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The Missing Christians
February 12, 2014 7:38 AM   Subscribe

For years, Fred "Slacktivist" Clark has been dissecting, page by page, the Left Behind series of Evangelical Christian potboilers. Clark, a Christian himself, goes far beyond merely mocking them but also analyzes the theology, philosophy, and politics underlying them. As an aside, he's looked at other Rapture narratives and is asking, "Why are Rapture stories always so dull?" To this end he examines The Missing Christians, a 50-minute 1952 movie about the Rapture, which is available to watch on YouTube. Clark warns: "This is far, far worse than you’re expecting even if you take into account that it will be far, far worse than you’re expecting." As usual, Clark goes beyond (but certainly by way of) just mocking the film to get at the core of what he argues the Rapture idea is really about, and why, despite the Apocalyptic material, these stories always end up so dull.
Part of the problem here, as in Left Behind, is that the “storytellers” of Evangel Films aren't nearly as interested in telling their story as they are in settling the score with their perceived enemies. These are the same enemies that haunt the sleep of Tim LaHaye — those sophisticated “liberal” Christians who refuse to concede the expertise of “Bible prophecy” experts. Just like Left Behind, The Missing Christians is a revenge fantasy in which those evil sophisticates are “proved” wrong and the righteous are proved right.
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posted by Legomancer (115 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite

 
Every time I withdrew one of these books from the library I felt like lighting a smoke up afterward, like Patty and Selma after they stamped "FAIL" on Homer's driving test.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:47 AM on February 12 [17 favorites]


Why are Rapture stories always so dull?

I reject the premise of his question.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:47 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


I've always wanted to an end times story where the only people saved are members of some crazy-ass ultra-conservative cult in Texas that doesn't wear mixed fibers and stuff. It would mostly be pre-millennial dispensationists being gleefully dismembered to the schadenfreude of a group no one can sympathize with.
posted by charred husk at 7:53 AM on February 12 [10 favorites]


"Evangel Films aren't nearly as interested in telling their story as they are in settling the score with their perceived enemies."

The bargain basement version of L'inferno.
posted by sutt at 7:57 AM on February 12 [14 favorites]


I'm glad he made an exception for the Thief in the Night series, which was a thing of beauty. Quite chilling. I still vividly remember the scenes with the guillotine. Why my church thought these movies were appropriate for children, I have no idea but I'm eternally grateful they did.
posted by honestcoyote at 7:57 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


I love Fred Clark. I only wish someone would show him how to use HTML <a> links for his footnotes.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:03 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


So, I have The Missing Christians running in another tab as I work. It very much reminds me of an Ed Wood movie. If he preferred tent revivals and modest dresses to graveyards and pink sweaters, at least.
posted by tyllwin at 8:09 AM on February 12


"Evangel Films aren't nearly as interested in telling their story as they are in settling the score with their perceived enemies."

As it was at the start.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:09 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


Very nice subtle insult in referring to the cameraman as "camera-pointer".
posted by benito.strauss at 8:12 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


Eschatological fiction is a rich and lurid genre. The Seven Last Years was particularly enjoyable, I recall, in an awful way.

However, the author, Carol Balizet, is also the grandmother of the "abortion Tweeter" who has said on her Twitter and elsewhere more than once that her grandmother was an abusive asshole.

So, maybe buy it used.
posted by emjaybee at 8:14 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


His point about rapture stories by non-believers being enjoyable is back up by the fantastic Therefore Repent! (NSFW, comic book boobs and bloodshed).

The one thing that rapture stories never look at, which honestly is not terribly surprising, is that the percentage of the population who would be raptured is actually quite small. Asia, on the whole, would experience many effects. Much of Central and South America, being Catholic, would not go up as well. Africa sees some difference is some of the countries, notably those with heavy evangelical communities (Uganda for example). Europe, well, probably not much change, given prevailing views - either Catholic, Orthodox or non-religious from my general impression.

So a modern rapture story would have the US losing a good 20% (lets be generous) of its population and then the rest of the world going along as usual. The US would be economically devastated. It's the perfect situation for a dictator to arise. The US should be the evil empire that is invading everyone and causing trouble. Perhaps holding the rest of the world hostage with nuclear weapons. The UN is moved out of New York and either to Europe or Asia and becomes and viable force used to counter a rogue superpower. The story ends with the US invading Asia or Europe and a triumphal Jesus coming down on his steed to smite a good chunk of North America. Roll credits on the UN, with many nations represented, helping to rebuild Washington DC after angelic fire had rained destruction on it. The after text states that the world had moved towards peace and harmony, ushering in a thousand years of peace.

Of course, this would make the US the bad guys in this story, not the UN. But at least it would not be as parochial as all rapture stories I encounter. These people forget that the US is not the world, that while Christianity is the largest religion (32% of the world) only approximately 13% of Christians are Evangelical. So, at best, we lost 4% of the world's population. This is notable, as 290 million people would disappear, but the world would be able to move on.
posted by Hactar at 8:16 AM on February 12 [42 favorites]


Hactar, you're forgetting the bit where all children (and fetuses) get Raptured too. As Fred points out on his blogs, the Left Behind books don't really deal with how devastating this would be.
posted by emjaybee at 8:20 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


For once an enjoyable YouTube comment:

Christ is Coming 2k13, can't wait!

— posted seven months ago...
posted by bouvin at 8:21 AM on February 12 [16 favorites]


Just like Left Behind, The Missing Christians is a revenge fantasy in which those evil sophisticates are “proved” wrong and the righteous are proved right.

A film where the hero wins and the bad guy gets his comeuppance. I think I've seen it.

This is notable, as 290 million people would disappear, but the world would be able to move on.

