Saturday, May 21, 2011

An Open Letter

Well, here we are. We're about midway through Apocalypse Not. The rolling rapture, scheduled for 6:00 PM in every time zone, hasn't quite reached Minnesota yet but given the fact that I haven't seen any reports about people vanishing, I'm not too worried.

Actually, I was never too worried. As I've mentioned on previous occasions, I'm a strict and ardent amillennialist, so when I heard about Mr. Camping and his odd predictions (and especially how he got there), I wasn't all that concerned. As an amillennialist, I'm not big into the rapture, the 1,000 year reign of Christ, or any of that silliness. This video helps explain a little bit as to why:

I could go into more reasons as to why I don't believe in a pre- or mid-Tribulation rapture, but instead, I thought I would take this moment to share some thoughts that I've had over the past week or so, specifically three thoughts targeted to three distinct groups.

First of all, to the date-setters, of whom Mr. Camping is but the latest, I share this piece of advice: stop it. Stop it right now. Before you grab your calculators and handy dandy charts of things to come, remember what Jesus said: no one can know the date of His return. No matter how you try to spin your predictions to explain how you figured it out, remind yourself that many, many people have played this game before and you know what? They were all wrong! Every single last one of them. That may seem obvious, but it's worth pointing out. If you think you've figured out the date of Christ's return, whether it's by arcane mathematics or divine visions or because you saw the date burned onto toast, the odds are so incredibly against you actually being right, it's in your best interest to keep your mouth shut and your message off the digital billboard near my house or the shelf of my local Christian bookstore.

I'm even including those who try to create the map-with-no-names, such as Tim LaHaye or Hal Lindsey. Especially Mr. Lindsey, who has made at least two generic time frame predictions that I know of (in the '70s and again in 2000) and yet still has enough clout that people listen to him as some sort of authority.

Part of the reason I say this is because of the damage that date setters do. Can you imagine what Mr. Camping's true believers are going through right now? How many of them have had their faith irreparably shaken because they're going to have to face the world tomorrow? I'm actually worried we're going to hear about at least a few suicides because of this mess before it's all over. Not only that, but consider what these kind of ridiculous predictions do to the rest of us Christians. Thanks to Mr. Camping and his crew, people are delighting in rubbing every Christian's face in this failed prediction, even though the majority of us didn't take it seriously in the first place.

That actually brings me to the next group I wish to address: the atheists. This morning, when I logged on to Twitter, I saw the terms "rapture" and "Christians" was trending. When I clicked on the latter, the majority of the posts were how all of us Christians were fools, as if every single last Christian was out on a hill waiting for Jesus to show up. They were gleefully slapping around a mighty big paintbrush and, I gotta say, that doesn't reflect too well on any of you. Shall I assume that all atheists are insensitive jerks by the actions of those few? I know that's not the case. But quid pro quo. If you don't want us judging your particular belief set (or lack thereof) by the actions of the rude few, you might want to tone it down. Just saying.

And finally, to the rest of my brothers and sisters in Christ, the Christians. As I was looking at the gleeful jokes from non-believers on Twitter, I realized we have a serious PR problem. A massive one. It would appear that if the rapture were to happen the way the vocal minority of Christianity expects (i.e. all believers disappear), the reaction would be unrestrained joy.

Maybe it's time to take Jesus' words seriously, that we are to be salt and light in this fallen world, so that if, by some strange chance, we do all disappear someday, the reaction of the rest of the world is, "The light has gone out."

Just some food for thought.


Bill said...

Good stuff, John. Thanks for saying it. Bill

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

As a pan-millennialist (it will all pan out in the end ;-), I don't agree with your ideas about the end times, John, but that's the only thing. The rest of your article is spot on.

I suspect that there are a lot of Christians shining our light in the culture, but Camping and the hateful people picketing Joplin and immoral pastors or priests get all the attention. It's a shame, It means believers need to out shine the fools gold.


sally apokedak said...

What a great post