GOOD

Note from a Reluctant Christian: Believing in the Rapture Isn't So Crazy

Having been raised by a pastor, I understand why people believe in the impending rapture—even if I don't buy it myself.

In case you haven't heard, today is Judgment Day, at least according to the mathematical calculations of Harold Camping and his Oakland, California-based Christian organization, Family Radio. While I'm not currently a Bible-reading churchgoer, I grew up in the church with a pastor for a father, attended a Christian liberal arts college, and if forced to check a box under "religion,” would probably still identify as a “Christian." So even though I’m repulsed by people using Christianity to support regressive politics and can mostly join in the chuckling at people like Camping, I still find it hard to dismiss them completely.


Despite the fact that Jesus is on record saying no one will be able to predict his return (Matthew 24), Christians have been doing it pretty regularly for the last 2,000 years. Worse still, Camping pulled this rapture stunt almost two decades ago. The belief in an impending rapture isn't that far out of the Christian mainstream. The Pew Research Center found last year that 41 percent of Americans expect Jesus to make a return sometime before the year 2050. The number jumps to 52 percent if you focus just on the Southern United States, and leaps to 58 percent if you narrow the field to white Evangelical Christians only. 



One might think that there's no way more than half of people in the South expect Jesus to return in the next 40 years. Surely these people wouldn't go on living their lives the way they do if they truly believed the world was going to end in their lifetime. If people really believe this, why aren't we seeing them default on loans, quit their jobs, and indulge in all the hedonistic pleasures this mortal coil has to offer before it all goes up in flames? Wouldn't these people at least stop having children? The snarky response says this is another case of Christian hypocrisy and that so-called believers are actually just hedging their bets.



The problem is, in this instance you can’t apply a nihilist rationale to the actions of theists. For starters, if one believes in a rapture or a judgment day, they're usually doing all they can to be on the right team. That means living the pious life in order to get beamed up when the time comes. If you're invested in the idea of a rapture, it's totally counter-productive to do anything but go on living the normal, pious life. Honestly believing that you will be around when Jesus comes back at some point in the next four decades is a little different from finding out that a meteor is hurtling toward Earth or that a worldwide water shortage is imminent.



But holding such a belief—while about as rational as holding the belief that our president wasn't born where he says he was born—isn't altogether crazy. It’s surprisingly easy to end up at this conclusion if Christianity shapes your worldview. The frame through which many 21st -century Christians look at history and the present goes something like: First there was 3,000 years of Biblical history, then came 2,000 years of church history, and here were are living in the now. And when you start asking people about the second coming—something most Christians, not just literalists, believe in—its easy for someone functioning within that paradigm to say, "It has to come at some point. Why not in my lifetime?" It's totally human to believe that such an important part of that narrative may somehow involve them.



I'm a casual baseball fan, and my team is the Chicago Cubs. Despite having a massive fan base, the Cubs famously haven't won a World Series title in 104 years. But if you asked me (and most other Cubs fans) if there was a chance they'd win it all before 2050, I'd bet at least 52 percent would say sure, of course. Ask me what I think the organization can do to realistically assemble a championship team and I wouldn't be able to tell you—my optimism is based on emotion, not rationale. But since I'm a Cubs fan, that's the narrative through which I look at the game.



The world didn't end today, and it probably won't at any point in the next 40 years (fingers crossed for no India/Pakistan nuclear war). And just because 41 percent of us think it will doesn't mean we'll see billboards and bus ads every year. Its not something at the forefront of people's minds, driving their financial and family decisions. Like so many other beliefs systems in our society, the faith in an impending rapture is based more on emotion than rationale. It’s identity politics more than conspiracy theory.

Articles
Pixabay

Two years after its opening in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art acquired a painting by Sarah Miriam Peale — its first work by a female artist. More than a century later, one might assume that the museum would have a fairly equal mix of male and female artists, right? But as of today, only 4% of the 95,000 pieces in the museum's permanent collection were created by women.

The museum is determined to narrow that gap, and they're taking a drastic step to do so.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture
via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

Keep Reading Show less
Politics
via Alan Levine / Flickr

The World Health Organization is hoping to drive down the cost of insulin by encouraging more generic drug makers to enter the market.

The organization hopes that by increasing competition for insulin, drug manufacturers will be forced to lower their prices.

Currently, only three companies dominate the world insulin market, Eli Lilly, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi. Over the past three decades they've worked to drastically increase the price of the drug, leading to an insulin availability crisis in some places.

In the United States, the price of insulin has increased from $35 a vial to $275 over the past two decades.

Keep Reading Show less
Health

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Since the International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, whale populations have been steadily recovering. However, whales in the wild still face other dangers. In the summer of 2018, four Russian companies that supply aquariums with marine animals captured almost 100 beluga whales and killer whales (aka orcas). After a public outcry, those whales are swimming free as the last of the captive whales have been released, the first time this many captured whales have been released back into the wild.

In late 2018 and early 2019, a drone captured footage of 11 orcas and 87 beluga whales crammed into holding pens in the Srednyaya Bay. The so-called "whale jail" made headlines, and authorities began to investigate their potentially illegal capture.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet