Born in the bowels of early-19th Century religious fervor, the notion of imminent Rapture has diverted, and continues to divert the attention of many Christians from the presence of Jesus Right Now. A by-product of the Second Great Awakening in America, the Rapture cult is focused on what-is-about-to-happen, causing many to not only turn a blind eye to current events, but to even stand by anxiously, encouraging and applauding natural and human-caused catastrophes.
Rapture theology surfaced again this past week as one of the presidential candidates repudiated (or at least tempered) the endorsement of John Hagee, pastor of San Antonio’s Cornerstone Church and popular expositor of the Rapture and its meaning for the world. The whole Rapture theory is a complicated set of scriptural proof-texting and “special revelations” that Hagee is particularly and skillfully adept at translating into easily accessible, simplistic statements that bear the stamp of ancient authority.
In doing so, I believe Hagee also appeals to some of the worst instincts in human nature as well. I watched him several weeks ago. I took notes just after I heard him say the following because it epitomized everything that disgusts me about this Jesus-perverting teaching of Jesus’ soon-to-be arrival to rescue his beloved from the jaws of the Antichrist:
[After the Rapture] ..”we’ll have have front row seats as we watch the Valley of Armageddon fill with the blood of the enemy.”
Key words in that statement:”We” and “the enemy.”
The Rapture cult is all about ‘us’ and ‘them.’ That is one of the universal characteristics of ALL fundamentalist systems; i.e., there is an “us” on the inside, and a group of “them” outside the accepted orthodoxy, whatever brand of orthodoxy it is which is being espoused. This is something basic to the darker nature of humanity, it seems- the need to be counted among those who are saved and the ability to determine who is not saved. Sales organizations do it, some Muslim factions do it, many American Christian groups do it, and even towns do it during football games with their main rivals. Amway people are ready at a moment’s notice to point out the flawed ingredients used by Proctor and Gamble. Islamic Jihadists need “The Great Satan” in order to exist. And Springfield hates with a vengeance those cheaters from Smalltown who suck up to the the referees.
The need to identify an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ on the part of Hagee and the Rapture Ready cultists is an old and ancient tradition that has led to countless wars and much torture. The need for such separation among people does not arise from Christian impulses; it rises from the human ego- the need to be “better than” someone else. And the desire to see others- even the so-called ‘enemy’, swimming in their own blood- well, that comes from the most debased of human values.
All of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus have made the mistake from time to time of projecting our own personal characteristics onto the person of Jesus. It’s why Jesus is often unrecognizable when one tries to compare what they’ve learned about him with what the gospels say. Both capitalists and socialists can claim him as their own, just as slave-owners and abolitionists once did. Right now, it simply happens that many who are fearful of the modern world in which they find themselves, and who are having many old and traditional “truths” kicked out by science from underneath their clay feet, are retreating into the gnosis of the Rapture, as a means of ultimate escape.
So be it. They can be wrong with a host of others, beginning with the Apostle Paul, and extending now into the Rapture profiteers like Hagee and the Left Behind authors, and all the ancillary businesses that their mistaken beliefs have given rise to. They can keep their eyes aimed at future clouds in the East if they want to; I’m just afraid they might miss Jesus walking among them in the meantime. That’s the real tragedy of this dismal doctrine.
Here’s Hagee, explaining the Rapture as he sees it. Let me know if you hear anything about God’s grace during the presentation: