Friday, April 8, 2011

The Countdown Conundrum

So, the latest popular attempt to actually name the date of a "pre-tribulation rapture of the saints" says that it will take place on May 21, 2011. While it is plainly evident that I do not believe in this conjecture, I am using this space to entertain the idea. I have no underlying motive. My goal is simply to say, "Okay, if the Bible really is a puzzle that has secret codes and cryptic numbers that predict a future "rapture," then let's give Harold Camping the benefit of the doubt and assume that he's correct." (See my blog from April 4 for details.)

I am aware that many people who believe in and look forward to the "pre-tribulation rapture" are skeptical of Mr. Camping's attempt to name a specific date. So, please don't get the impression that everyone who expects a "pre-tribulation rapture" to occur any time now has May 21 marked on their calendars. That's not how most "pre-tribulation rapture" believers roll - at least not from my own experience. I've only known 2 people who have actually forfeited any investments (economic or otherwise) in the future, because they believed that the rapture was really, really imminent. One of them ended up in a treatment facility (I helped him check in and visited him there); the other dropped out of college and was intending to live in a cave somewhere in Tennessee the last I heard of him. (I am not making this up, although I am fuzzy on many details and did not know him well). Outside of those two persons, most of my "pre-tribulation rapture" friends are just as sane and functional as anyone else. And most of them are not circling May 21 on their calendars, setting their affairs in order, or dressing in white gowns and sitting on their housetops to be "ready."

But - if my own experience is at all typical of anyone who takes their "pre-tribulation rapture" belief seriously - they are a little nervous.

Almost anyone who believes in an imminent "pre-tribulation rapture" has had an experience when s/he observed something that triggered the fear that the rapture had taken place and that s/he has been "left behind." These experiences are funny in hindsight, but not in real time. In real time, anyone who has heard a plethora of "any day now!" proclamations knows what it is like to feel the anxiety of having been "left behind," and it is not pretty.

So, whenever a Harold Camping comes along - anyone who had crunched the numbers, broken the code, connected the dots, and named the date - the result is unsettling. On the one hand, those who believe in a "pre-tribulation rapture" feel the need to read the "signs of the times," and to interpret real time events as the "budding fig leaves" that augur end time events. On the other hand, they remember that "no one knows the day or the hour," of the "pre-tribulation rapture," so they shouldn't actually invest in something as specific as Harold Camping's prediction.

I do not believe in an imminent, "pre-tribulation rapture." I do not believe that we are living in "the last days," if one takes those words to refer, literally, to a countdown to the end of planet earth. And, I would gladly be willing to say, "This is simply a place where we can agree to disagree" over this matter, except that I think a true belief in an imminent "pre-tribulation rapture" can have some disastrous results. We'll explore some of them in the future. If there is one.

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