What if God was one of us? Just a stranger on a bus.

Hello kids! Today we’re going to learn what bothers me about the Left Behind series. [You know the one.] At least what bothers me the most. Yes, I’ve read them all. I admit I was terribly into them at a younger age. Obviously there’s the surface observation about how cliche and commercial they have become–very true. My discomfiture goes a little deeper, though, past the books themselves, way down deep to the theology itself. As in, the Rapture. There are only two verses in the entire Bible used to “prove” the theology of the Rapture, and these are taken widely out of context. They don’t support such an idea at all, unless you presuppose there will be a Rapture and read your assumption into the text.

Urban Onramps quotes an interview of Brian McLaren by the Charlotte, NC newpaper:
“Q: Today, many evangelicals are fascinated with the end of the world. There’s the popularity of the “Left Behind” books. And talk about the Rapture. Their belief is: Things will get worse, we will have world crises. They say that’s part of God’s plan, to have Armageddon. Is that biblical or is that thinking part of the problem, in your opinion?
“A: I write a good bit about this in the book. And on the tour, one of my talks will be devoted to this subject. I think this is an incredibly important subject. What a lot of well-meaning, committed evangelical Christians don’t realize is that the view of the end-times that they believe is biblical and the historic Christian view is actually a newcomer and an anomaly in Christian history. That view of the end-times was never, ever thought of in Christian history until the 1830s. Now, that doesn’t make it wrong. But it does make it suspect.”

And here’s a thought from makingwisethesimple on the crosswalk forums:

“Are any of you familiar with the shift in scholarly thought away from a Darby or a Schofield view of eschatology? The likes of N.T. Wright, Brian McClaren, and Rob Bell make the case for a physical restoration of creation as being God’s final plan for his people. The aim for us is not to escape this fallen and broken world, but rather it is for us to till and nurture it until God returns to make his dwelling with man, the ultimate form of Emmanuel.

“This brings us to the rapture. Rob Bell makes the interesting point that the verses in the Thessalonian passage referring to the rapture was written by Paul using language that was normally linked to the likes of a coming dignitary. The formula that was used in this culture for such an arrival was that the entire city would come out to meet the dignitary before he got to the city and then as a large group they would all enter the city together. What do we see when we turn to the passage in 1 Thessalonians? A coming ‘dignitary’ arrives and the people are caught up to meet him. Now Paul leaves it there, he doesn’t go on to explain ‘where’ they all go, but perhaps this is because the people he was writing to didn’t need to be told as they would have easily picked it up. It is like us writing a letter to family somewhere and in that letter we make mention of horses, now thousands of years from now an advanced civilisation [sic] may discover that letter and have no idea what these ‘horses’ were because we didn’t give the definition in the letter, but why would we!

“Another interesting point to note is that when we read these verses and we see words like “taken away,” “left behind,” etc., we automatically assume that to be taken is the desirable result and to be left behind is the undesireable. Why do we do that, when in every other account in Scripture to be taken away from the land of inheritance was to be taken away into judgment! Think of the exile for example. In fact I don’t think it would be taking it too far to say that rapture theology is akin to being exiled from our land.”

In addition to its dubious biblical support, it appears to inspire a defeatist attitude in fundamentalists ’round the world, which is exactly what we don’t need.

The people who read books like this religiously [in general–if you are in this category and do not match the following description, I’d like to meet you] appear complacent with injustice, war and many other wrongs in the world because “it’s never going to get any better”. So they never try. They read Blessed are the peacemakers in their Bibles, but when they have a chance to meet peace face to face, it’s almost anathema to them, something to be avoided at all costs. Peace to them doesn’t equal a positive thing–it means that soon and very soon, a dictator will rise to power over the entire world. They believe they’re “guaranteed” 7 years of safety because they’re Christians, and then they can get the heck out of here [or some variation of this]. The only way to vote properly is to choose “the lesser of two evils”, every time, because in their minds, all they can do is just postpone the worst a little bit longer. They’ve really distanced themselves from the world’s problems, which is super easy to do in America but it almost seems like it’s at the core of fundamentalism itself. I’m extremely disappointed with the “church” of today–if such a large group of people put their minds to bettering the world instead of condemning it, think of the possibilities. It always seems to be: “Homelessness? It’s too big to be fixed! Poverty? Not out of my pocket! Deforestation, endangered species, animal abuse? These things are too trivial to let them stand in the way of human rights…not that we’re going to do anything about those either..”

Last week I was looking at this magazine and I found a story about a family with 20–count ’em! It’s not a typo–kids, 5 of them biological, 15 adopted. I was amazed. We were all sitting around eating lunch, and I read the story to my brothers and my mom. The first words out of her mouth were, “They need to learn they can’t save the world.” WHY? Why, why, why should they be told they can’t save the world when they already are? If their hearts and their paychecks are big enough to accomodate such a big family, more power to them.

It kind of made me wonder. When my parents send out cards every year to all the grads we know, cards that offer encouragement like “Believe in your dreams” and “Go out and change the world”, do they mean it? If they met the same person five years down the line doing meaningful work that had a big impact on the world, would they be happy? Or would they say to themselves, “They’re just trying to take on too much. They can’t fix the world”?

I’m a believer in dreams. I believe we can make a difference, a change for the better. I believe hunger, homelessness, extreme poverty are all solveable and peace is possible. I do not believe the world can only get worse and worse until God pulls us out of it and it deteriorates. The world will only continue down this path if we stand back and let it. No doubt you’re familiar with this line from Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people]  to do nothing.” Am I the only one who doesn’t think that following Christ and saving the world are polar opposites?!

If Christ were coming again tomorrow, I would plant a tree today. –Martin Luther

Read more:

From A Prophetic Voice

“Is the Pre-tribulation Rapture Biblical?”

Aaaaaaaaaaand I’ll be doing some more research and continuing this another day.

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