Move on? Those 290m wouldn't even be missed. The problem is those pesky tribulations that come next. Fire and brimstone can cause real traffic problems.
posted by three blind mice at 8:25 AM on February 12 [6 favorites]


Just like Left Behind, The Missing Christians is a revenge fantasy in which those evil sophisticates are “proved” wrong and the righteous are proved right.
This reminds me of a long quotation in Beyond Good and Evil, I think, in which an old Christian writer imagines with obvious delight a heaven where the suffering of the damned provides entertainment for the saved. You can fault Nietzsche for a lot of things (a lot), but he was right to single that passage out for scorn, because it really is chilling.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:27 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


Fire and brimstone can cause real traffic problems.

Well, maybe, but I saw a work memo once that pointed out that, in the case of Armageddon, rivers of blood were no reason to fail to get to work, as blood is a liquid, and the bridges would still work.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:33 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


For once an enjoyable YouTube comment:

Christ is Coming 2k13, can't wait!

— posted seven months ago...
To be fair, bouvin, by "2k13", that YouTuber meant 200013, so they've still got 197,999 years left to get their affairs in order.
posted by captnkurt at 8:35 AM on February 12 [9 favorites]


If you really are intent on reading tribulation/rapture lit, I'd suggest Pat Robertson's The End of the Age over Left Behind. Robertson (or his ghostwriter) is a far better author than LaHaye/Jenkins , and he manages to squish the entire thing into a single volume. Try to find it used, of course, because Pat Robertson is a crazy asshole who doesn't deserve any more money.

Having been raised Christian, and having consumed quite a lot of "persecution literature" in my youth, I am amused in retrospect by how Christian authors, in order to portray a "fallen world" their heroes must navigate and overcome, must approach smut themselves. I lost a lot of sleep as a teenager imagining the virtual reality sex education technology featured in Parker Hudson's The President, for example, or visualizing the trysts between the not-yet-Christian characters in Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion Trilogy.

This, of course, was before I discovered Usenet, and long before I realized I was not a Christian, and perhaps had never been.
posted by The Confessor at 8:37 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


His point about rapture stories by non-believers being enjoyable is back up by the fantastic Therefore Repent! (NSFW, comic book boobs and bloodshed).



Oh, yeah- the sequel, Sword of My Mouth, is even better!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:40 AM on February 12


emjaybee- This is the part I completely disagree with and therefore ignored. Children are damned with original sin, at least to the best of my knowledge of Evangelical Christianity. This sin is what prevents anyone who has not accepted Jesus as their personal savior from entering heaven, no matter how virtuous a life they lead, no matter if they have never committed a single other sin. For I am the Way and the Truth and the Light and all that jazz. I could buy that suddenly every pregnancy in the world spontaneously aborts but does not leave behind an embryo or fetus after the spontaneous abortion occurring, but are children exempted from Original Sin until they reach a certain age? Does it occur at puberty? Etc.

Thus the ignoring of that.
posted by Hactar at 8:43 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Hactar, you're forgetting the bit where all children (and fetuses) get Raptured too. As Fred points out on his blogs, the Left Behind books don't really deal with how devastating this would be.

That always makes me laugh. I was such a rotten evil little shit as a boy.
posted by srboisvert at 8:46 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


To be fair, bouvin, by "2k13", that YouTuber meant 200013, so they've still got 197,999 years left to get their affairs in order.

You are not mangling history nearly enough. Clearly, we start counting from the Edict of Milan, which decriminalized Christianity in the Roman Empire. That was 313AD. So the real 2013 would be 2326. 2+3+2+6 = 13 and 1+3 = 4, which symbolizes the three Persons of the Trinity + Man, showing how true this is.

To be fair, I can't wait for 2326, either.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:48 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


I have The Missing Christians running in another tab as I work

I actually tried that, but closed it and opened up Riki Oh: The Story of Ricky instead. I wanted something with better acting and a more believable plot.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:48 AM on February 12 [6 favorites]


This is the part I completely disagree with and therefore ignored. Children are damned with original sin, at least to the best of my knowledge of Evangelical Christianity. This sin is what prevents anyone who has not accepted Jesus as their personal savior from entering heaven, no matter how virtuous a life they lead, no matter if they have never committed a single other sin. For I am the Way and the Truth and the Light and all that jazz.

Yeah, but I'm sure a hardcore Rapture believer could also point to the whole "Suffer the little children to enter unto me" line as a loophole clause. Also, the whole Rapture shabazz is probably based on some random 1800's tangential theological arguments more so than Scripture anyway (I've told the story of a seminarian friend who tried to write something about the Rapture for a theology class, only he was limited to using Scripture as the foundation for his discussion and upon researching the origin of Rapture theory he realized he just plain couldn't).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:49 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


The bargain basement version of L'inferno.

Exactly what I was thinking. I found reading it to be an exercise in Dante imagining Terrible Things Happening to Terrible People And Also This Guy That Snubbed Me at a Party.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:51 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


So who would get raptured? It's not just a small percentage of the US population, but a specific group of people, not evenly distributed. So the US loses who, exactly? A number of Republican Tea Party voters... would the country really be worse off without them?
A man arrived at the gates of Heaven.

St. Peter asked, “Religion?”

The man said, “Methodist.”

St. Peter looked down his list and said,” Go to Room 24, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.”

Another man arrived at the gates of Heaven.

“Religion?”

“Catholic.”

“Go to Room 18, but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.”

A third man arrived at the gates.

“Religion?”

“Jewish.”

“Go to Room 11 but be very quiet as you pass Room 8.”

The man said, “I can understand there being different rooms for different religions, but why must I be quiet when I pass Room 8?”

