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What the Movie “2012″ and the Rapture Have in Common?
Lance Iversen/The San Francisco Chronicle

Recently, my wife and I saw the movie 2012. It reminded me of the doomsday nonsense that fundamentalist Christians (and I was once one of them) have been saying about the RAPTURE - the return of Jesus to catch-up all his followers into the clouds and whisk them away to a kind of benign judgment while those LEFT BEHIND reel in the madness of a world that spirals out of control - necessitating the appearance of an Antichrist who rules the world.

What do they have in common? Both are fiction and for entertainment purposes only.

There two fundamental reasons why the Christians and Christian leaders become rigid and narrow in their beliefs, separated from others and the world, and develop a neurotic obsession with future events. First, the church has failed in fulfilling its mission. Furthermore, the longer this failure is denied, the closer to radical fundamentalism these churches and their followers become. If the church's failure is not faced, and very, very soon, the church will continue its present spiral downward and become more isolated, marginalized, and eccentric in its beliefs, as well as more violent than it is already toward perceived enemies.

Already, there is very little difference between radical, Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East and some branches of Christianity in the U.S. The only real difference is in the methods each uses to express displeasure toward a world-a world each has failed to convert to its own way of thinking and living. The former use weapons, the latter use words. Some Christians would prefer to use weapons, too, and, were it not for the laws in this land that forbid it, they likely would.

So, instead, it has been the history of these radical little egos to turn to the government to give them the world their evangelical efforts have failed to create. Over the years, church and church leaders have sought to influence government to take action against its perceived enemies. I recently read in The Christian Post that, among all the varied interests groups in the U.S., the one group most supportive of the war in Iraq or, at a minimum, interested in a continued military presence there, are the Christians.

A second reason for the rigidity in beliefs, the separateness from the world, and the obsession of the church with future world events is that the collective church ego feeds on fear. Since Christians are afraid the world is out-of-control, their appetite for prophecies pertaining to the end of the world is voracious. The appetite is most prevalent whenever there is moral unrest, as well as social, political, and international discord and tension. That is to say, there is a direct correlation between the degree of moral chaos and political unrest in the world and the frequency with which churches and church leaders talk about the end of the world, especially in terms of the Rapture and the Second Coming of Jesus.

The Rapture is a belief system about how human history will end. At its core, it proponents believe that believers in Jesus, or the church, will be "raptured," or snatched up from the surface of the earth and gathered together in the clouds, just prior to the Great Tribulation and the rise of the Antichrist. What "Rapturist" proponents do not tell you, however, most likely because they do not know, is that the Rapture is not taught anywhere in Bible.

Nowhere. Nada. The only vague reference to anything remotely close to the idea of Rapture is found in Saint Paul's Letter to the Thessalonians. But there Saint Paul is trying to reassure people that they were eternal, since most of them had grown up in a world that had little or no confidence in an afterlife.

Given the preoccupation of people in the west with thoughts about and a belief in an afterlife, it is impossible to imagine living in a culture that did not believe in such things. But, this was the situation Saint Paul addresses. His purpose in writing these words was to reassure the Thessalonian followers of Jesus that there is life beyond this one.

Apart from this purpose, however, the differences in interpretations about future events, known as eschatology, as well as the type and timing of those events, quickly morphs into an incomprehensible pattern of nonsense. There are those, for example, who are known as Pre-millennialists, others who are Post-millennialists, and still others who identify themselves as Amillennialists.

But, even this only scratches the surface of eschatological conjecture. Among the Pre-millennialists, there are Historic Pre-millennialists and Dispensational Pre-millennialists. And, if that were not confusing enough, among the Dispensational Pre-millennialists, there are Progressive Dispensational Pre-millennialists as well as the Pre-Tribulation Dispensational Pre-millennialists.

It's confusing. It's nonsense. And, it is insane.

3 Comment count
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For the sake of discussion

Dr. McSwain,

I was raised Fundamental Baptist, so I was naturally drawn to your blog. I have also seen the movie 2012, which was pretty typical Hollywood drivel.

But, I was curious to know your thoughts regarding a couple of key "rapture" passages to which fundamentalists often refer.

First, Jesus discussion of how the "end times" will be like the days of Noah. Here is the link: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+17&version=KJV

(If my link does not work, then basically, it is Chapter 17 of the Gospel of Luke).

Here are two more: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Revelation+6&version=KJV


Currently, I attend a Metropolitan Community Church (an LGBT church), and so, I am interested in re-visions of previous interpretations.

Thanks so much for your indulgence!


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Response to Your Question

Dr.Steve McSwain Foundation for Excellence in Giving, Inc. 3105 Meadow Lark Ave. Louisville, KY 40213 260-MCSWAIN 502-777-9426 www.stevemcswain.com Sarah, read those texts from the perspective of the present moment, not from the perspective of the future. Jesus was speaking about the possibility of missing the Kingdom of God (which is within you) that comes as a "thief in the night." Only those who are watchful, awake, and ready will see and so experience the fullness of God. What fundamentalist have done and, again, I was one of them is to read these words of Jesus, not from the perspective of "now" - the only thing that is, but from the perspective of the future. But, remember this, the future - whatever it is - will only EVER be experienced as the NOW. So, don't miss NOW which is real for a future which is nothing more than a projection of a refused NOW.  Wait and watch for God's appearance today; tomorrow, as Jesus said, "will take care of itself." I hope I'm not confusing you.

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Dr. McSwain,

I am not confused. I thank you for your reply.

I like your notion that we should be more focused on the "now" and more "present." I'm not sure that I am yet on board with your interpretation of Jesus' words, but I do appreciate hearing a new perspective.

As you, I know many people who, I feel, are very much like Jonah. They just sit and wait and lament the world and all of its supposed "sins." They are too future-focused, and they crave a vengeful and bleak future. Not much Christian love in that.

I agree with you that such a point of view isn't productive.

Thank you very much for your time!