- Dan Connors
The Rapture- Evangelical escape hatch from climate change?
"The future depends on what you do today." Mahatma Gandhi
Wouldn't it be great if there were no consequences in the end for our actions? If we could just magically be transported to heaven and say goodbye to climate change, racism, money problems, relationship problems and more without ever really having to deal with them? Wow- sign me up! If you are considered on the "good" team, you will be raptured up to heaven before the real shit goes down, and all the "bad" guys will have to stay behind and face a violent period of tribulation. Who wouldn't want a magical solution to all their problems?
It's no wonder that the Rapture, uniquely in America, has become the ultimate get out of Earth free card, played by evangelists for decades in a con game that promises to wipe away all the bad stuff and give you a front row seat in Heaven if you just "believe". Not only do you have to go through coming wars, but you don't even have to experience the unpleasantness of death, unless you consider being whipped up into the upper atmosphere and freezing to death while being unable to breath kind of a death.
While end times and the return of Christ have been predicted since the dawn of Christianity, the Rapture is actually kind of new. It comes from a sect of Christianity that believes in dispensationalism. Instead of the second coming, which is mentioned in the bible, this system believes in a multi-stage end-times, starting with the Rapture. After the Rapture comes the Tribulation, a very violent period in which a lot of people die and suffer. Only after a few years of that will Jesus return on his cloud, bringing salvation for those who didn't get saved the first time, and eternal damnation for those who messed up. Plus, He sets up some kind of heaven on Earth where things are magically better, since I guess only good people are left.
I have so many questions. Why is this view so popular in America and nowhere else? Are we the chosen ones? If things are going to get nasty here on Earth, why take away all the best people so that the rest of us have to wrestle with the anti-Christ? Shouldn't they be here to help out instead of sitting on clouds? And what counts for being good enough to be raptured away? Calling yourself a Christian, going to church faithfully, or just being kind to people in your life regardless of your faith label? It all seems awfully random to me.
Jesus never spoke of the Rapture, because it only arrived as a theology in 19th century America, where it has been enshrined into dogma by Evangelical Christians. Most Western religions (Islam, Judaism, and Christianity prophesy end-times, but nothing as gruesome as this. Eastern religions look on creation and destruction in a more cyclical way, so there are no real beginning or end times. It makes sense, then, that if you believe in a grand and glorious beginning there has to be an end. It's a linear thought that requires completion. Americans have an exceptionalism that seems to lift them above all other nations on earth, and perhaps that's why the idea has caught on here. Feeling entitled to special treatment by God, why shouldn't God-fearing American Christians be the first ones up to the clouds while the rest of the rabble face destruction?
Waiting for end times to save us has been an escape hatch that's ruined a lot of lives. It prevents people from confronting the hard, confusing, and uncomfortable truths here and now. Wishing for some grand, magical solution is a powerful and tempting thought, but there is no evidence it has ever, or will ever work. I don't pretend to have all of the answers and am not an atheist, but I have a lot of issues with the bible and its reliability. I certainly don't begrudge other people their rights to believe whatever they want to, but this obsession with escape and redemption is hurting everybody, not just those who cling to it.
Earth is facing some real problems right now. Climate change threatens coastal cities and crops, with wildfires, droughts, and supercharged, destructive storms getting stronger and stronger. Wealth inequality is becoming so extreme as to be unsustainable. The Global Risk Report contains pages and pages of issues that need to be dealt with right now before they get even worse, and shrugging our shoulders while waiting for the end isn't an option. Already, tech billionaires are building luxury bunkers and remote escape compounds to avoid any possible cataclysm that they surely have a hand in. Millions of Evangelical Christians can't afford to give up, blame "others", and wait for Jesus to rescue them. Even if He did come back, He would most likely say, "Why did you ruin this beautiful planet I gave you? Why couldn't you learn to love each other and get along?"
The 21st century may turn out to be the big turning point in human history. It could determine whether we grow and learn to live in harmony with each other and the earth, or it could devolve into wars over scarce resources and racial hatreds. Believing that the Rapture or other end-times prophesies could rescue us is a harmful distraction that prevents us from facing the cold, hard facts. Faith and certainty can be very easy and comforting. Facing big problems that force us to re-think our assumptions can feel too hard to even imagine. But we no longer have the luxury of waiting for someone else to fix things- we need to do it ourselves.