St. Peter told him, “Well, the Baptists are in Room 8, and they think they’re the only ones here.”
posted by Grangousier at 8:54 AM on February 12 [83 favorites]


I actually tried that, but closed it and opened up Riki Oh: The Story of Ricky instead.

So, you're more a follower of Muscular Christianity, then?
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:02 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Part of the problem here, as in Left Behind, is that the “storytellers” of Evangel Films aren’t nearly as interested in telling their story as they are in settling the score with their perceived enemies.

This is a huge part, but there's also the problem that telling a Rapture Story, has so many plot points and scenes on the checklist. It's like when fanfics or remakes feel they have to cram in all the references in the original material into their own works (aka "This HAS to be in there"-itis) that they forget to tell a story. Even aside from settling scores with smug godless liberals, this is a basic problem of just having a bunch of stuff to cram into the story.

That the stuff is literally scripture doesn't help. What also doesn't help is that most of Revelations is some serious drugged out rambling, which makes the only way to properly tell the story is with some Taymor/Gilliam-esque surrealism. Really, the kind of people who make stories about the Rapture haven't done enough drugs to tell it properly.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:05 AM on February 12 [9 favorites]


A proper rapture story would be quite interesting. Set it in a world completely falling apart. Global warming is having devastating effects. Riots and revolts are everywhere. China is gathering ships in what seems to be preparation for a massive invasion of Taiwan. Israel finally gets to bomb various locations in Iran and Iran does not take it well. Cats and dogs are now living together happily across the nation and are plotting our doom.

And then the thing happens. Millions, maybe a billion, across the world vanish into the night. In the United States, a cursory knowledge of end times theology is mainstream and probably a majority of the population knows what "the rapture" is. Therefore, news reports and government officials state the obvious. The rapture occurred. Millions of Americans left behind start asking themselves "Am I a baddie?" New religions pop up like weeds and existing churches are stuffed to the gills.

But, on further inspection, the Rapture starts to look morally ambiguous. Sure, people like your saintly grandmother, Stephen Colbert, and Francis I are gone and that's not surprising. But that guy who gunned down a middle school some years back and had a widely scorned jailhouse conversion. He's gone. The convicted child molester who lives down your street and attends church, claiming Jesus cured him, even though he still leers at the girls during the service. He's gone. Some (but not all) of the holier-than-thou hectoring public ministers in the mold of Falwell who annoy the public and take money from the gullible. They're gone. What sort of God would want those people? And, conversely, many kind and loving people are left behind. The philanthropist who gave away billions, the tireless teacher who coached your kid through chemistry, the guy who runs a soup kitchen and feeds hundreds of your city's homeless every day. They're all still here.

In the chaos, someone steps up. Maybe a handful of someones with a bit of mystery as to who will eventually become the Antichrist. But the ultimate winner has to be a deeply sympathetic three-dimensional character. Someone with a deep lust for power but also happens to have practical solutions for most of the world's problems. Someone so sympathetic that even the Christians reading the book will love him. But someone whose hubris and ambitions eventually turn the world into a ball of ash. It has to be a story of a good man ruined by the corruption of absolute power, and by making decisions in the middle of the storm and being destroyed by the unexpected consequences. Having a mustache twirling villain who takes his orders directly from Satan will ruin the entire story.

And when Jesus finally arrives to shut the whole thing down, there should be at least one scarred survivor who doesn't look at him with worship and admiration, but instead stares at the heavenly host and asks "Where the fuck were you?"
posted by honestcoyote at 9:08 AM on February 12 [90 favorites]


For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
Rev. 22:18-20
Always seemed to me like Revelations Fanfic is a risky sort of business.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:09 AM on February 12 [12 favorites]


And when Jesus finally arrives to shut the whole thing down, there should be at least one scarred survivor who doesn't look at him with worship and admiration, but instead stares at the heavenly host and asks "Where the fuck were you?"



(spoiler warning for a 2 decade-old film)


Have you the seen the movie that ricochet biscuit recommends above?
posted by tyllwin at 9:13 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Always seemed to me like Revelations Fanfic is a risky sort of business.

But everyone is totally shipping that dreamy human-faced scorpion and The Woman Crowned with the Sun!
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:14 AM on February 12 [6 favorites]


Imagine all the job openings!
posted by drezdn at 9:15 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


This is the part I completely disagree with and therefore ignored. Children are damned with original sin, at least to the best of my knowledge of Evangelical Christianity. This sin is what prevents anyone who has not accepted Jesus as their personal savior from entering heaven, no matter how virtuous a life they lead, no matter if they have never committed a single other sin. For I am the Way and the Truth and the Light and all that jazz. I could buy that suddenly every pregnancy in the world spontaneously aborts but does not leave behind an embryo or fetus after the spontaneous abortion occurring, but are children exempted from Original Sin until they reach a certain age? Does it occur at puberty?

There are plenty of Evangelical traditions that believe in the implicit innocence of children. Any that practice adult baptism upon confession of faith certainly do. In general, it's only the infant baptizers who have any doubt that children are saved. My own tradition taught the idea of the "age of accountability," before which a person was unable to understand the gospel message and would not be held accountable for his or her sins. Clearly, that age varied from person to person (and might never come, in the case of someone with significant intellectual disabilities) but it seemed to be generally agreed that it was around age 12. (I myself was preciously interested in religious matters, and was thus baptized at age nine to stay on the safe side.) The Southern Baptists who are the majority audience for the Left Behind books generally believe in the age of accountability, although I am not sure whether that is the most common term they would use for it.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:16 AM on February 12 [10 favorites]


Have you the seen the movie that ricochet biscuit recommends above?

