Friday, June 24, 2011

"The So-So Tribulation"

Well, ever since the "Rapture" took place on May 21, I've been a little disappointed in the "Great Tribulation." Okay, I realize that the "Rapture" was downgraded to a "spiritual Rapture," and so I suppose that the "Great Tribulation" was downgraded to a "spiritual Great Tribulation" as well. But, still, I was expecting at least a little bit of hardship by now. I mean, c'mon, we're over a month into this thing and the church in the U.S. hasn't suffered anything beyond an occasional visit from the "God hates you, and so do I" folks from the Westboro Baptist Anti-Church.

Let's check the "Great Tribulation" list:
- Wars: Yes, but they were already in progress before the spiritual "Rapture" took place, so they don't count.
- Rumors of War: I don't usually attend to gossip and rumors, but someone told me the other day that they heard from a friend whose beautician had it on good authority that the U.S. was actually going to reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan. Wouldn't that constitute a "Rumor of Peace"?
- Signs in the Heavens Above: I'm willing to testify that this has indeed happened since May 21. I mean, it's June 24, the 3rd full day of summer, and the weather in Iowa so far has been "chilly, windy, cloudy, with an ever-present chance of thunderstorms." On the other hand, this is Iowa, where the weather forecast is usually "chilly, windy, cloudy, with an ever-present chance of thunderstorms." And, frankly, it is more of a nuisance - like the "God hates you, and so do I" folks from the Westboro Baptist Anti-Church - than a "dreadful portent in the sky."
- Signs on the Earth Below: This is where I have to set sarcasm and silliness aside and acknowledge that the devastation in Joplin, MO is truly tragic. If someone wants to argue that those tornadoes or the flooding of upper Midwest states, or the fires of Arizona, etc. are "signs of the times," then they can have at it. I would only point out that the flooding in Japan, hurricane Katrina, hurricane Mitch, the earthquakes in Haiti and China, and plenty of other tragedies that happened before May 21 of this year were also tragic in bible-like proportions.

My point is not that tragedy hasn't happened since May 21. Rather, it is that May 21 has not - in any way - signified the beginning of some kind of new phase of tribulation on the earth. It's just the same old low-level tribulation that is absolutely devastating to the people who suffer it directly, and imminently ignorable to others. We might be fascinated by footage on Youtube; we might and should send work teams if an affected area is close enough; we might and should shed tears of compassion. But, what we should not do, is trivialize a tragic event by trying to pigeonhole it into some silly apocalyptic meta-narrative. The folks who suffer tragedy suffer enough without some religious zealot naming their tragedy as God's punishment. (Remember Pat Robertson's demonic attempt to blame Haitians for their earthquake. He has a tendency to do that kind of stuff.)

So, as it turns out, Harold Camping's "Great Tribulation" is as much of a dud as his "Rapture-turned-spiritual-Rapture." At best, we're in the throes of a "So-So Tribulation" and it seems that we have been ever since ... well, ever since the dawn of time, I guess.

Perhaps we should re-think what this "Great Tribulation" is intended to signify. Let's take up that topic next week.

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