Sunday, May 22, 2011

Reflections Upon Another Rapture Which Hasn't Happened

My Fellow Blogger IT reminded me that I am part of another blog! Entonces. . . .

When I was a child my parents belonged to the Assemblies of God church. When they were missionaries on Okinawa I went to a school which was run by evangelical, fundamentalist Christians, so I've been around this rapture stuff all my life. As a child I was always scared that I would be left behind when the Rapture took place. I was very relieved when, as a young adult, I did some research and discovered that the idea of a Rapture of the Saints was not a teaching of the ancient church but a nineteenth century invention. The return of Christ is the hope of the Church, but this Meet-Jesus-In-The-Sky-While-All-The-People-Who-Disagree-With-Me-Suffer-Terrible-Plagues-Oh!-Won't-THEY-Be-Sorry! stuff is something I left behind many years ago. I believe in living my life as if Jesus will return at any moment, but I don't spend any time worrying about it anymore.

I've had a lot of fun this week and especially yesterday and today mocking this belief system and I believe it deserves to be mocked, but now it's after 6:00 pm Eastern Daylight Savings Time and nothing predicted by Harold Camping has taken place, just like the last time he made such predictions. However, last time the only people really aware of his heresy were those in the San Francisco Bay Area; this time, thanks to the innertoobes, his claims have spread around the world and many people have given up everything to spread the word. They've left their jobs, they've stopped saving for their children's education, and they've given their life savings to Family Radio to spread the word. I'm expecting a lot of people around the world who have been crushed, spiritually.

So, as my friends James Holloway and El Profesor Jay Johnson have pointed out, we are going to be dealing with a lot of people whose faith has been severely damaged. I believe we need to be there for them, we need to help them through their disappointment and the destruction of their trust (that's how I define "faith"). They were sincere, yet misled, and they have been spiritually abused, in a way. I spent some three years in a cult and I can understand their pain in realizing that all they believed was a crock. It takes a while to recover from such spiritual betrayal. We are also going to have to deal with Harold Camping. Will he be humbled by this experience and finally decide to quit treating the Bible like some cryptic puzzle he could only decipher with the right formula, or will he realize the error of his ways, apologize and perform retribution to those he led astray and STFU from now on? I must say that, from observing Brother Camping's past behavior, he's gonna figure that there was some mistake in his calculations and STILL work on figuring out when Jesus will return in the sky and kill everyone Brother Camping disagrees with. As extremely difficult as it will be, we will also have to treat Brother Camping in a loving manner. If we take this Christian stuff seriously, we have to do a lot of stuff we don't like. I'm actually hoping that this will be another nail in the coffin of Fundamentalist Christianity, but, since it is so much a part of the nationalism of the U.S.A., it may not make any difference in their belief that God created 'Murica.

Many years ago I helped administer a password protected website for people leaving Divine Light Mission/Elan Vital/The Prem Rawat Foundation, a psuedo-Hindu cult, providing a safe place for them to work through their issues. It wasn't as safe as we thought, but I believe many people were able to work through much of their spiritual betrayal. Perhaps we, the Christians who don't accept nineteenth century Christian innovations, can help these folks in such a place. I would be interested in hearing from anyone so inclined.

This is a sad situation, but also an opportunity for evangelization amongst The Churched, and opportunity to expose them to the more traditional and ancient traditions and beliefs of the Christian faith. I'm wondering how we will all deal with this situation. ¡Maranatha!


IT said...

Thanks, Padre. This is a keeper.

Jim Pratt said...

This is a great essay, and applicable not just to those left hanging by Camping, but all those who have bought into some of the pie in the sky promises of fundamentalists, of whom there are many, far more than the small numbers who follow someone like Brother Camping.

I my first year of ministry, around the funeral of a former churchwarden and pillar of the church, I spent a lot of time talking with his son-in-law. His wife had died a few months earlier from an aggressive cancer. They had joined a fundamentalist group a few years before, and during her illness the pastor had told him that if he had enough faith and prayed hard enough, God would heal her. He was caught up in doubt, anger, and blame. I tried as best as I could to offer another perspective. But without an ongoing relationship (and he lived 2 hours away), there was no chance for it to sink in or for him to explore a new direction in his faith life. I did hear reports from relatives over the next several years, and he continued to drift from one evangelical or pentecostal group to another, never finding any answers.

Erika Baker said...

I heard that Harold Camping got a lot richer in this process. Is that true? And if so, he seems clearly very genuine if badly misguided in his belief, what are the chances of him giving some of that money back to people who have given up everything and who are now facing a very bleak financial future because of his error?

Counterlight said...

I've heard that Camping is in hiding, probably holed up with his lawyers trying to figure out legal strategy for all the civil suits and criminal charges that are about to come his way.
I doubt he would pay back any of that money. Wealth is a sign of God's elect.