Friday, 20 May 2011

The Rapture's Not So Funny for the Kids

So US evangelical, "family values" guy and "End Times" expert Harold Camping has predicted the Rapture for May 21 at 6pm. At that time, he says, true, born-again Christian believers will be miraculously transported into the sky to meet with Jesus, leaving unbelievers behind, and the catastrophic natural disaster signalling the end of the world will begin.

Fundamentalist fanatics like Camping have been making predictions like this for years. In the 1970s, Hal Lindsey's The Late Great Planet Earth was a bestseller on the back of the same kooky type of claims. But this latest prophecy is the first to hit the big-time in the internet viral age, when crazy stories spread worldwide with a click via Twitter and Facebook. It's ridiculous, and therefore it's funny.

But amid the hilarity of the news reports, the cartoons and the YouTube parodies, there's a very, very dark side to this Rapture-mania. Look at the family on the left. They're the Haddads, a Maryland family who put their lives on hold to prepare for tomorrow's Rapture. What are those three kids -- 14-year-old Joseph and twins Grace and Faith, 16 -- thinking?

I remember what I was thinking when, at the age of 15, I first heard about the Rapture. It was a Sunday night, and the sermon left me very, very sad. We'd be caught up to be with Jesus, my pastor said, but those who didn't believe would be left behind. All that whirred through my mind as I went home that night was the thought of my dad, an unbeliever, waking up one morning to find his family gone. I imagined him getting up at 4am, as he did 364 days a year to keep the family business going, and not finding my mom beside him. I couldn't stop thinking of the loneliness he would feel as he checked my bedroom and my sister's and found them empty. It was painful to imagine my dad going slowly about his daily routine with the people he loved most in the world gone forever.

But that was all part of the package with that kind of religious fundamentalism. Youth group, your parents have to convert, or they're going to hell while you go to heaven. Ladies, get your husbands saved, or you're being raptured while he stays on Earth to rot. Families, make sure you all have Jesus in your heart, because if not, you'll be torn apart forever.

Adults fall for this eschatological quackery, but when it affects children, it's tragic. It's an emotional and psychological abuse of vulnerable young minds. Evangelicals who subject their children to this can cast aside the rhetoric about the importance of a strong, loving family made up of mom, pop and two kids. Because, apparently, for these Christians, God's traditional family values end on Judgement Day.

6 comments:

  1. If my old youth leaders from Merseyside are reading this and wondering about the "youth group" comment, I'd like to say that you never fed me with that kind of crap. Oh, I heard it, just not from you. Your ministry is one aspect of my time there that I can look back on with fondness and be truly grateful for.

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  2. Your reaction to the Rapture is not unlike mine. I was sad too because I was made to feel it was paramount that my husband "be saved" and, give hubby the credit, he didn't bolt and run...because believe me I gave him some difficult moments when I put on my evangelism hat and became alternately confrontational, judgemental and desiring to just disbelieve the whole thing and love my hubby for the great man he is.

    I do that every day now...no pressure from me, no "you must be saved", no waking moments when I dread the great separation.

    I do not embrace this fearmongering gospel any longer...what freedom that brings to my heart, mind and spirit :)

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  3. oh God David I genuinely burst into tears when I read this, I know you and trust you and my confession to you a few years ago was genuine and honest, I more than anything trust I have never fed you this kind of shit, I know I have been subject to it and i know I have almost preached it and sometimes it keeps me awake at night.

    I am criticised by my peers for not pushing it and they gasp when I don't ask for alter calls as far as I am concerned if God is God then he/she is powerful enough to do his own chopping and changing, these days i don't even preach anymore just because of this kind of stuff and when you ask about what 14-year-old Joseph and twins Grace and Faith, 16 are thinking - it tears me up inside. What choice have they got?

    In 5 weeks time I leave fulltime Youth Ministry behind after 20 years and I am glad to do so, in fact I was faced with a disciplinary only a month ago for supporting a young person who apparently was 'living in sin' and you know what, Im proud to say that I would gladly lose my job for standing up for young people who 'apparently' live in sin, what a load of Ol cod shit.

    I am glad there are still some sane christians out there who genuinely just love people for who they are not what they think they should be and I truly hope that if tomorrow is the rapture that it does not happen when I am driving because that would be dangerous ...

    In the words of a wonderful Scouser "Rapture .. my arse"

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  4. Den...how wonderful that you were true to your convictions and didn't bend to fit the usual pattern that others expect. I admire you for that...a whole lot.

    It is with regret that I had to toe the line when I was involved in the Aglow movement...I never did feel comfortable with the "altar call" or even the ministry line-up at meetings. But I was a conformist and not a free thinker in those days and I can't change what I did. Now I am coming out of my hidey-hole and doing my best to not cover up my "real" beliefs (or lack thereof) and still remain loving and encouraging.

    It is great that you accepted the young person you mentioned in your comment (I'm sure you'd choose love/acceptance at every turn)...even though it meant being told your support of this person was wrong. Love wins out every time :) (((hugs)))

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  5. Dennis, you can only be proud of the difference you've made in young people's lives throughout your ministry.

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  6. you are invited to follow my blog

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