Sunday, May 22, 2011

Well, I'm sure glad I didn't cancel my Netflix account...

As you can gather, I'm still here. Which means either (1) the rapture happened and I have to get cracking on my book Glad They're Gone or (2) the rapture and its attendant earthquake did not happen yesterday. Although I was hoping to pen an international bestseller, I suspect we have to go with option (2). Like I called it on Friday (along with every other rational individual on the planet), the rapture did not take place.

Atheists, Agnostics, and Informed Believers of all Denominations: 1,
 Harold Camping and the folks who believe Family Radio: 0.  

To be honest, I can sort of understand the desire for the "rapture" where the true believers are taken away and all of the wayward are left to suffer. The state of the world today - the hatred, abject poverty, starvation, disease, corruption, lies, violence, prejudice, sexism, abuse, and war - really does look pretty awful. It really does feel like it'd be better, that it'd be easier, if we could just get this whole human history over, for God simply to destroy sin and reward the saved. 

Although the seedling ideas of the rapture and of tribulation are found in scripture, I do not think they are interpreted correctly. Consider the following:

Jesus Christ came preaching a revolution known as the Kingdom of God. Many ignored him, some were threatened by him, and a minority felt that what he said found fertile soil in their hearts. This Jesus fellow preached a message that told them what God was doing right now. They bought into this and became his friends and disciples. Jesus' preaching led him toward the single point where all those who dare to speak truth to power or to tell the truth to sinful ears: the cross. We silenced the prophet of God's Kingdom, the man who was re-gathering the people of Israel and re-founding it upon his body. Jesus was re-centering the people, not on the Temple where God dwelled, but, rather, on his own person. 

In the terrible wake of the crucifixion, Jesus' friends were scared and lonely. It was not until they encountered the Risen Christ who came to them bringing peace, not recriminations, that they sort of 'got it' at all. Jesus returned to them not to destroy history, not to vanquish his foes. Jesus returned to show us that what he said and what he did were both God's ways and he gave the Holy Spirit to his disciples to go out and bring this Good News to all people. Jesus went so far as to give us his own self in the Eucharist, a meal that keeps inviting us to remember who we are called to be and challenging us to live according to the way of the one who continues to gather us. 

In short, I simply don't think there's some encoded message in the Bible that predicts the end of the world. I think that the Bible tells the beginning of the narrative that each one of us has to continue to write: God's ever-deepening self-revelation to the people of Israel culminating in the birth of Jesus Christ, who showed us so clearly how to live in a sinful world that we killed him. The Resurrection does not his the 'reset' button on Jesus, though. It tells us that the game we thought we were playing was the wrong game and that Jesus got it right. Jesus got it right because he's playing the game of the Kingdom and in and through him, we are invited to play as well. 

I think where serious believers and serious non-believers have the most common ground is in this: the Kingdom of God is not something 'out there' or something that is coming. We need, right now, to help build it. That is, we need to work right now to help create a world modeled on the one Jesus showed us: a world where people have enough to eat, where all are treated equally, where the usual barriers of hatred or distrust or prejudice are effaced. While believers abide in patient hope, awaiting the return of the Messiah, they know they must work with others to help build the Kingdom of God according to the Constitution of the Kingdom, Jesus Christ. 


Anonymous said...

Joe Fromm wants you to know that you're not getting into heaven. Except he spelled it heven, and tagged it as "liberation theology."

Rebecca Randall said...

I'm with you that we need to work hard to build a world modeled on Jesus....but sometimes human beings (and here is where social activists, in particular, come to my mind) are a bit too confident in and naive about their abilities to bring about a Kingdom of God on earth. This is why, I think, an emphasis on the horizontal dimension needs to be balanced by attention to the personal relationship with God. This is where I think you and Fromm can find some common ground. There ARE lots of "activists" out there who are not very contemplative or thoughtful, as I'm sure you know very well, and what's sometimes distressing is that they equate, in too facile and too arrogant a way, their sociopolitical agendas with "salvation."

Anonymous said...

OMG Anon 3.29 that is hilarious and so true.