Rapture Theology Must Be Exposed And Thoroughly Discredited

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Aristotleded24
Rapture Theology Must Be Exposed And Thoroughly Discredited

When thinking of the rise of far-right leaders like Donald Trump, an important aspect that needs to be discussed is the Rapture. In a nutshell, this is the belief that at some, unforseen moment, God will blow a trumpet, the saved Christian souls will float up to Heaven, thus kicking off a tribulation period before God gets ready to destroy everything and send everyone to their eternal resting place. First of all, it is a gross misinterpratation of select passages in the Bible. Even UK conservative theologian N T Wright takes issue with this interpretation, arguing instead that at some point, God will recreate Earth in restored form. From this perspective, it is important to look after everyone and the planet because this will eventually be our permanent home. This is an important distinction, and it is why belief in the rapture is not a harmless belief that should be respected. If you and all your loved ones are going to be taken away to a perfect paradise, why worry about such things such as climate change? This is something that the Church actively needs to take on, because the secularist answer of waiting for people to leave religion is not cutting it. See how closely the Republican Party in the US is tied to this evangelical movement? Do you think we are safe if these people have their hands close to the nuclear button? Even if belief in the rapture does not have majority support, there are enough people who believe in it to make this belief system a major threat. That's another reason why the right-wing evangelical movement hates what it calls socialism. This allows for people's lives to become so difficult and without hope in this life that they will eagerly welcome a chance to move into eternal bliss with the blast of a trumpet.

So how can the Church respond to this? Barbara Rossing argues that the Book of Revelation (which figures very prominently in this theology) is a reframing of the Exodus story in the context of the Roman Empire. From this perspective, the Exodus story is about an enslaved people escaping the captivity of their empire and establishing a society based on justice and peace, rather than violence, domination, and oppression. In this context, it's not about a group of people way back when, but an historical theme that we see repeating throughout human history. In this context, it is not about God sending people to their final resting place at some distant future, but the ongoing struggle for dignity and justice for everyone and for the planet. In Exodus, God is said to have told Moses to go to the king of Egypt and demand liberation for God's people. This was a radical concept in the day. People of the day prayed to the gods they fashioned out of stone and wood to rescue them, but here you have God saying that the people have to take responsibility for the well-being of their communities. The promise to Moses is not, "believe in me, and I will blow a trumpet and rescue you." The promise is, "go to the king, seek your liberation, and I will be with you." If you look closely at the Exodus story, you see that God is not portrayed as intervening on behalf of the oppressed slaves until Moses makes this demand of the king. I find it ironic that so many preachers encourage people to passively pray to a God who will magically rescue them, when I see the call of Moses as an explicit rejection of this way of thinking. Even in Revelation, there are calls to actively resist, from not taking the mark of the beast in charge of the empire, to coming out of the empire altogether (metaphorically or literally). If the Church can take on this challenge and reframe in this way, offering people real hope, will reduce the influence that this dangerous theology has over public life.

voice of the damned

While belief in the Rapture is certainly more common on the US right than it is elsewhere, I don't think it's a significant reason to explain the support that exists for its policies. (Chauvinistic belief in general Christian superiority, on the other hand, probably plays a big role.) 

And even among people who do profess to believe in the Rapture, a majority of them likely behave in ways that belie that claimed tenet. Yes, some claim to think that socialism is useless because the Rapture is imminent, but they would also support conservatives who promise to lower their taxes, even though having a lower tax rate is as meaningless as attaining socialism, if we're all about to be swept into heaven anyway. 

cco

Personally, I think it's afterlife theology in general that needs to be exposed and discredited. The timing isn't really significant.

JKR

How do you prove an "afterlife" doesn't exist? 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

JKR wrote:

How do you prove an "afterlife" doesn't exist? 

Kill yourself?

 

Unionist

There is definitely an afterlife, God people. Let me show you what it looks like.

JKR

kropotkin1951 wrote:

JKR wrote:

How do you prove an "afterlife" doesn't exist? 

Kill yourself?

 

But then you wouldn't exist to know you don't exist.

lagatta4

I don't believe in a god, but it is true that it might be important to challenge that hateful theology among Christian believers. It is also the source of their weird antisemitic Zionism.

