I’m betting not, but I’m a believer in “no one knows the day or the hour,” so I’ll acknowledge the possibility. But, in case you’ve missed it, the Christian radio network Family Radio “guarantees” that May 21 is Judgment Day. You can read their considered, extensive, and convoluted arguments (well, gatherings of “evidence”) at the site linked above. Apparently, millions of people are expecting that this will occur. I mean, it’s guaranteed, right?
As you might imagine, this has launched all kinds of mockery. If you are on Facebook, you can sign up for the Post-rapture looting party. Their info line reads “When everyone is gone and god’s not looking, we need to pick up some sweet stereo equipment and maybe some new furniture for the mansion we’re going to squat in.” Someone else came up with a pretty funny list of 50 reasons why the world is definitely ending on Saturday (my personal favorite is #2: Snooki is a NY Times bestselling author). Of course, the Huffington Post has 21 reasons to believe the contrary.
#Rapture is trending on Twitter, though, and I would encourage anyone so inclined to watch a few of the tweets going by. You’ll probably notice that many of them are mocking the idea of rapture, some are mocking the people who believe it, some actually read like people making real plans for the rapture, but many of those are probably sarcastic. However, a disturbing number of them (mirrored, by the way, on the Facebook page about the looting party), mock all religious belief and all religious believers.
I found myself in a couple of conversations today trying to walk the fine line between expressing my disdain over the idea that a Christian group would “guarantee” that May 21 is Judgment Day and reminding my conversation partners that Christians do believe that a Judgment Day is coming. We even believe in the Second Coming of Christ. We have different images for that–will it come “like a thief in the night” (1 Thes 5:2) or will he descend from heaven on a cloud (as Acts 1 seems to suggest)? But the return of Christ and the coming judgment are things that we Christians profess in our most basic creeds. Perhaps the coming days, both before and after the apocalyptic deadline, will offer us the opportunity both to reflect upon our own readiness for that Judgment (whenever it might come) and to encourage our friends and neighbors to do the same.
Thanks, Dana, for posting this reflection. I considered doing so, but decided not to since I already wrote about it for the National Catholic Reporter this week at http://ncronline.org/node/24676?sms_ss=facebook&at_xt=4dd3eb3d311ebfcc%2C0 (by the way, I highly recommend the book I review there also). Yes, we Catholics believe in the second coming of Christ and the full arrival of the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. We often pray in the Gloria Patri about a “world without end, amen,” too. Revelation refers to a new (in Greek, “renewed”) heaven and earth. We also believe in the final judgment. The beliefs I (and you) have highlighted definitely relate to moral theology: who we ought to be and how we ought to live. Our Christian brothers and sisters who subscribe to the “left behind” “rapture” theology, however, often downplay how we ought to live vis-a-vis creation because they believe “the world is going to end anyway” (i.e., be destroyed). Judgment for many of them boils down to knowing Jesus as personal savior rather than Matthew 25. I have not mocked these Christians on Facebook (the post-rapture looting party), though, because I’ve been there, done that (during high school), and some family members are still in that place.
Thanks for this, Dana. Like Tobias, I know these folks and would rather note the ways in which they have something to teach us. I guess you could have been even more provocatively old-fashioned and noted that since–statistically–some of us will probably die tomorrow, it’s actually overwhelmingly likely that May 21 *will* be Judgment Day–in an individual sense, at least for some of us.
Great post, Dana – and now the NYTimes has seen fit to feature this story on its front page. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/20/us/20rapture.html?_r=1&hp Perhaps this is a further indication of secular “mocking”!
At the same time, the article highlights some extremely painful theological errors that issue in problematic practical judgments. Dana nicely highlights the “fine line” here, but the fact is that false versions of Christianity are extremely harmful to the Gospel itself for two reasons: one, they take undeniable Christian energy and devote it to useless and even harmful activity, and two, they offer a paradoxical counter-witness to the world that brings the Gospel into disrepute. Surely it is right to say different groups of Christians do this all the time – but just as we may rightly criticize Christians whose acts of sin and abuse harm the Gospel, I find it hard myself to view these folks with any kind of sympathy. Perhaps I am lacking in charity, and I do not think anyone deserves to be gleefully mocked in ways that simply act to confirm my own views – that is unjust. On the other hand, false accounts of Christianity do grave spiritual harm, especially when they consist of aggressive public evangelizing of the false views in question.
And I do assume that these views are dangerously false. Aside from the date itself, the view involves a fundamental eschatology of the destruction of the earth which I take to be false and a way of reading Scripture that is contrary to Dei Verbum… and to what we presumably teach our students about the study of Scripture. Needless to say, it involves an ecclesiology which is not Catholic. And finally, these views undermine the entire social justice commitment of the encyclical tradition, which argues that Christians have a stake (though not an ultimate one) in the social order and in working for its renewal in justice and love. Thus, I can’t help but see this as somewhat un-funny, and as striking pretty clearly at fundamental commitments of the faith tradition. Tobias notes these well. At the very least, the post has me thinking about how one is to treat those who hold, under the name Christian, views that are not merely partial but outright contradict fundamental Catholic commitments.