I don’t really want to give airtime to the ridiculous notion that the end of the world begins tomorrow. It’s a non-biblical idea about rapture plucked from random texts and mashed together with poorly-constructed numerology and a re-calculated dating of Noah’s Ark. It’s a lot of nonsense.
But really, it’s much worse than that.
First, it represents terrible theology that presupposes a monstrous God who deals in bloodshed (or fire, or earthquake or something) as a means to somehow produce “justice” and “peace” and “blessing,” and is totally okay with killing everyone and everything at any time. I don’t believe that God exists, and I feel really, truly sorry for people who do. My faith gives me hope and joy; the faith they describe conjures terror and futility.
And the second thing is that futility. It’s such a scary and foreign idea to me– that it would be okay– let alone good!– to give up on life, on the future, on God’s love for humanity, on our own love for one another, and anticipate a second coming of Christ that means the last day for everyone else. I was reading about families who stopped saving for college, people who quit their jobs, and folks who honestly believe that they will miss tomorrow night’s SNL because they’ll be with Jesus by then. This is chilling on so many levels.
I’m not okay with resigning oneself to the idea that ones children, who don’t believe in this rapture business, will be “left behind” to be tormented.
I’m not okay with forgoing the work of this life, including college and jobs and house repairs because it “doesn’t matter.”
I shudder to think about how scared and abandoned these people will feel come Sunday morning when they are still here, and the narrow, terrifying, vengeful god who is apparently the only god they know has not rained fire upon the earth. Will they have the courage to find a new faith in a different sort of God, and fix their hearts on the hard task of living ones faith rather than force-feeding it to others?
I’m not okay with the overall idea that, once again, religion is all about what you believe and how zealously you believe it, because after all, why does it matter if you help your fellow person with their physical needs when only their souls matter? Just preach the fire and brimstone to scare them into submission and you’ve done your good deed. If the world is only going to be around for another day (or week or year or decade), then helping people doesn’t matter, only what we believe.
In the end (or not, as I’m sure we’ll see!), it doesn’t matter to me if the doomsday prophesy is that aliens will conquer us or an asteroid will take out the sun, or Jesus will scoop up the elect or the environmental devastation we have unleashed will destroy the habitable environment (and I think only one of those is a probability); what distresses me is the energy spent on proclaiming and fearing the end, rather than on living our lives as we are called to live them. My plans for Saturday include time with my family and time in preparation for church. My plans for this year include ministries at church and in the community and seeking greater joy in my home life each day. My plans for my life are– well, pretty much the same. If I go tomorrow, by fire, by car crash, by aneurism, by freak accident, may it be while I am in the midst of what I have always done and will always do: loving and living. I’m unconcerned with “where I’m going,” but deeply passionate about where I am. It is here and now that I am given to love as I am able and to do all the good I can. This is my chance to be who the Holy calls me to be, and I’m not going to waste that time in fear. I may struggle to preach conversion to a more sustainable life, that we might be more faithful stewards of the earth and avert or slow the disaster that we have quite possibly unleashed, but while we’re working on that, we’re also working on economic justice and civil rights and loving relationships and joyful living.
As an older bumper sticker says, “Jesus is coming; look busy.” I don’t buy that.
Jesus is here. Be busy at his work.