The ending of The Rapture is one of the few times that a movie made me shout back at the screen (at home, otherwise I wouldn't) - at the last scene, after the last moment when the screen went black and I saw the credits start rolling, I barked out a thoroughly shocked, "That's IT???"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:17 AM on February 12


The "age of accountability" idea is discussed in a Baptist context here.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:18 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


You don't even need to read those books, in order to come to the same conclusion…

And, sorry, "The Rapture" was pretty dull.
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 9:20 AM on February 12


Have you the seen the movie that ricochet biscuit recommends above?

I haven't, even though that movie sounds like it would be perfect for me. Did I inadvertently plagiarize its ending? (I don't mind spoilers)
posted by honestcoyote at 9:27 AM on February 12


But the ultimate winner has to be a deeply sympathetic three-dimensional character. Someone with a deep lust for power but also happens to have practical solutions for most of the world's problems.

This isn't the direction I expected the Fantastic Four reboot to take but I like where you're going with Dr. Doom.
posted by Skorgu at 9:28 AM on February 12 [21 favorites]


I hate those rapture movies because even though I never believed, they still made me afraid. Eight-year-old children shouldn't be terrified every lunar eclipse that maybe they'll wake up in the morning and everyone will be gone except her.
posted by winna at 9:32 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


The best story involving the Rapture that I've ever read was Battle Pope by Robert "Walking Dead" Kirkman, perhaps not coincidentally the only story of his that I've read that I really liked. The Rapture happens, except that only two people are worthy of being called, so God calls the rest of the apocalypse off, and humans and demons learn to live together on earth. Lots of fun.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:32 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


When I was much younger, I kinda wanted to write an urban fantasy novel where the Rapture happened and Christians went poof, and then a bunch of gods showed up. While there was technically a non-aggression and non-interference pact among the gods, every one of them was violating it in secret, giving their human pawns magical powers, curses, etc.

It's probably a good thing that I never got beyond the vague daydreaming stage and into actual writing.
posted by Foosnark at 9:33 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Did I inadvertently plagiarize its ending? (I don't mind spoilers)

Not quite, but a similar idea: after going through enough pain here on Earth, God finally comes to take the initially-nonbelieving protagonist away to heaven and she rejects him, because she just can't offer him love no matter how real he is.
posted by tyllwin at 9:34 AM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: the line from the FPP you'd expect to see here because you know someone has to do it.

Also, I once wrote a story in which the Rapture happened, but the only person found good enough to be saved was Mr. Rogers. So nobody really knew the rapture had even happened, just that Mr. Rogers had gone missing. Meanwhile, Mr. Rogers was wandering around all along in Heaven wondering where everyone was, and it was kind of a torment for him.

So there's that.
posted by Naberius at 9:35 AM on February 12 [33 favorites]


Don't forget the Christ Clone trilogy, which asks the question: "What if you cloned Jesus from immortal dermal cells found clinging to the shroud of Turin?"

And the answer, of course, is: "You'd totally get, like, an evil NegaJesus with Dark Jedi powers!!!!"
posted by Iridic at 9:37 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


Pater, thanks for the link, although this line "The early Baptists were called “Anabaptists” because they believed that the infant baptism they had received was unscriptural, and they were baptized again upon their profession of faith in Christ" set my teeth on edge. The Anabaptists went on to become Mennonites and Amish, not Baptists. But then again, what should I expect from someone with both a M. Div and a PhD?

If I am reading the link correctly, it could be argued that someone who, after reaching the age of accountability, lives a completely sin free life but does not embrace Jesus, will reach god without having sinned. Not sure whether they end up in heaven or hell for that one, but I would love to hear a reaction. (After all, tendencies are not absolutes.)

Anyway, thanks for the link. I suppose my vision of being a young baptist was influenced a little too much by Saved. "Accepting Jesus into your life is a big decision. Especially for a three year old." I had always assumed that the initial baptism would happen rather early on in life, after the kid could talk, but well before puberty. Thanks for the clarification.
posted by Hactar at 9:40 AM on February 12


Seems like Evangelical Christians aren't the only ones who can use "The Rapture" as a stick with which to beat their enemies.
posted by Legomancer at 9:41 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


I once wrote a story in which the Rapture happened, but the only person found good enough to be saved was Mr. Rogers. So nobody really knew the rapture had even happened, just that Mr. Rogers had gone missing.

An old roommate claims to have once had a dream about The Rapture in which at first it looked like everyone BUT him had been Raptured away. He wandered around for a while until he finally met another person - Nietschze.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:42 AM on February 12 [5 favorites]


I grew up Baptist, and even when I was a true believer I never understood what point a rapture narrative was trying to tell. So we should be good believers so that we avoid the tribulation? But what is the point of the tribulation if they've already culled the true believers? Is it to punish the non-believers? But isn't that what hell is for? Just ridiculous.
posted by norm at 9:44 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Nietschze: "Ich bin completely satisfied with this outcome."
posted by Iridic at 9:44 AM on February 12


aren't nearly as interested in telling their story as they are in settling the score with their perceived enemies. [...] — those sophisticated “liberal” Christians who refuse to concede the expertise of “Bible prophecy” experts. Just like Left Behind, The Missing Christians is a revenge fantasy in which those evil sophisticates are “proved” wrong and the righteous are proved right.

so basically Atlas Shrugged, except instead of Objectivism, it's fundamentalist Christianity ... but the villains remain the same. Those smug, sophisticated, skeptical east-coast types who insist on seeing complexity everywhere. Also, they know how to have a good time.
posted by philip-random at 9:54 AM on February 12 [8 favorites]


Mr. Rogers was wandering around all along in Heaven wondering where everyone was, and it was kind of a torment for him.

