I was 14 and had been out skipping church one Sunday evening when I came home to an empty house. Ordinarily that was not a big deal, but my parents- who had been at church that evening- were typically 'early to bed, early to rise' sort of people. Ten o'clock and no parents? What could have been the explanation?
For me, it was simple. The rapture had come, my parents had been taken away from this world of woe, and I was 'left behind' to suffer horribly for the next seven years. That's the way God is, I thought as I panicked: The one night in years that I had skipped church (under false pretenses, so my parents were innocent of that crime) and actually succumbed to the temptation to smoke a cigarette- that was when God decided it was time to pull the switch and change the world.
There's more to that story, but you get the point. At the time it did not even occur to me how self-centered I was to imagine that the fate of the world rested on me; or that God was timing a cosmic event just to catch me screwing up. Bad anthropology; bad cosmology; awful theology. But that's what happens after listening in earnest to so many sermonic appeals to personal salvation- at least for my soul's sake, the point was for me to get saved and to hell with the rest of the world.
And there's the rub. The whole doctrine of the rapture- a fairly new thing in the scheme of Christianity- is based on the premise that some are saved and to hell with the rest of the world. But, is God a God who says "to hell with the rest of the world?" Even the Noah story, where God seems quite willing to destroy the rest of the world, ends with God making a covenant with Noah, that never again will God destroy the earth in that fashion. The God at the end of this story is a grieving God, for whom saving a few people and animals is not enough. "Never again," God says, "Never again."
The whole idea of a rapture- where you and I get to take leave of this piece of dirt called "earth" while billions of others are left behind to suffer and see it destroyed- is simply wrong. It is a rupture of the covenant, a primary, constitutive way of understanding God's relationship toward us.
Thanks for reading ... I'll be back at it on Monday.