Tuesday, January 30, 2007

...AND I FEEL FINE

Are you familiar with the concept of rapture? I recently decided to familiarize myself with end of the world, and this was the word that kept coming up. Rapture. Rapture. Rapture. What's a rapture, I thought. So I looked it up.

Some dictionaries list rapture as a sensation of absolute ecstasy, like the rapture Chicagoans are likely to feel when the Bears upset the Colts on Sunday in Miami. Or the great Rapture certain to envelope America upon Bush's exit from la casa blanca. In theologian terms, however, the “Rapture” means something entirely different. It’s the term used to describe an upcoming event where Christians are taken by God to Heaven – which sounds like a pretty cool deal, except that a lot of folks aren’t invited to the big bash in the sky. Nope – a bunch of us are going to be spending eternity on the curb outside of the 7-11 - lost and without hope.

Voted out of the tribe in Heaven.

Curious? So was I. So I dug a little deeper. For those of you as ignorant about the fundamental tenets of Christianity as I am, here’s a frightening look at the end of the world as we know it.

According to Biblical prophecy, the Rapture is scheduled to occur 7 years before the end of this age. What age is “this” age? That is subject to interpretation, but let’s assume for our soul’s sake it’s the one we’re in now. The age of "now" I like to call it for simplicity's sake. So there’s a 7 year period at the END of this age…and at the end of those 7 years, Christ will be coming out of retirement for his long-anticipated encore performance. The big show is being billed as the “Second Coming,” and while Jesus was one groovy guy (by most modern accounts), his reunion tour is expected to be a complete catastrophe.

Literally. Yeah - by all accounts, when JC comes back, he's all business.

But let me back up for second and explain why Christ is coming out of retirement in the first place. In the interim 7 years between the Rapture and the Second Coming, there is the expected emergence of someone by the name of Antichrist. That would be our antagonist. I used to hear "Antichrist" and think of folks like Kim Jong-Il, Hugo Chavez, Hillary Clinton, and Pat Robertson. And my grandmother swears it's Paul Wolfowitz. But according to my sources, the real antichrist is going to be a charming, childless man from Europe. And he’s going to really start mixing shit up.

At the end of 7 years, the planet is going to be in such a state of disarray that Christ will enter stage center wearing a kung-fu robe. A Battle Royale ensues. I read that Don King is already promoting the event on his website, promising plenty of pay-per-view entertainment for the terrified masses. And the executives at FOX are even kicking around some programming concepts for when the Apocalypse is in full swing. Of note are two shows, the first one a reality TV show centered on a “band of brothels” trying to promote procreation in a world where sexual dysfunction and disinterest have become the norm. This one would be called ‘Armageddon Laid’. The second will feature a guy who turns McDonalds restaurants into churches in an effort to promote faith and community on a mass scale as only the best branded corporations of our time have managed. This show will be titled ‘Prophesize Me.”

No, not really. I shouldn't joke. This is serious stuff I’m talking about here! I only make light of the end of the world to bring it to your attention. Do I have your attention yet? No? Okay...let me try terrorizing you. While JC and this debonair European antichrist dude go Armageddon on each other, it is expected that a THIRD of the world’s population will be exterminated. That’s like 2.2 BILLION people! Do I have you attention now? Yeah – this Rapture thing is pretty intense.

Of course, my entire tongue-in-cheek description here is just the Cliff’s Notes version. And it's not even that accurate depending on who you ask. Most Christians don't even agree on what the Rapture will entail, or when it will come. For a more complete explanation, I recommend a good Protestant Bible (the Roman Catholics, I should note, don't call it Rapture at all). If you're too busy to look it up yourself, this is what you need to know about the end of the world:

Good, God-fearing Christians will be saved and the rest of humanity will suffer a great end.

Totally uncool if you ask me. What about the billions of people on this planet whose religious beliefs are contrary to the teachings of Christianity? There are a lot of genuinely good people in this world who don't believe a word of the Bible. Presuming there's any credence to the concept of Rapture, wouldn't they be worth saving?