I don't know how it plays out in Brazil - will ask an old friend originally from there, the next time we chat -on line or in person. It can certainly mean some very poor people voting against their own interests.

cco

I suppose I should go into some more depth. Most Canadians (especially on the left), outside of the Fraser Valley, seem to be relatively ignorant of evangelicalism – and I envy them. I grew up surrounded by it, including most of my family. The idea of getting them to reject the Rapture in favour of more "mainstream" theology is one I find preposterous, and I'll try to explain why.

First of all, the group is ideologically segregated. Don't think of your Catholic grandmother who went to church every week but still interacted with non-Catholics; think instead of the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mennonites, or ultra-Orthodox Jews. My cousins went to Christian universities, work for Christian churches, read Christian books, listen to Christian rock, watch Christian television, and eat Christian fried chicken. Nothing about their lives exists independent of evangelical Christianity, and the fact that any part of anyone's life could mystifies them.

Second, despite this, they are utterly convinced, even in places where they make up the overwhelming majority, not just that Christians are a persecuted minority but that most of the people they meet every day outside of church have never heard of Jesus. Every time I went to my aunt's house, she'd condescendingly explain to me that in that town, people were Christian, so things wouldn't be open on Sunday – despite me coming from a town that was every bit as Christian.

Aristotled24's idea seems to be that evangelicals can be transitioned into the "lighter" varieties of Christianity somehow – like the idealized version of Canadian Conservatives without the racism. But to them, Christianity without the Rapture is like conservatism without tax cuts.

JKR

So evangelicals don't have faith in the the certainty of death and taxes.

Ken Burch Ken Burch's picture

I'm not sure it's necessary to challenge the concept of an afterlife-it would be far easier to simply de-couple that concept from the idea of unquestioning adherence to a heartless and unforgiving interpretation of Christianity.  Do we really need to push the idea that there is nothing after physical death at all but a dark, silent void?  

And it's a real question as to how we persuade people that what they've been taught is the word of the godhead they obey is not true.  

Seems to me that the best approach is to push for the acceptance of the humane alternative interpretation of the Book of Revelation outlined above-after all, "Last Days" eschatology wasn't part of any form of Christian theology until the early 18th Century.

Pondering

Prosperity theology is worse. Best way to appeal to Christians is not to try to convince them not to be; it is to use the Bible itself. The Bible does not focus on anti-abortion and LGBTQ.  The Bible teaches that greed is a sin and poverty a thing to be eliminated. It isn't necessary to be Christian to put forth arguments that those who are would be pursuaded by. 

JKR

Why are there so many more Evangelicals and fundamentalists in the US than in Canada and Western Europe? 

cco

Ken Burch wrote:

I'm not sure it's necessary to challenge the concept of an afterlife-it would be far easier to simply de-couple that concept from the idea of unquestioning adherence to a heartless and unforgiving interpretation of Christianity.  Do we really need to push the idea that there is nothing after physical death at all but a dark, silent void?  

Personally, I find the afterlife of rewards and punishments to be the most toxic part of the entire theology. You can trace the majority of horrifying religious conduct to the belief in future reward. The Rapture is just a footnote.

Ken Burch wrote:

And it's a real question as to how we persuade people that what they've been taught is the word of the godhead they obey is not true.  

I stopped bothering long ago.

Ken Burch wrote:

Seems to me that the best approach is to push for the acceptance of the humane alternative interpretation of the Book of Revelation outlined above-after all, "Last Days" eschatology wasn't part of any form of Christian theology until the early 18th Century.

This seems, to put it mildly, optimistic. Protestant sectarianism has been around for a long time, and those who believe in the Rapture believe all those who don't believe in it are tools of Satan who are in for eternal torture anyway. The fact the Great Awakening beliefs are recent makes no difference to them – it's how God always wanted it, humans just took a long time to catch up.

Pondering wrote:

Prosperity theology is worse. Best way to appeal to Christians is not to try to convince them not to be; it is to use the Bible itself. The Bible does not focus on anti-abortion and LGBTQ.  The Bible teaches that greed is a sin and poverty a thing to be eliminated. It isn't necessary to be Christian to put forth arguments that those who are would be pursuaded by. 

If evangelicals (or Christians in general) cared about what the Bible actually says, they might focus more on the bits about loving your neighbour and giving your goods to the poor. The problem isn't that nobody's ever pointed out the existence of the right passages.