That's the worst thing ever :(
posted by Windigo at 9:58 AM on February 12 [10 favorites]


Tertullian looked forward to hearing the screams of the damned in hell as one of his chief joys in heaven. Nothing new under the sun.
posted by bricoleur at 9:58 AM on February 12


Also, the whole Rapture shabazz is probably based on some random 1800's tangential theological arguments more so than Scripture anyway (I've told the story of a seminarian friend who tried to write something about the Rapture for a theology class, only he was limited to using Scripture as the foundation for his discussion and upon researching the origin of Rapture theory he realized he just plain couldn't).

Essentially true. The End-Times documents that I have read had very little relation to what actually is written in The Bible. (I used to work for a company that sometimes distributed prophecy books and sermons).
posted by ovvl at 9:59 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


To be fair, bouvin, by "2k13", that YouTuber meant 200013, so they've still got 197,999 years left to get their affairs in order.

So the "can't wait" is quite literal in that case.
posted by brundlefly at 10:00 AM on February 12 [3 favorites]


Mr. Rogers was wandering around all along in Heaven wondering where everyone was, and it was kind of a torment for him.

That's the worst thing ever :(


Well it wasnt' a very good story, period.

And thank you for assuming I meant to say "alone."
posted by Naberius at 10:06 AM on February 12


I am going to post that Baptist joke on Facebook. My friends will all "like" it and my relatives will silently seethe with resentment.
posted by goethean at 10:29 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


That joke is as old as the hills, they've probably heard it already.
posted by emjaybee at 10:35 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Young earth creationist hills or evolutionist hills?

Because it makes a difference, believe me.
posted by Naberius at 10:37 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


Why don't we classify Rapturers accurately? As a Death Cult too lazy to do their own suicide so they want their God to do it for them?
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:38 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


Don't forget the Christ Clone trilogy, which asks the question: "What if you cloned Jesus from immortal dermal cells found clinging to the shroud of Turin?"

Spoilers for a recent, and terrible, major network TV series-

"Zero Hour," which only lasted four episodes before unceremoniously being canned, had this. And nazi clones, and clues hidden in Einstein's equations. It's like an even stupider Dan Brown novel, and I watched all of it.

I remember an old textfile where Jesus strides around in a mech and the US military comes in on the side of Satan. It was awesome.
posted by BungaDunga at 10:39 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


For I am the Way and the Truth and the Light and all that jazz.

from The Bible: Bob Fosse Edition
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 10:40 AM on February 12 [13 favorites]



Tertullian looked forward to hearing the screams of the damned in hell as one of his chief joys in heaven. Nothing new under the sun.


"The difference between heaven and hell is which side of the pitchfork you're on" seems to not be an uncommon sentiment.
posted by acb at 10:40 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't read the Left Behind books. First, terrible fiction. Second, Pretrib rapture theology is terrible theology and from what I have been taught is not supported in the Bible (I am not a dispensationalist, of course.)

I think it would be entirely possible to write an excellent end of the age novel, but since there are four (count them, four) viewpoints of eschatology, with various tweaks here and there, which would you pick?
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:52 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


(of course I mean Christian Theology, as I have no real knowledge re what other faiths teach on the topic.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:52 AM on February 12


BigHeartedGuy, not the reading I intended, but now I'm having to stifle laughter at work, so thanks.
posted by Hactar at 10:53 AM on February 12 [1 favorite]


For I am the Way and the Truth and the Light and all that jazz.

from The Bible: Bob Fosse Edition


Yup, he did that: Rhythm of Life from Sweet Charity.
posted by apartment dweller at 10:53 AM on February 12


Fred Clark lost his newspaper job and has had to take a pay cut as a grocery store stocker. He has had some financial difficulties and could really use your support, if you like his writing.
posted by OnceUponATime at 10:58 AM on February 12 [9 favorites]


I'm an atheist, but I thought one of the premises of heaven was that you were "relieved" of your earthly desires, which should mean you have no need/want of "joy".

I think a very strong argument could be made that whatever "being" a human "relieved" of desires was, it wouldn't be the same being that wandered the earth, shallow, petty and judgmental (which is pretty much all of us, minus Fred Rogers).
posted by maxwelton at 10:58 AM on February 12


I'm glad all of you raised in Evangelical / Pentecostal households got over this so well. 12 year old bad-thought and occasionally irresistible-action me took 20 years to really rid the vile notion of a rapture from my system.

IMHO, making the Rapture real to your impressionable kids is a half step away from abuse.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:00 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


I wish I could remember the name of the Christian paperback I read at my aunt's place when I was a kid. The hero was about to commit the Sin of Lust with a girl and then got swarmed by ants. He took this to be a warning from God. 12 year old me just took it as a sign that he was too dumb to realize he was making out on top of an anthill.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:12 AM on February 12 [7 favorites]


since there are four (count them, four) viewpoints of eschatology, with various tweaks here and there, which would you pick?

I dunno, but I'm pretty sure I subscribe to whatever it was that happened at the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:29 AM on February 12 [10 favorites]


Maxwelton, that sounds like Nirvana, not Heaven.

(And it smells like Teen Spirit, but I digress.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:31 AM on February 12


Christ is Coming 2k13, can't wait!

— posted seven months ago...


"2k13" is metric notation meaning "2.13 thousand", ie 2130, so the poster might yet be right, and given the average human life-span runs out long before then, that might also explain why the poster feels incapable of waiting. :)

On preview, beaten to the joke, but not to the metric pedantry :-p
posted by anonymisc at 11:39 AM on February 12


Rapture isn't dull, but I can't listen to the rapping without cringing.
posted by michaelh at 11:52 AM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Tom Perrotta did a novel called "The Leftovers" based on what happens after a rapture-like event. HBO is making a series based on it.

Here's a Roger Ebert review of "The Rapture" film with Mimi Rogers, which is a helpful view of it I think.
posted by gudrun at 12:14 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


I'm glad all of you raised in Evangelical / Pentecostal households got over this so well. 12 year old bad-thought and occasionally irresistible-action me took 20 years to really rid the vile notion of a rapture from my system.

