As I’ve blogged so many times, religionists love to use any and all disasters to promote their dour metaphysics. Everything that happens is, for them, an object lesson and/or a warning that proves them correct. Earthquakes, hurricanes, epidemics, droughts, famines, wars, accidents, etc. are all useful to them in this regard. It makes no difference what sort of awful thing happened … religionists are mercenary enough to just go ahead and use it.
The latest example of this involves the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 (which has gripped the mass media like nothing else over the last couple weeks). And it comes from Anne Graham Lotz, daughter of the famous evangelical preacher Billy Graham; to her, the plane’s disappearance is a harbinger of something to come (WebCite cached article):
The pictures of grieving friends and family members of those who are missing are heart-wrenching. I have prayed for God’s peace and comfort for them, as well as God’s direction of the search and rescue teams who are desperately looking for clues that will solve the mystery. But the unanswered questions seem to intensify the horror…
How could a modern airliner drop out of sight so quickly and completely? …
Bottom line: Where are all the people?
The answers don’t seem to be forthcoming as I write this. But as I have prayerfully pondered all of the above, I can’t help but wonder…Is this worldwide sense of shock and helplessness, of questions and confusion, of fear and grief, a glimpse of things to come? Is this a small snapshot of what the entire world will experience the day after the rapture of the church? Because the Bible is clear. There is coming a moment in time when Jesus will come back to gather to Himself all those—dead and alive–who have put their trust in Him. And on that day, the world will be asking, Where have all the people gone? Not just 239 of us, but millions of us.
On that day, with millions of people directly impacted by their own missing friends and family members…in the midst of overwhelming shock and helplessness, of questions and confusion, of fear and grief…when the world searches for clues, how easily will they find The Answer in what I leave behind? Instead of an oil slick, will there be traces of His grace and glory and truth?
The day Lotz mentions, when “millions” of Christians will supposedly vanish spontaneously, is a reference to what evangelical Christians like her call “the Rapture.” This eschatological legend is based upon Matthew 24:31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:17. It describes how “the faithful” will be sucked up into the sky (the dead first, the living after them) to meet Jesus as he descends to earth during his Second Coming. Now, that by itself isn’t a lot to go on. Paul’s remarks about Jesus’ return doesn’t contain much narrative, and although Jesus says quite a bit about “the End,” he doesn’t say much about the Rapture moment, either. Taken as they are, these passages seem to be a sequence of events that comes in rapid order; first, Jesus and his heavenly host begin their descent (Mt 24:30 & 1 Th 4:16); the deceased “faithful” go up to meet him, then the living “faithful” (1 Th 4:17 & Mt 24:31), and after that, “destruction” will befall the earth, and presumably those who remain on it (1 Th 5:3). What evangelicals have done with the “rapture” verse is to couple it with other scriptural passages elsewhere that describe “the End” in greater detail.
As one might expect of such an exercise in creative reinterpretation, they’ve come up with a variety of ways to wedge it into their “End Times” mythology. In this regard it’s interlocked with another Christian legend, the Great Tribulation, a coming time of cataclysm and torment, described among other places in Revelation 9:1-21. Some evangelicals believe the Rapture will come at the end of the Tribulation; others believe it will happen somewhere in the middle of it; and the most popular belief — conveniently for them! — is that it will happen before the Tribulation begins. Each of these scenarios has what appears to be definitive and often exclusive scriptural support … all of which just demonstrates the folly of this kind of interpretation game. (Full disclosure: During my own fundie days, I was a “mid-tribber.”)
In any event, the notion that their Jesus will vacuum them off the earth at some point triggers a lot of fantasies in the minds of fundamentalist Christians. They imagine those who’re left behind will be horrified by the fact that so many people suddenly went missing, and they revel in this (“Hah, you insolent Jesus-haters! We’ll be up in heaven with our precious Jesus, while the rest of you will wallow in torment down on earth, terrified by our sudden departure — and then you’ll see we were right, after all!”). The famous and lucrative “Left Behind” publishing and media empire is built upon this schadenfreude.
This sort of giddy fantasy, based on suppositions built on suppositions, and capped by diatribes like Lotz’s, is all very irrational. It reveals a lot about evangelical Christians’ character … and it’s not flattering.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Hat tip: Christian Post.Tags: 1 th 4:17, 1 thessalonians 4:17, anne graham lotz, armageddon, christian, Christianity, christians, disaster theology, end times, evangelical christianity, flight 370, great tribulation, left behind, malaysia air 370, malaysia airlines flight 370, matthew 24:31, MH370, missing airliner, missing airplane, mt 24:31, rapture, rev 9:1-21, revelation 9:1-21, schadenfreude, tribulation
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