Tuesday, April 11, 2006

In Case of Rapture, Can I Have Your Car?
I first heard about the Rapture when I was in junior high, when my family's Methodist church had a weeklong revival with outside speakers, many of whom were on various evangelistic trips, including speaking in tongues and end-times prophecy. (I vividly remember one of them, a student about my age, who told our youth group that she thought it would be really cool to die, so she could see what Heaven would be like.) As far as my own parents went was to bring home Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth, which I read with great interest. It had quite an effect on me--for years afterward, if it would get unexpectedly quiet in the house, I'd wonder if I'd been Left Behind. (I always just assumed I would be.) Lindsey's book is largely responsible for popularizing the idea of the Rapture, as part of his apocalyptic interpretation of world history--in fact, it was the single largest-selling title of the 1970s.

The doctrine of the Rapture itself is relatively new, only about 100 years old, and is based on a close reading of a handful of scattered Bible verses. From those scattered verses, however, gazillions of Rapture-based Internet sites have bloomed. The best-known is probably Rapture Ready, home of the famous Rapture Index. The site describes it as "a prophetic speedometer" indicating how fast we're moving toward the Rapture. As of yesterday, the index stands at 156, down from the all-time high of 182 reached a couple of weeks after September 11, but way up from the all-time low of 57 in December 1993--oddly enough, 11 months into the administration of Satan's henchman, Bill Clinton. According to the site, an index of 156 means "fasten your seat belts"--the Rapture could happen by the time you finish reading this sentence.

Another interesting Rapture-related website is The Rapture Letters. I can't describe it any better than the site describes itself. It will automatically e-mail your loved ones who have been Left Behind with whatever message you'd like to send--love, encouragement, advice, or nanny-nanny-boo-boo, if you're that kind of person.
We have written a computer program to do just that. It will send an Electronic Message (e-mail) to whomever you want after the rapture has taken place, and you and I have been taken to heaven. . . .

If you wish to do something now that will help your unbelieving friends and family after the rapture, you need to add those persons email address to our database. Their names will be stored indefinitely and a letter will be sent out to each of them on the first Friday after the rapture. Then they will receive another letter every friday after that.

This rapture letter service is FREE and will hopefully gain the person you send it to an eternity in heaven.
Of course, the Rapture Letters assumes that the Internet will continue to function after the Rapture--which is perhaps a subtle commentary on the people responsible for ISPs and the Internet backbone.

The trouble with Rapture-based theology is, as I have written at this blog and elsewhere, the way it lets people who believe in it off the hook. If the world is going to end in a few minutes, hours, days, weeks, or years, and if you're not going to be here anyhow when it does, where's your incentive to do anything for the world, as contrasted with your incentive to do things for yourself? Another Rapture-related problem we're having right now, with the most serious implications possible, is that our only president seems determined to actually provoke it, by causing an apocalypse in the Middle East. If he gets his apocalypse, I suppose there will be some entertainment value in the astounded disappointment of the wingnuts when they aren't Raptured away, and find themselves stuck down here in the shitstorm with the rest of the heathens, but it'll be hard to find much else to laugh about.

But we can still laugh now, so let's take the opportunity: Jumping off from an in-all-seriousness post by another blogger about what you should do if you get Left Behind in the Rapture, the inimitable Amanda Marcotte at Pandagon provides 14 additional things you should do. (And if you're reading this blog, you're going to be Left Behind, so don't claim nobody warned you.)

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