Laughter and critical thinking helps, which is why I think Fred's site is so useful. He has some useful discussions of the history of Hell.

At some point in my journey, I dealt with that fear by deciding that if God was such a massive jerk that he'd pitch me into eternal hellfire for trying to be intellectually honest, then a) I was already doomed so I might as well enjoy myself and b) fuck 'im.

Also the fact that I didn't turn into a baby-eating, gutter-dwelling, heroin-addicted monster when I stopped being a Christian didn't hurt either. Neither did I lose my ability to feel empathy or make moral decisions. Nor did I start hating all those more religious than me.
posted by emjaybee at 12:41 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


I read an essay some time ago which argued that Christianity's Hell originated as a revenge fantasy aimed at the Romans in retribution for the torments inflicted upon Christians in venues like the Coliseum and Nero's garden parties.
posted by jamjam at 12:58 PM on February 12


I dunno, but I'm pretty sure I subscribe to whatever it was that happened at the end of Neon Genesis Evangelion.

I will join your "Church of Strangling Asuka on the Shore for All Eternity" in ein heartbeat.

(or did you mean the TV ending? I guess blissful merging with the rest of humanity is okay too.)
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:05 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


That's not the worst description of Dante's Inferno, which is largely "Dudes I Don't Like Get Punked After Death".
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:06 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


An old roommate claims to have once had a dream about The Rapture in which at first it looked like everyone BUT him had been Raptured away. He wandered around for a while until he finally met another person - Nietschze.

So how long did Nietschze hold out?
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:11 PM on February 12


This Is The End is by far the best rapture movie I've seen at this juncture.
posted by mullingitover at 1:35 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Hang on. That can't be right. So either God is aborting babies from their non-believing mothers, or fetuses are falling on the floor as their christian mothers are raptured away?
posted by Sourisnoire at 1:39 PM on February 12


I've always said that if people really believed that aborted fetuses go straight to heaven, abortion would be a sacrament.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:41 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


: "I've always said that if people really believed that aborted fetuses go straight to heaven, abortion would be a sacrament."

I wondered about this--do christians believe that aborted fetuses would go to hell for some reason? I did some digging, and found the predestination rabbit hole. It turns out God doesn't just factor in what you've done so far, but what you *might've* done later. So it's possible that that fetus would've grown up to be literally Hitler, and God somehow knows this and sends that fetus to hell. Likewise, you could be completely righteous all your life and be struck by a bus immediately after confession, seemingly guaranteeing you safe passage to heaven. Buuuuut...you might've been on track to fall into sin at some point in the future, and God sees this and sends you to hell. Similarly, you could be literally Hitler and be struck down by a bus, but God sees that in the future you were totally going to redeem yourself, so you go straight to heaven.

It's a lot of hand-waving that seems like it was a desperate attempt to deny the logic that aborting your fetuses guarantees they'll go to heaven.

tl;dr: predestination
posted by mullingitover at 1:50 PM on February 12


Fred Clark has some pertinent and *interesting* things to say about the souls of aborted fetuses, too.
posted by sukeban at 2:19 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


the rapture has already happened. a handful of inner-city nuns and monks from remote monasteries were taken, nobody any of us know and it didn't make the wire services.
posted by bruce at 2:26 PM on February 12 [6 favorites]


mullingitover,
Actually, one of the weirder interpretations of heaven and purgatory and hell has to do with the fact that no one is actually in hell yet. Or heaven. The gates are closed and everyone who has died is sitting in purgatory waiting to be judged on Judgement Day. That whole thing about the dead "rising"? That's more along the lines of everyone who has ever lived will be lifted up to heaven to be judged AFTER the return of Jesus, and after the 1000 years of tribulations and the rule of the anti-Christ. The whole Rapture thing is that those who are "holy" enough get to leave Earth early, before all the crazy hell on earth stuff and the whole number of the beast and everything, and get to watch, from the VIP booth while everyone else stays on earth and gets to deal with plagues and demons (well, by some accounts). So what a lot of people believe about "going to heaven when you die" is actually not part of the script. Everyone gets to go to heaven, but not everyone gets past the front door.

A lot of this gets really odd when you start picking apart how a lot of the "sins" have waxed and waned over the years. It also really depends on what era you lived in, too. So anyone who lived before Christs first visit is bound by the Old Testament covenant with God (but only if you were Jewish, sort of, or part of a tribe that were conquered by the Jewish tribes and absorbed into the tribes through marriage or some other means, though that also gets really sticky between children born of a Jewish father and a slave or concubine who was not Jewish, and then you get into arguing matriarchal lineage versus patriarchal lineage before those rules were laid out by Moses in Deuteronomy). So it gets a little messy there. Then you've got the new covenant through Jesus, which sets up a whole bunch of new sins but wipes out a good portion of the Old Testament sins. The Catholic Church set up varying degrees of sin as well, so you have your mortal sins, which are supposed to be straight tickets to hell, and venial sins, which, while frowned upon, aren't necessarily damning offenses.

