such as us for instance. I wonder how many of them know that King James himself, who commissioned it, was gay?] "There is also no single word used by biblical authors to describe the prophetic factors that comprise the doctrine." [It is supposedly based upon several passages in the bible, such as those in that scary last chapter.] "Its formulation came about by means of inductive reasoning." [I.e. it is made from assumption and theory based on the conjecture and hearsay that comprises the whole of Christian doctrine and scripture.]

The same source, as well as Wikipedia point out in different ways that "The modern expression “Rapture” has been invented to explain the overall teaching and the term suits the subject well. The basic tenets of the doctrine are simple. It purports that Christ will come back to this earth in two phases. He will first return secretly to rapture His church away from this world so that they might escape the Great Tribulation to occur at the end of the age. Christ then returns in a visible advent to dispense His wrath on the world’s nations." and "There are many views among Christians regarding the timing of Christ's return (including whether it will occur in one event or two), and various views regarding the destination of the aerial gathering described in 1 Thessalonians 4."

Brian M. Schwertley, an author who has studied this alarmingly recurrent feature of evangelical madness writes: "One of the most popular teachings today in Evangelical and Charismatic churches is the doctrine of the pretribulation rapture." He states further, that: "Although the pretribulation rapture doctrine is very popular and is even considered so crucial to Christianity that it is made a test of a person’s orthodoxy in some denominations, Bible colleges and seminaries, the exegetical and theological arguments used by its advocates are all classic cases of forcing one’s theological presuppositions onto particular texts (eisegesis). The purpose of this brief study is to show that the pretribulation rapture theory is not plainly taught or directly stated in any place in Scripture, cannot be deduced from biblical teaching, contradicts the general teaching of the Bible regarding Christ’s second coming and was never taught in any branch of the church prior to 1830."

In fact, he concludes: "Although the pretribulation rapture theory is very popular today, given arguments that are offered in support of this doctrine we must declare Pretribulationalism to be contrary to the clear teachings of Scripture. Simply put, there is not one shred of evidence that can be found in the Bible to support the pretribulation rapture. The typical Pretribulational arguments offered reveal a pattern: of imposing one’s presuppositions onto a text without any exegetical justification whatsoever; of finding subtle meaning between words and/or phrases that were never intended by the author; of spiritualizing or ignoring passages that contradict the Pretribulational paradigm; and, of imposing Pretribulationalism upon passages that actually teach the unity of the eschatological complex (i.e., the rapture, second coming, general resurrection, and general judgment all occur on the same day—the day of the Lord). It is our hope and prayer that professing Christians would cast off this escapist fantasy and return to the task of personal sanctification and godly dominion." Numerous other sources have added their commentary over the years, including Bob Price, another author who wrote about it in his book "The Paperback Apocalypse".

And yet, despite all the logical and even theological reasoning applied by many Christians themselves on this topic to show why it isn't rational or even provable biblically and scripturally, there are at least as many who accept it as a given fact in the face of all the counter-arguments, and calling it faith. Hmm. Faith is an interesting topic. I could have faith in the Cookie Monster, or the Boogie Man - doesn't make either of them more real - but the effects of that faith could be made real by my faith. What I mean by that is, there might not be an actual Boogie Man under my bed, or in my recently vacated closet - but my faith in it being there might prevent me from looking, or going in there alone at night *wink* - if you get my meaning?

Despite this theory which has been the topic of intense debate in church circles as far back as I can remember, the topic of several movies which I realize were about as fanciful as any episode of Stargate I ever watched, if less convincing, it has never done anything positive at all for the Christian faith - aside from swelling its ranks - but with the fearful, gullible and blatantly stupid.

A vehicle proclaiming Judgment Day to be May 21, 2011, drives through New Orleans, La.

I would call this a negative effect, because people who go around making jack-rabbit assumptions and public statements on mass media, and running misinformation campaigns based on the lunacy of self-proclaimed "prophets of the End Times" - cheapens and mocks everyone else who by association is seen to be, or identifies as a Christian too.

Do you think I'm being too critical?

Oh fine, it's perfectly alright to believe in a religion - you won't catch me condemning people's right to believe whatever they want, their right to question it and to apply a healthy amount of curiosity or even skepticism - but to believe in anything blindly is at least as dangerous as driving the same way. It's perfectly acceptable to believe and even expect that one day this faith may manifest in a certain way - i.e. that they may be taken away into Heaven one day - but to sell all your possessions and to sit waiting on a street corner for it to actually happen? Surely nobody is that far gone?

Oh, but you'll be surprised.

