Friday, May 20, 2011

Are You Ready (For the Rapture)?

So apparently, I won't be blogging tomorrow. Or ever again. Because it has been declared in the Bible (as interpreted by one solitary nutcase who's done this sort of thing before) that tomorrow, the rapture begins. Earthquakes. Fire. Torment for five months, then Judgement. And zombies. Lots and lots and lots of zombies, as all of the humans who have ever lived will be raised. The good folks (Or: Christians of Right Thinking) will go immediately to heaven. The bad folks will just lie there until Judgement day, five months down the line.

So I guess I'm down for five months of torment before shunted off to Hell forever.

If you've read past posts, then you know that I am a Christian. So why, you ask, would I consign myself to the damned?

Well, in the first place, I don't consider the Bible to be the "Word of God." In fact, one of the few clear statements in the Bible says quite clearly that the Bible (which didn't exist as a closed Canon until more than three hundred years after Jesus died) is who (not what) the "Word of God" is: "And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father's only son, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14, NRSV)

So I don't consider the Bible to be the "Word of God." The Bible is neither historical nor scientific fact.

The Bible is not God's revelation to us. Rather it is the story of our search for God in a world that often does not make any sense. And if I read more of the Bible than is quoted in this article about the rapture, I come up with a far different picture of God, and of God's plan, than the end-of-the-world fanatics.

First of all, we can define that illusive thing called "love": "Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends." (I Corinthians 13:4-8a, NRSV)

This has to be one of the most beautiful things ever written. Well done, Paul!

And now, to cross-reference with some other quotes:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:16-17, NRSV)

So, since I do believe in God and in Jesus Christ, maybe I won't be tormented with the unbelievers?

But there's more to consider:

"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48, NRSV)

Taken together, these readings give me an entirely different picture of God than the God portrayed by the proponents of the rapture. God loves us. Love seeks to heal and build up, not destroy and torment the loved one.

The problem is, of course, that the Bible was written by humans. It often says more about human temprement and longings than it says about God, and I like to think that the parts where God torments "his" enemies is more reflective of human nature than of Godly nature.

Because one thing has been abundantly clear to me for a number of years. If I live in a universe where God destroys whole cities and even the whole earth, including children and animals, because "He's" fed up with sinners; if I live in a world where God condemns half the population to be of less worth than the other half because of one supposed sin committed by one woman at the beginning of time; if I live in a world where homosexuals are created (by God, one supposes) with attraction to partners of their own gender but are consigned to Hell if they give in to such attractions, then I don't need to be condemned to Hell.

I already live there, and God is not God of the heavens and Lord of All Good, but the Devil Incarnate and evil beyond the human imagination.

Fortunately for me, my experience of God is more in line with the Biblical writers who write about God being love, rather than those who write about a God of judgement. And while I'm very human and sometimes get mad enough to wish my enemies to perdition, I'm glad that I live in a world where God is better than I am, and has infinite patience with sinners. Because I'm not perfect, and I need God's love and forgiveness just as much as anybody eles.

And in that case, I'll be back tomorrow with another post. Unless it's really sunny out, in which case I may just enjoy "rapture day" with a nice picnic in the park.

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