Though here you have to start digging deeper into what the Catholic Church was versus what it has become. To a greater degree, both in the Old Testament and later with the Catholic Church, the priest class was pretty much the ruling class of those societies. There wasn't any clear separation between The Church and the Kings/rulers. This is part of why there isn't much discussion in the Bible about any separation between the kings and the priests. They were one and the same. During the city-state era of Italy, Rome was just another province and the Pope was essentially the king of Rome. They fought wars and led armies against other city states. While a great deal of the mysticism of the religion of the time centered on allowing the priests and bishops access to other areas of the world, it was essentially just an extension of the former power of the Holy Roman Empire after the "fall" of the pre-feudal societies in Europe. It is hard to imagine, but for centuries, the Church and the various rulers of other provinces and countries used religion more as a tool for attaining and maintaining power, versus any real spiritual considerations. This is also where a lot of the "divine right of kings" political/religious theory was formed and used to maintain the legitimacy of the ruling classes. I mean, who is going to argue with God that the king isn't top dog? Especially if said king has an army to back him up, and the leaders of the church saying so. This also puts a bit of a new spin on the Protestant Reformation, as to a greater degree, what Martin Luther was really saying is "this Pope guy, I don't think he's doing much ruling by divine mandate, he's just lining his pockets." The 95 Theses really did try to pull power back into the priest class as the true representative of God on earth, and not in the figurehead of the Papal Throne. Also of note are the Papal Indulgences, which were a means for rich people to buy their way into heaven, according to canon law. Again, some really weird mixing of divine province and earthly power. On the whole, the rise of secular society and the inroads against theocratic rule is one of the newer (or older, depending on how you interpret pre-Christian Rome and Greece) ideas that gave us a lot better society to live in. What is really frightening is just how many people are indoctrinated into monarchist views due almost solely to religious contexts. Even scarier are people who have lived their entire lives in ostensibly democratic societies, yet would give up everything to be ruled by one person (who may or may not have some kind of actual divine backing, though the anti-theist in me tends to side with the not).

Also of note is just how embedded into pretty much all of human society is the myth of "it's good to be the king." But that's for another rabbit hole.

So basically, anyone who follows the whole Rapture thing as part of the faith is kind of off the reservation, at least if you go by the original sources. And as stated by many people, almost all of it tends to have this massive underlying subtext of "wish fulfillment" and "revenge" more than any kind of spiritual backing.
posted by daq at 4:07 PM on February 12 [5 favorites]


Oh no, he's STILL doing that? How long has it been since he started?

I gave up on Slacktivist after I got the joke. He said that the rapture as described in the bible has been totally misinterpreted. It says the rapture already happened, WE are the ones who got left behind. It's an allegory. LOLBible.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:32 PM on February 12


SMH.


one of these days I am gonna set up a Bible 101 website and when I do 99 percent of my time will be debunking common notions about what the Bible teaches. Shoot, 2/3rds of my own Christian life I was confused.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:41 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


And then there are the more nihilistic interpretations of the Calvinist doctrine predestination, which hold that, because whether we are one of the 144,000 saved or the hellbound remainder has been decided at the start of creation, nothing we do in this life makes a blind bit of difference, which means that there's no point in living piously or virtuously.

Which makes me wonder how many killing rampages were carried out by devoutly religious souls labouring under the burden of (a) knowing that, statistically, they are almost certainly bound for eternal torment, and (b) nothing that they do in this world can change this one way or the other.
posted by acb at 5:03 PM on February 12


Blessed are the confused, for only they see the whole world.
posted by benito.strauss at 5:40 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


emjaybee: "At some point in my journey, I dealt with that fear by deciding that if God was such a massive jerk that he'd pitch me into eternal hellfire for trying to be intellectually honest, then a) I was already doomed so I might as well enjoy myself and b) fuck 'im."

"Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear." -T. Jefferson
posted by notsnot at 5:55 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


This is absolutely fascinating reading. Sent my donation.
posted by eamondaly at 7:42 PM on February 12 [2 favorites]


Bigger Than Phil: When did faith start to fade?
posted by homunculus at 7:45 PM on February 12 [1 favorite]


Blessed are the confused, for only they see the whole world.

No one is more impartial than a man who has no idea what's going on
posted by philip-random at 7:50 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


Just like Left Behind, The Missing Christians is a revenge fantasy in which those evil sophisticates are “proved” wrong and the righteous are proved right.

so basically Atlas Shrugged, except instead of Objectivism, it's fundamentalist Christianity


I would posit that both Atlas Shrugged & Left Behind actually belong to a larger "revenge fantasy" genre also populated by the infamous Turner Diaries. You can practically build a checklist of white supremacist enemy stereotypes and just mark each one off as it appears, cartoonishly performs its sin against the White Race and ends up getting its usually bloody comeuppance. The parallels among the three books are really quite striking if you have the intestinal fortitude to read them all.
posted by scalefree at 8:36 PM on February 12 [4 favorites]


I think there's something to say about the fact that The Inferno is the only third of The Divine Comedy anybody remembers.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:19 PM on February 12 [3 favorites]


It would almost be worth it to be left behind to see /r/atheism on the day after. Top rated post is: "OMG WTF!! Guys I'm a Christian now!" and just below it is: "<puffin.jpg> DAE think we're better off without them?"
posted by honestcoyote at 4:52 AM on February 13


He said that the rapture as described in the bible has been totally misinterpreted. It says the rapture already happened, WE are the ones who got left behind. It's an allegory.

My recollection is that the bible doesn't say a damn thing (ahem) about the rapture.
posted by norm at 9:37 AM on February 13


My recollection is that the bible doesn't say a damn thing (ahem) about the rapture.

Well, yes and no. When people point to the Biblical "evidence" for the Rapture, they are talking about the Book of Revelations, and a lot of the Rapture eschatology does come from that text. The mistake comes in thinking that it is Literal Future Prediction - that's the bit that Rapture believers added in.

The thing about "the Rapture already happened" is maybe a way of saying that the events alluded to in Revelation already happened, and that is arguably the case; if, that is, you take into account that Revelations was meant either allegorically or poetically. There's indeed a credible argument to be made that the "Beast" they're talking about is Emperor Nero, and thus Revelations is talking about the ultimate fall of the Roman Empire and the ultimate victory of Christianity; and well, yeah, that happened.

