Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Rapture Didn’t Happen, So What are You Going to Do with the Rest of Your Life?

(This piece was originally written for The Dialogue, the weekly newsletter of the church where I serve, First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ of St. Joseph, MO.)

The Rapture didn’t happen on Saturday, as predicted by the self-taught Bible prophecy interpreter and fundamentalist Christian media mogul Harold Camping.  Millions of true believers were not immediately beamed to heaven, and the other six billion heathen were not left to undergo a time of tribulation as they waited for the final destruction of the world in a few months.  Life pretty much went on as it had already been going on.  Given that the end of the world didn’t happen, perhaps now is as good a time as any to do some reflecting upon what exactly you will do with your life now that you get to finish living it.  Here are my suggestions of what we could do now that we have been given an apocalyptic reprieve. 
1.      Let’s pay less attention to old white male fundamentalists!  Emory University

Religionprofessor Gary Laderman sums things up well in a piece written after thenon-rapture.  He writes, “Even as American society grows more religiously diverse . . . all it takes is one older white fundamentalist Christian proclaiming some message of violence or hatred to a create a media frenzy and get the world talking about theology on the fringes (which can, in the right political circumstances, take the fringe to the heart of the mainstream).  Terry Jones is one recent example with his attack on Islam but the list is long and includes such figures as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and Jerry Falwell.”  Here, here!  Wouldn’t our lives be better spent doing something else besides rewarding the bad behavior of these folks with the attention they crave?
2.      Let’s advocate our own religious views with humility.  Okay, sure, maybe you—
like me—watched Camping and his followers on TV with a mixture of pity and amusement, but pretty much every religious person holds beliefs that a non-believer would find ridiculous.  Non-Christians find most Christian beliefs to be unacceptable if not laughable—e.g. the virgin birth, the simultaneous humanity and divinity of Jesus, the resurrection, the miracles of Jesus, etc.  The same can be said about any other religion from the perspective of one who does not adhere to it—e.g. reincarnation, God giving Moses the Torah at Mt. Sinai, Muhammed receiving the Qu’ran from the Angel Gabriel, etc.  Although religious people may have very good reasons for believing what they do—as Laderman notes. “Like DNA, religious motivations, commitments, investments, desires, etc. are built into and elemental to human life.”—a healthy religious person has to allow for the possibility that he or she may be wrong. 
Although we may scoff at the single-minded belief of those expecting the rapture to come on Saturday, shouldn’t we also do a quick gut check regarding our own blindness to possibilities we don’t want to consider.  In a culture where those on the extremes get the most attention, isn’t it intellectually honest, if not existentially essential, that we admit the possibility that we might be wrong?  Our culture’s competitive, status-seeking and sometimes violent religious landscape could benefit from religious people who showed some humility.
3.      Let’s accept the likelihood that the earth is going to be around for a while.  Most
of the New Testament urges Christians to be ready for an immanent return of Jesus Christ along with the end of the world as we know it, but unless I’ve missed something, it hasn’t happened yet.  As I stated in my sermon Sunday, I still believe in a return of Jesus Christ—just not a violent or destructive one, so I’m not giving up on Christian eschatology (beliefs about the end times).  Yet, I do think that since almost 2000 years have gone by without the end coming, we should act, plan and conserve as if the earth is going to be around for a long while.  What kind of world do you want your children and grandchildren to inherit?  What about their children and grandchildren?  Instead of living like the world will end tomorrow, why not get busy doing what you can to make the world better now and do it in such a way that it is sustainable for the future?
4.      Let’s spend time thinking about our own individual ends.  Okay, so maybe the
world didn’t end this past weekend, but guess what?  You’re still going to die.  Assuming the world will survive after you, what do you want your life to accomplish?  I’m not talking about a bucket list where you go sky diving per se, but rather how do you wish to be remembered?  What legacy would you want to leave behind?  What difference do you need to make in your life, in the lives of others or in the world?  Has God been whispering in your ear prompting you to do something for God’s sake that you’ve been putting off?  What makes you think that you will have time later to get that thing (or things) done?  The rapture didn’t happen last Saturday, but as much as we may not want to consider it, your end or mine could have happened then or any other day in one of a thousand unexpected ways.  A long life to do everything God calls us to do is not guaranteed, so what are you waiting for?
            Grace and Peace,

No comments: