Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Little Less Than Rapture

It seems that the Rapture--that increasingly well known and ever more gross misunderstanding of Christian scripture--has once again come and gone without appreciable effect on the world as we know it, although this latter is of course because the event did not, as usual, actually occur.

What event?

Well, that same that has been predicted at regular intervals throughout the last couple centuries of our soul-starved times. It is that great beginning of the end, proclaimed on the poster boards of the crackpots of old, in the shrill sermons of the charismatic periphery, and more lately through the buzz of the worldwide web.


There will be troubles and trials, wars and rumours of war. And then the Lord Jesus Himself will pop in briefly to collect his true sheep before the s--t really hit’s the fan in a period of universal tribulation preceding His more ceremonious second coming and the final judgement.

“Listen, I tell you a mystery,“ says the Apostle Paul in the epistle to the Corinthians. “We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed--in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”

In the wildly popular series of “Left Behind” books by authors Tim LeHaye and Jerry Jenkins, this scripture (along with others) is lifted from scripture on the wings of extravagant fancy as we are told that one day soon the truly chosen will suddenly disappear from the face of the earth. Beds will be empty, towns will be deserted (except for Las Vegas); cars, suddenly driver-less, will careen into walls, planes will fall from the sky due to the unlucky subtraction of their Christian pilots (making travel with non-Christian airlines the safest bet in the short-term).

This is The Rapture, in modern lore. Sound fun? Well, in our day of magicians and magic wands, of dark powers and enchanted solutions (Just use the Force, Luke), I guess it does. Swords and sorcery, Jihads and Crusades have always been more interesting, as well as more personally accessible, to the common folk of the world than lives lived with charity, compassion and sacrifice.

But is the term “rapture” actually in the Bible? No, it’s not. Is there a Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek word that can be translated reliably as “rapture?” Well, no.

Rapture itself is of course a real word in English. In fact, I can attest to moments of rapture that I have experienced for myself (as understand the word), but these moments have generally been connected with the intimate proximity of a beautiful woman. So that is obviously something different from the coming of the Lord in blazing clouds of glory. I believe.

I don’t mean to be sacrilegious. God forbid. But I am angry. I am angry at people like Harold Camping, the author of the most recent silliness involving the most recent magic date of May 21st. I’m angry at charismatic pastors who prefer tickling parishioners’ ears to to conveying in real-life terms the precious word of God. I am angry at the insult inflicted on that same holy word, or on any holy body of any holy scripture, by the application of worldly ignorance, superimposed like a blindfold on the truth.

“Listen!” Paul says. Don’t speak, just listen. The word of God is a whisper of love, not a call to arms.

"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

So says Jesus in Matthew 24. Did you miss this, Harold? Or do you merely discard what does not fit with fancy?

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