As to whether Revelations was meant as a literal future-telling, an allegorical story meant to bring comfort, an allegorical story meant to bitch about the Romans, a poetic story meant as a parable, or a totally tripped-out sci-fi story, that's anyone's guess.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:53 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


talking about the ultimate fall of the Roman Empire and the ultimate victory of Christianity; and well, yeah, that happened.

except for the part about a thousand years of peace. We're still waiting for that. I personally like the overall take on the so-called Holy Bible as ...

1. a tribal history of the Jews (Old Testament)

2. reportage concerning the life and death and everlasting life of our alleged savior, Jesus Christ (Gospels)

3. detailed history of the establishment of the greatest bureaucracy humans ever created, the Holy Roman Church (rest of New Testament, except the last bit)

4. mad and poetic and psychedelic and ultimately triumphant (if you're a believer) final chapter in which everything is revealed; you just need the right kind of eyes and ears to grasp it, thus continued employment for so-called holy men (Book of Revelations)
posted by philip-random at 10:19 AM on February 13


I subscribe to point 4 for the whole Bible.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:23 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


I think there's something to say about the fact that The Inferno is the only third of The Divine Comedy anybody remembers.

That was my response to what daq wrote above; that what it actually means (and meant) to be a sinner in the Church's eyes has evolved so drastically, and yet is supposed to include every sentient being that has ever lived in some allegedly just and righteous scheme, you end up with Dante writing what amounts to a poetical PowerPoint presentation describing where everyone is supposed to go--and yet the revenge/wish-fulfillment part of it (including the disposition of a few individual sinners) is the part that stuck. Even as a twelve-year-old, which is the age at which I was old enough to read the DC and young enough (or still involved in the Church enough) to accept its premises, my interest in it withered once I'd gotten past Satan in his frozen lake. (Although it's interesting to contrast it now with the middle third or so of Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III's Promethea, which details a corresponding journey with the title character and her predecessor along the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, and also doubles as Moore's Magic 101 course.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:38 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Wasn't this Rapture stuff basically invented out of whole cloth in the 19th Century by some itinerant preacher?
posted by thelonius at 1:12 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Wasn't this Rapture stuff basically invented out of whole cloth in the 19th Century by some itinerant preacher?

I believe you're looking for John Nelson Darby, yes.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:36 PM on February 13 [3 favorites]


Wasn't this Rapture stuff basically invented out of whole cloth in the 19th Century by some itinerant preacher?

It's a triumph of exegesis, for certain values of "triumph".
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:53 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]


As to whether Revelations was meant as a literal future-telling, an allegorical story meant to bring comfort, an allegorical story meant to bitch about the Romans, a poetic story meant as a parable, or a totally tripped-out sci-fi story, that's anyone's guess.

There was also the claim that the island of Patmos (sp?) where John of Revelation wrote the book was also famed for its hallucinogenic mushrooms.
posted by acb at 4:24 PM on February 13


The thing about "the Rapture already happened" is maybe a way of saying that the events alluded to in Revelation already happened, and that is arguably the case;

Where is my lake of fire? They promised me a lake of fire.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:24 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]


Lake Erie in the 70s
posted by drezdn at 5:47 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Er.... The Cuyahoga River in 1969.
posted by drezdn at 5:49 AM on February 14 [2 favorites]


REM even wrote a song about it.
posted by philip-random at 9:51 AM on February 14


So did Randy Newman. One of his best songs, I think.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:43 AM on February 14 [1 favorite]


Catholicism teaches us that there are the following things: Earth (that's sort of the pre-episode recap), Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, and Limbo. Earth is where you get spat out, with your ultimate goal being to get into Heaven. Hell is comprehensively bad. Purgatory is even worse than hell (at least how it was taught to us) except it's only for a little bit, whereas Hell is forever.

Limbo is where the unbaptized babies go, which is even more fucked-up than anything else.

I think there's something to say about the fact that The Inferno is the only third of The Divine Comedy anybody remembers.

That's because it is the most vividly and viscerally imagined. That's how you know something is written by a man and not a god, when it's just a whole bunch of torture and punishment and stabbing and stoning.

Purgatory is a bit of a yawn but there's some okay stuff in there, and Paradise is just as dull as a sink full of boring.

The church can think up some wicked evil stuff, but when it comes to nice stuff? "You get to look at God...forever." Well, God is either coming up with some HBO-level entertainment (I hope y'all are watching True Detective), or he's cat videos.

Fun fact: you can still see Heaven from Hell, so that means you can still see God (since God is Heaven). And since the whole point of going to Heaven is just so you can look at God - because God is literally the best thing to look at in the universe, better than anything that can be imagined - then the actual reality of Hell almost doesn't matter, because the overwhelming magnificence of the omnipotent deity would cancel out the hot pokers etc. You would forget everything else because you could see God.

The church thought this was adding a nice little touch of meanness to an already fucked-up story, but they actually put their collective foot in it.

So, no matter how it pans out, this little loophole means that you will ultimately be okay. The actual worst place to be is Limbo.

That's how I remember my Catechism class, anyway.
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:52 PM on February 16


Wasn't this Rapture stuff basically invented out of whole cloth in the 19th Century by some itinerant preacher?

I think the Rapture is a lightly altered version of the 5th Century Catholic idea of The Harrowing of Hell:
In the context of Christian theology, the Harrowing of Hell (Latin: Descensus Christi ad Inferos, "the descent of Christ into hell") is the Old English and Middle English term for the triumphant descent of Christ into Hell (or Hades) between the time of his Crucifixion and his Resurrection when he brought salvation to all of the righteous who had died since the beginning of the world (excluding the damned).[1]
posted by jamjam at 11:37 AM on February 17


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