The Rapture did not occur this past Saturday, which was good, since that would have put a huge crimp in my weekend. The failure of the world to end inspired many a joke in all conceivable media, and we all had a jolly good laugh. (I also imagine the guys in the band The Rapture enjoyed a brief spike in iTunes downloads.) However, I don’t want to let this occasion pass without commenting on how horrible all these Rapture People are.
First off, why this rapture prediction garnered any attention at all is beyond me. Granted, the “church” that made said predictions (Family Radio Ministry, which I’m not sure is an actual church in either physical location or organized congregation) bought huge billboards in big cities across the country. I saw one late Saturday night while driving on the BQE, hours after its prediction had failed to come true, and I saw multiple ads in the subway on the way to work this morning. (Hope the MTA got their money up front.)
For one thing, the church’s leader, Harold Camping, made a similar prediction in 1994 that obviously did not come true either. For another, the guy’s 89 years old. Do you know how few 89-year-olds are fully possessed of their mental faculties? A disturbingly small amount. An almost 90 year old saying the world is about to end should have as much merit as a 6 year old saying he saw a monster under the bed.
It’s easy to dismiss this as the ramblings of a semi-lucid charlatan who took advantage of some gullible, vulnerable people, and to say that criticizing them or rubbing it in is pointless. And in the specific case of the Family Radio Ministry and their heavenly math, I suppose I agree. But here’s the thing: There are millions of people in this country who believe there will be a Rapture and/or an Apocalypse, sooner than later. And these people are terrible.
I generally support people’s rights to believe whatever they want to believe, provided such beliefs don’t prevent reciprocal tolerance. There’s an almost endless variance on what The Rapture is and what it will entail. But nearly all such beliefs carry with them the simultaneous belief that all those who are not raptured, those who remain on earth, will eventually wind up burning in hell for all eternity. I don’t know about you, but I take the threat of damnation personally.
Let’s put aside for the moment that Biblical support for The Rapture is, at best, sketchy. (Long story short: The idea is based on one lone verse that could easily be interpreted in a million different ways.) Believing Good People will go to heaven when they die is one thing; nearly every religion believes this in some form or another. Believing that said Good People will be assumed into heaven so they can watch Bad People suffer back on Earth is monstrous.
I question the true humanity of people who actively wish for such a thing. It’s not enough that your good deeds have earned you a heavenly reward; you have to be reassured that all those who disagreed with your way of living will burn forever–and that you will get to see it.
How many people actually believe such a thing? An awful lot, it turns out. You need only see how many copies the Left Behind Series of books sold to get an idea. Even granting that not every single person who bought one of those books necessarily believes in the Rapture, you’d have to assume a good portion of them do, and those who might not actively believe in it are at least receptive to the idea.
It’s part and parcel with another widely held belief among evangelical Christians, which says that Armageddon/the Apocalypse/end-of-the-world-what-have-you (which may or may not include a Rapture of some kind) is coming very soon. Why? Because the world is so rotten and full of bad things, well, it just has to, doesn’t it? This attitude ignores the fact that if you look at history, it’s hard to find an era that wasn’t terrible in its own way (Black Plague, anyone?), which in turn inspired people to believe that surely the end was nigh.
And in general, the people who believe in the impending Armageddon are not bugged about war or poverty or famine or global climate change–you know, the actually horrible stuff on this planet. They tend to think the world is in the terlet because women have jobs and gays exist and also abortion.
How many people believe this? An awful lot. So many, in fact, that most news outlets didn’t feel comfortable completely dismissing the Rapture/Apocalypse outright. If you read any mainstream media account of the May 21 prediction, you probably also read a severe condemnation of Family Radio Ministry, not from a politician or a scientist or even a middle-of-the-road clergyman, but from someone else who believes in an imminent cessation of the world as we know it by celestial means. Like this article in the Daily News, which counters Camping’s predictions with those of Steve Wohlberg, an Idaho minister “who has written several books about the end of the world and believes the Apocalypse is approaching”. His beef with Camping is not believing in the Rapture, but assigning it a specific date. Silly man! You can’t predict the end of the world, even though it is coming and you should repent or be forever consumed by the eternal raging flames of Hell!
Some people see the state of the world and feel compelled by their faith to make it a better place–volunteer, donate time and money, start organizations. Some people see the state of the world, condemn everyone they don’t like, and wait for it all to end.
And if you simply want the world to end, I wouldn’t have so much of an issue with you. Go live on a mountain and prepare to be assumed into the clouds if it makes you happy. But such people, despite thinking we don’t have much time left, vote. Like, a lot. It’s hard to imagine Michelle Bachmann being a viable presidential candidate without them, and I mean that in all seriousness. Her every statement carries with it an implied sense of doom, that we all sit on the precipice of a cliff, ready to fall over, and only she pull us away from danger.
It’s this bizarre dichotomy: The world is ending, which if you’re a Christian who believes in such things, should be good. But things are terrible so we have to keep them from being terrible even though we want everything as it is to end!
Long story short, I don’t want someone who thinks the world is ending passing laws. Or voting for people who will pass laws, for that matter. And that is why The Rapture People are the worst.