JKR wrote:

Why are there so many more Evangelicals and fundamentalists in the US than in Canada and Western Europe? 

New England was founded by Puritans fleeing the UK. They haven't always had dominion over the US – the Founding Fathers were relatively secular, which the American Evangelical movement is in deep denial about – but that current has never disappeared from American politics. Of course, Canada and Western Europe are hardly immune from fundamentalism, especially historically – Ireland, Spain, and even Sweden in the 1920s made Alabama look like a land of libertines.

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

I noted a fairly significant rise in Evangelical churches and schools in Canada and in Spain by the early 2000s. I was also shocked to travel through Brazil in 2014 where the ratio of Evangelical churches to Catholic churches was 3:1 if not more in some places. Even by the late 80s and early 90s, my mother got heavily immersed in the "charismatic" Catholic movement. It was the first time I heard her get concerned about social conservative issues like gay rights and it was shocking and repelling. I personally believe that some of these religious movements really prey on desperate people.

voice of the damned

cco wrote:

Of course, Canada and Western Europe are hardly immune from fundamentalism, especially historically – Ireland, Spain, and even Sweden in the 1920s made Alabama look like a land of libertines.

I think it's probably most accurate to say that the US has lagged behind in secularizing its political system, rather than that it was always idiosyncratically religious. Canada as late as the 1960s had "sodomy" laws on the books, the kind that US evangelicals are hoping Justice Kavanaugh and Co. will vote to re-allow in their country, but the vast majority of Canandians don't remember that period as a horrible Dark Ages, it's more just like "Yeah, that was unfair, but just kind of the way they rolled back when my parents were in university."

And of course, there was a period of about fourteen years when the US had more liberal abortion laws than Canada had under Old Man Trudeau's "committee" system. The difference being that, once our Supreme Court struck those laws down, and the Senate blocked Mulroney's effort to revive the Trudeau system under a different name, Canadians largely forgot about the issue.

Something I've thought about is that the Tory tradition of deference to elite opinion makes Canadians less likely to challenge liberal rulings and laws, once the decisions have been pushed through. Not what George Grant was hoping for when he extolled the virtues of Canadian Toryism, I'm sure, but there you go.

 

voice of the damned

cco wrote:

New England was founded by Puritans fleeing the UK.

And actually, the direct descendants of the New England Purtians are the Congregationalists, who are one of the more liberal denominations, and in numerous places evolved into Unitarians, who are probably THE most liberal denominations. Congregationalists in Canada also became one of the main churches incorporated into the United Church, which is a fairly progressive body.

Ironically, the charismatic evangelicals who are now such a force on the Religious Right often maintain a style of worship that the Puritans would have absolutely hated. To say nothing of the evangelicals' alliance with Mary-worshipping papists.

cco

voice of the damned wrote:

Something I've thought about is that the Tory tradition of deference to elite opinion makes Canadians less likely to challenge liberal rulings and laws, once the decisions have been pushed through. Not what George Grant was hoping for when he extolled the virtues of Canadian Toryism, I'm sure, but there you go.

I wonder how true this actually is. I read Michael Adams's book 15 years ago, and it seemed to me to be an oversimplified bit of national mythmaking as severe as the ones he was decrying. Abortion and same-sex marriage seem to me to have followed the same political trends (liberalizing court ruling, backlash, uneasy national consensus) in both countries, with the difference being that Canadian federalism doesn't leave as much room for provinces to write their own criminal codes. PEI had an effective abortion ban until 2017, after all.

voice of the damned

 and it seemed to me to be an oversimplified bit of national mythmaking as severe as the ones he was decrying.

Yeah, I'm not in the habit of commenting on books I haven't read, but going by the titles I saw in a duckduck just now, he seems possibly to have a bit of a mini-industry going of telling his readers how superior they are to Americans. It's always best to be skeptical of someone whose writings can be summed up as You Are Correct In Your Assumption That You Are Better Than That Other Guy.

That said, as you yourself point out above, Canada doesn't have a Bible Belt, geographically or culturally, comparable to what exists in the USA. But is it just a case of PEI, for examaple, never having had the right to make its own criminal laws, so the SCOC legalizing abortion wasn't such an affront to their sense of autonomy, and they were content to just underfund it for as long as they could?

