Since today is May 21st, the supposed day of the rapture, I decided to devote one of my posts to the role the rapture has played in my life. Let's do this.
When I was a child, I was fascinated by the rapture...in the same way a person is fascinated by a tornado right before it comes and demolishes their house. In this metaphor, the tornado represents the concept of the rapture and the house represents my fragile childhood psyche. After hearing numerous times about the rapture at church (see previous posts about "The Countdown/Blast Off Song") I became convinced, being the evil child that I was (more importantly, being the child prone to anxiety and perseverating on ideas), that I was bound to be left behind.
This played out in a good 6-12 months of pit-of-the-stomach anxiety only briefly alleviated by having a known Christian in sight. A piece of clothing left on the ground at my house could send me into a tizzy as I scanned the horizons for known Christians to ensure I wasn't left behind (side note: this also led me to an early judgmental attitudes towards other's faith. I had those who were definitely Christians, those who were probably Christians, and those who I thought may just be left behind with me). For obvious reasons I avoided the laundry room.
All of this was compounded by films such as the Thief in the Night trilogy and the Left Behind series. I even once heard a sermon by a guest preacher that not only discussed the reasons for the pre-tribulation rapture but also attempted to convince the congregation that hell was literally in the center of the earth and heaven was invisible about 15 stories up. The thought of hell being the core of the earth did little to alleviate any of my fears about anything and probably kept me from descending too deeply into any canyons or caves lest I fall into some sulfur-belching crevice and find myself in hell.
These early experiences convinced me of a few things:
1. Fear is never a good motivator, especially for children. Do not use hell, judgment, damnation, or rapture as methods to bring children to God. Appeasing an angry god is what the prophets of Baal did, not what Christians do. It will only set up a false image of God that they will either fear their whole lives or reject. Most of the time when they reject this false image, they may reject the notion of God altogether.
2. Don't build whole systems of theology on a few verses. As I've gotten older, I realize I don't believe in the rapture because it has little biblical support. The two verses that are most often cited (two men walking up a hill, one disappearing; being caught up in the clouds) are taken out of their historical context. For an in-depth look at these verses and at the idea of rapture as a whole, I recommend N.T. Wright's Surprised by Hope.
3. For any theological idea, it's important to explore what the historic Church believed over the last 2000 years. The rapture is one of the ideas that gained support in the 19th century with John Nelson Darby's dispensationalism. Now just because it is more recent doesn't necessarily mean it's false, but it should send up some warning flags.
I believe that the God who created the earth and called it good will come to restore creation and set up God's kingdom on earth, making "all things new" not "all new things" (as one commentator noted). Finally, as websites that provide services to take care of your pets after the rapture prove, the idea of rapture is entirely human-centered. God cares about all of creation (including animals!) and will restore all of creation - human and otherwise - in the coming kingdom.
Well, my post is almost done (a little more preachy than intended - sorry!), and I am still here. No planes have fallen from the sky, and sirens aren't blaring. We'll see how the rest of today pans out.