I have a calculator at my desk and I did a little number crunching. There are roughly 6.5 billion people in the world. If a third of us are wiped out, that leaves 4.3 billion people left to start over again. The number of people expected to depart earth is roughly equivalent to the total number of Christians in the world. Is this a coincidence? Are we all guest starring in the final season of LOST? Here is the population of the world broken down into religious figures, pardon the pun.

1 Christianity: 2.1 billion (1.1 billion of which are Catholics)
2 Islam: 1.3 billion
3 Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
4 Hinduism: 900 million
5 Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
6 Buddhism: 376 million
7 Primal-indigenous: 300 million
8 African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
9 Sikhism: 23 million
10 Juche: 19 million
11 Spiritism: 15 million
12 Judaism: 14 million
13 Baha'i: 7 million
14 Jainism: 4.2 million
15 Shinto: 4 million
16 Cao Dai: 4 million
17 Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
18 Tenrikyo: 2 million
19 Neo-Paganism: 1 million
20 Unitarian-Universalism: 800,000
21 Rastafarianism: 600,000
22 Scientology: 500,000
23 Universal Way of the Jolly Llama: 1...but catching on fast!
There sure are a lot of different ideas out there! And most of these systems of belief are mutually exclusive by design. That is to say, to have one faith is to deny the faiths of others. Religion isn't a Chinese menu off of which you can mix and match different dishes to suit your spiritual taste. Not in theory, anyhow. Historically, people have been told that one discipline is the true discipline and everyone else is on the wrong path. There's a frightening rigidty to it. But in practice, there's a lot of customization going on today. Globalization has brought world's people closer together, exposing us to more ideas and different thought. More and more people are opening their minds to ask "what if"? So the lines in this pie chart aren't as solid as they appear - there's a lot of crossover going on as the colors start bleeding into one another.

Ask around and you'll find actual beliefs vary widely - often within congregations! There are over 2 billion Christians all lumped together in the largest piece of the pie, most of whom disagree with one another on some pretty basic ideas. with so many different messages out there, how is one to know which ones to listen to and which ones to tune out?

We tend to take religion and make it our own. We personalize it. We internalize it. We shape it to fit our lifestyle. It's spiritualism for the new millenium - and for one world. A best practices thing is happening here whereby ideas with merit stick, while those rooted in antiquity are phased out over time. Perhaps that is what is happening with Jihadist Islam today. A miniscule faction of militaristic muslims are discovering there's little worldwide support for their brand of extremism. Killing people who don't share in your beliefs is not among those religious practices civilization chooses to encourage. So they are meeting resistance and have been largely confined to desolate, dangerous places. They're fighting for their dying beliefs like a cornered animal...but the world's civilized people have collectively said "no" to terror. The global human organism understands that the cancer of violent religious fanaticism must be destroyed for the future success of the species.

But I digress...

What were we talking about? Oh yeah. Rapture! So let's get to the part you've been waiting for. WHEN IS THE END OF THE WORLD? Well, according to Rapture Ready, the website tracking our progress toward the end of the world, there’s a lot of disturbingly prophetic activity going on that would indicate the end of the world is nigh.

You can check out the Rapture Index here. Looks to me like we’re speeding toward the Rapture right now! The Rapture Index is a visual measure of world catastrophe intended to predict the Second Coming. It’s basically a snapshot of global strife that changes from day to day. As events in our world unfold, some good and some bad, the Index increases or decreases. And, believe it or not, according to the Rapture Index, we’re on an upswing right now that could be signaling the end of days.

According to my calendar, the end of the world is scheduled for late 2012. So that leaves us all a few more years to atone.

I'm no theologian. I'm actually the first one to admit I know VERY little about religion. But I honestly don't know about all of this biblical prophecy stuff. I tend to think the end of the world is going to be a lot swifter than any of us can fathom. And like an ant in the shadow of a footstep, we probably won't even know it's coming.

Except Chuck Norris, of course, who will ready and waiting.

1 comment:

Secret Rapture said...

My inaugural address at the Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead, after I have raptured out billions! The Secret Rapture soon!
Read My Inaugural Address
At = http://www.angelfire.com/crazy/spaceman

I SEE YOU!