I think polls generally show Canadians to be more socially progressive than Americans, apart from just being more tolerant of centralized government. When Ralph Klein did his machiavellian two-step on abortion defunding, ie. pretending he was willing to cut funding, and then finding some legalistic excuse not to, there was no widespread outrage from Albertans, supposedly the biggest fundies in the country. 

Now THAT being said, I'm also pretty convinced that had several American states, at the instigation of their voters, not legalized recreational weed, there would have been little or no push for such an action in Canada. I remember the Supreme Court ruling in 2003 that the marijuana laws were constitutional, there was close to ZERO negative reaction from the population. And I don't think public opinion had changed that much between then and 2015. 

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

voice of the damned wrote:

That said, as you yourself point out above, Canada doesn't have a Bible Belt, geographically or culturally, comparable to what exists in the USA.

There is nowhere in Canada that has as large a Bible Belt as the USA but there is definitely a Bible Belt in the Fraser Valley that has been there for a hundred years. Trinity Western is its crowning glory as a cultural center.

laine lowe laine lowe's picture

Manitoba has a Creationism museum. Not sure it has as high a profile as Trinity Western but there you have it :-)

Pondering

"We" legalized cannabis because it was an easy way for Trudeau to signal that he was progressive. His strategizers guessed that it wouldn't be too big a deal with the US because so many states have legalized. They also guessed there would be little opposition. With that one announcement he sold himself to youth not because it was so important to them but because it signaled a dramatic change. It was the flagship of his "evidence based decision-making" policy. He didn't legalize because it was the right thing to do. He claimed he legalized to better control it.

I am relieved we are in better shape than the US on many fronts but that is still damning with faint praise. The US is a cautionary tale not an inferior country. If a people seemingly so dedicated to their freedom would give so much of it up so easily then Canadians are even more likely to easily go the same way. We are fortunate that our history is shorter, that we are a much younger country. Harper tried to promote an American style pride in our military but we didn't buy it. We don't worship battles because they were well fought. We worship the peace they brought and see gratitude as keeping the peace not following in the steps of. However false our perception of peacekeepers we take great pride in what we think it is. The ship that can turn ocean water into drinking water when disasters strike excites more patriotic pride than having blown something up.  

So yes, I feel fortunate that we haven't elected a Trump and worried that we elected both Fords and Kenny.

Aristotleded24

So many people have made excellent points in this thread that I want to respond to.

Cco is correct when he says that evangelical Christians go to great lengths to not have to interact with the secular world. When I was at Brandon University and attending the Christian fellowship group there, I heard many times that we were to be "in the world, not of the world," and that we were to essentially not allow ourselves to be corrupted. Many of the people came from smaller communities where Christian fundamentalist thinking holds a great deal of sway. You still hear stories about parents not wanting their children to be exposed to the "homosexual agenda" in schools and other such things. In many of these communities, if you don't subscribe to a particular interpretation of the Bible, you will find it very challenging. Even these communities are not as entrenched in that thinking as the places that cco grew up in.

As for the afterlife, cco is essentially correct about the reward and punishment aspect. When you actually look at the Bible, it does not clearly lay out what the afterlife is like, and in a couple of passages, even appears to outright deny its existence. Christian author Marcus Borg, in his book Heart of Christianity, states that on his top ten worst contributions of Christianity to popular culture is the idea of the afterlife as a reward or punishment for our deeds, and he had idea what any of the other nine items were. But as Ken says, it's more the interpretation. For example, let's say I lose my wallet. Let's say someone finds it and tracks me down because (s)he believes God is watching when nobody else is and will reward or punish accordingly. I'll gladly take my wallet back in that scenario. So in this case, you have the belief in an afterlife motivating a positive act. Going back to the Rapture, I see nothing good coming from believing that one day you will be whisked away while everyone else left behind burns.

Laine is also correct when she notes how these fundamentalists prey on desparate people. That is one reason that right-wing evangelicals are opposed to any social welfare programs. It essentially creates large numbers of people who need help and support. More to cco's point, evangelicals have in many cases responded with their own parallel social services. Many of these mega-churches offer things like meals, baby sitting, family counselling, private school for the children, even post-secondary education, and so on. The irony is that many of these believers, on an individual level, are very generous with their time and charitable donations to helping people in their communities. Then the leadership plays on this, and then the believers take on more social-conservatives beliefs on gay rights and abortion, where they weren't so concerned before.