Every so often some "prophet" comes along and sets a date for the Rapture to take place - and surprisingly - astonishingly, people fall for it every time. Hordes of them, by the bus-load.

For the past few months I have heard reports of people selling off their worldly goods, or giving them away, even quitting their jobs, because they believed the Rapture would happen on May 21 2011. Here is an American (naturally) website for a business that promises to care for the owner-less pets left behind after the Rapture for a period of at least ten years. That's right. An actual business - and they already have like actual clients! Of course, you might admit that it is a pretty clever scheme by atheists to get free money off fundamentalist Christians who will 'obviously' fall for anything *wink*. Perhaps I should start a company to sell "Rapture" insurance? Would it be legal? Who knows - but probably only in America.

Info sites on the web have people asking if businesses like Home Depot sell "Rapture Preparation Kits" *face palm*. Seriously? Sure why not - you might find them on the shelf right next to the "Vampire Slaying Kits", and "Demonic Exorcism Kits".

In recent times, there have been numerous dates set by "prophets" who announced the "End Times" and the coming of the "Rapture".

"1844 - William Miller predicted Christ would return between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844, then revised his prediction, claiming to have miscalculated Scripture, to October 22, 1844. The realization that the predictions were incorrect resulted in a Great Disappointment. Miller's theology gave rise to the Advent movement. The Baha'is believe that Christ did return as Miller predicted in 1844, with the advent of The Báb, and numerous Miller-like prophetic predictions from many religions are given in William Sears book, Thief in The Night." As many as 100,000 Millerites took to the mountains to wait for the end of the world. Of course, it can be assumed that they came back down again, considerably poorer, and hopefully a little wiser. Rapture Hysteria - and the foot-shuffling sessions afterwards - are therefore clearly not actually a new thing.

"1914, 1918, 1925, 1942 - Dates set for the end by the Jehovah's Witnesses"

1975 - another Jehovah's Witness prediction resulted in many people in the USA selling their homes. "The idea of people changing their financial situation in advance of Jesus’ return was even discussed on ABC’s “The View” program, as co-host Sherri Shepherd explained how she thought the world was ending in 1975, according to a prediction by Jehovah’s Witnesses, with many people selling their homes. Shepherd said: “It’s not a good thing because I didn’t pay a lot of my bills and I got into a lot of debt because I thought – I would write a check and I’d go, ‘Well, the world’s going to end. I don’t need money in the bank.’ And you know what? The world never ended and I had to pay these creditors off. It took a long time.”
Her fellow hosts on the show turned the issue into a joking matter, with Joy Behar saying, “So maybe the rumor’s put out by real-estate agents. You ever think of that?” “You’re onto something,” responded Elisabeth Hasselbeck. “Maybe this is the new stimulus package because maybe this will actually boost our economy.”
Hmm... you never know, do you? At any rate, 1975 wasn't the last time this happened. In "1981 - Chuck Smith predicted that Jesus would probably return by 1981.

1988 - Publication of 88 Reasons why the Rapture is in 1988, by Edgar C. Whisenant.

1989 - Publication of The final shout: Rapture report 1989, by Edgar Whisenant. More predictions by this author appeared for 1992, 1995, and other years.

1992 - Korean group "Mission for the Coming Days" predicted October 28, 1992 as the date for the rapture.

1993 - Seven years before the year 2000. The rapture would have to start to allow for seven years of the Tribulation before the Return in 2000. Multiple predictions.

1994 - Pastor John Hinkle of Christ Church in Los Angeles predicted June 9, 1994. Radio evangelist Harold Camping predicted September 6, 1994."

And yet, somewhat obstinately, the world is still here, and nobody has been "Raptured". You would think they would learn their lesson? But apparently not. Like the definition of insanity, some people persist in trying the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.

So who started the 2011 May 21 rumor, panic, hysteria? A dude by the name of Harold Camping, who is an 89 year old man who broadcasts live from an American fundie radio station called "Family Radio" - on account of like, how obsessed with other people's families the religious right whackos are and all. Yup, the same one who tried it in 1994. He apparently pulled both dates out of a hat after applying what is essentially quantum-mechanics and a generous amount of thumb-sucking, to the bible. In short, he might as well have thrown a dart at a calendar, blindfolded.

Camping is (surprisingly) not an actual minister or trained theologian - he has a BS in civil engineering from UC Berkeley, so while he could probably supervise a construction site like nobody's business, his ability to prophecy the end of the world leaves a lot to be desired.

Point 14 on the Camping article says: "I don’t know what Harold Camping would think if you quoted Deut. 18:20 to him. That verse says any false prophet who claims to speak for the Lord — but is proved to be wrong and therefore has spoken presumptuously — should be put to death. I've never heard him address this. If you have, I’d love to know what he thinks." - especially since he now clearly and in my opinion, quite predictably, has pie on his face.

