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.