What do we do about this? You can't simply say, "the Bible doesn't actually say this, it actually says that" and expect people to respond. You need to be present in a meaningful way and speak to people. Mainline churches, despite their more progressive politics and theology, have utterly failed in this, are too afraid to state an opinion on anything lest someone else be offended, and you can see that in the dramatic fall off of attendance. Thankfully, some churches (mainline and progressive evangelicals and mennonites) understand this. It partly explains the uprisings we've seen in North Carolina in recent years.

Aristotleded24

One thing that confuses me is Christians who take a literalist interpretation of Revelation, who believe that one day a literal beast will rise and force us to take his mark, and yet these Christians are constantly on social media and pay for almost all their purchases electronically. Don't they realize that they are just making it much easier for the beast to track them down?

Misfit Misfit's picture

In the first post, it was brought up that because the Republicans have control over the nuclear bomb that there is an urgency with a dire outcome looming over us. They did under Ford, Reagan, and the Bushes as well.

Reagan was senile in his second term in office. He also made a joke about pushing the button.

George W is a very ignorant man who lacked any meaningful scope on issues. Yet Americans trusted him with the control over the nuclear bomb for two terms.

These evangelical extremists were alive and in full force during all these terms in office. The sky did not fall. We are still alive. The United States did not start any nuclear wars.

Back  in the 1970s, we had a fundamentalist farmer as a neighbour. He used to invite himself over to our place for supper a few times a month. The last time he came, he criticized our United Church for it's overseas mission. He called us ungodly. My mother defended the Church and said that they build wells and take on other initiatives that help communities to grow food and sustain themselves. The neighbour told us that these works by the United Church are communist, and all they are doing is helping to promote communism in other parts of the world. He said that it doesn't matter that people are starving to death, the important thing is that they die saved.

My mother got mad and told him that if digging wells and providing water to communities and growing crops to feed people is communism then all he had succeeded in doing is giving communism a good name.

So the fundamentalist farmer circulated around town that my mother was a communist. And after that, my mother's birthday in the community calendar was switched to Oct 31.

My point is, for those of us who are theistic, and pretty much most Christians anyway believe in some sort of Divine judgement or accounting for ones actions while on earth, then it is up to the Divine to decide on the merits or lack thereof of this apocalyptic belief system.

I could not live with those kinds of beliefs and I am thankful that I was not raised by parents who were members of such denominations. I think that it is harder to think your way out of churches like that than it is to join them in the first place.

They aren't going away, and this isn't any new phenomenon. I think that we are making too much of this. Even in the United States, they are a minority, and we can be thankful for that. 

Misfit Misfit's picture

We know that they are hateful people. They are hateful to racial minorities. They are hateful to women. The Ohio abortion law is just the most recent example. They are hateful to LGBTQ people. We have even witnessed that they have no problem with stealing little children from their parents and locking them up in cages. They are awful people.

But they are still a minority of the American population. They can be voted out if office. Their stench that they have created has gotten the general public angry and active.  There was the women's march on Washington. There were the marches on climate change. State Republican governments are going down to defeat. People are angry like I have never seen before. People fight back. This aweful core is a minority. They will go down to defeat.

Tommy Douglas said himself that,"the war against injustice is never over. The battle must always go on." I can't think of a time when we haven't been fighting these people. They aren't going away and neither are we.

if you want to think happy thoughts just imagine one year from now. The Democrats could be in office with a Democratic president, a Democratic  Congress, and a Democratic Senate. And on the state level, more Republican governments can fall. This actually could be the most enjoyable year to follow American politics ever. The majority of American people have had enough, and we can watch them wither down to defeat in slow motion.
 

jatt_1947 jatt_1947's picture

https://twitter.com/ANINewsUP/status/972131812389646336?s=20
They came to us, gave us 'samosa' & told us to convert for children's education. A man saw all of this & intervened. As soon as this happened 'Father' changed his clothes. Police was called. Many,including my daughter,started feeling dizzy after consuming 'samosa': Maya, resident

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zg5TpgXqjzY