Naturally, you would expect the originators of such bold announcements to stand behind their statements - but clearly they must have some doubts - enough to cling to their material possessions - as demonstrated in a letter from a minister to Mr Camping. In fact, the periodic Rapture hysteria caused by Mr Camping appears to have made him even wealthier: "In 2009, a caller to one of Camping’s open forums on the radio confronted the host on the financial issues, asking, “There’s quite a few people, older people and people like that, that have been taking their life savings out and sending it to your radio station. I was wondering if, on May 22nd, do they get a refund?”

“Well, the fact is, we don’t ask anybody why they are giving,” Camping answered. “We are not telling anybody what they are to give. Let each one make their own decisions on those matters.”" No kidding.

Camping doesn't have his own mega church. He doesn't even appear to believe in the need for a church at all. He doesn't need to - he owns a radio station that periodically advertises the end of the world - and seems to get paid a lot of money for it by people only too keen to believe him. Why should he stop - because people are laughing at him when it doesn't happen and he gets proved wrong time after time? I'll bet, like Liberace', he will cry about that - all the way to the bank.

Point 22 on the Camping article tells me a lot about this business: "Harold Camping won’t apologize for his wrong prediction once May 22 rolls around. Most likely he will say that, because of his efforts — and the efforts of his followers — to warn the world of the May 21 event, God has chosen to withhold his judgment for now. And not long after that, Camping will recalculate [again] and announce a new date." - which seems to roll around every few years anyway, so why should we be surprised anymore every time some half-wit runs around going off half-cocked like Chicken Little?

And speaking of "family" and children, who always seem to be at the top of the list when homophobes and bigots try to point fingers at same-sex couples raising kids as "child abuse", how about this one? A picture of kids wearing t-shirts advertising the end of the world on May 21 . Ok, so making a fool of a child and embarrassing them publicly isn't abusive? Hmmm. Oh, the humanity... but I digress.

Why is it that modern evangelical charismatic "Christianity" is increasingly being made to resemble the ancient beliefs of the Mayans and the East (which the "Church" claims to despise) that feature the pacification and placation of a wrathful deity? Are these people not still living in the Old Testament when they claim that 'God' is angry with the world and wants to destroy it - all faithful believers must make sacrifices, make atonements or make amends, prepare for the end - and then when (duh) nothing happens, the all-clear sounds and the same doom-sayers go out saying - "It's okay 'God' has been touched by our commitment and faith - and has postponed the End of the World." Yep. Uhuh. Till next time.

So when is the next time?

2060, apparently. According to numerous sources, Sir Isaac Newton dabbled in the game himself, and proposed, "based upon his calculations using figures from the book of Daniel, that the Apocalypse could happen no earlier than 2060." And of course, since he used math to work it out - and because he technically 'invented' gravity, his theory should hold more weight. Umm. Yes, well. Let's just wait and see, shall we?

That is, unless it happens like Hollywood says it could - when the Mayan calendar runs out for us in 2012, or one of Nostradamus's notoriously vague, ambiguous and unreliable "predictions" comes to pass first.

To date though, every attempt to predict the end of the world or the "Rapture" has failed. In fact, I feel that the only effective way to predict such an event accurately, is to be the one who makes it actually happen. Calculate the odds on that one, and you will have your answer.

My conclusions after all this?

Being primarily an agnostic - I think the whole theory that underpins the Rapture and its doctrine is just wishful thinking and conjecture based upon even more conjecture and wishful thinking - none of which is even remotely plausible, provable, or fit to take seriously - and until something actually happens which beyond any doubt whatever, proves it, I will not put any stock in it.

The "Rapture" in my opinion, despite being discredited as a doctrine by serious biblical scholars, and is being taught in many churches the world over as a "fact", is the manifest desire of Christians wanting to be proved right, if not just for themselves, out of a desire to be fulfilled in their faith and united with their god - but for some, to be able to wag their crooked little fingers at all the people they spent their lives oppressing and sidelining as if to say "Told you so - who's sorry now?"

But of course, when future "Rapture" predictions flop famously and gloriously like all those who have come and gone before them, I don't expect any of the folks who were wrapped up in the hysteria to mend their ways and become better people, or better Christians. No. Most of these same folks will go right on mercilessly persecuting other folks they don't like, as they do now - and it will be business as usual.

Which gives me the chills - because should this Rapture ever actually happen one day, and if THEY aren't the ones taken, I feel sorry for every one else "Left Behind" with them - because they will be made to pay for it.

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