Wednesday, January 4, 2012
If The Rapture Comes, Can I have Your Lexus?
Tonight is the big night. After a day of loafing and a late dinner, little more than a snack of left over ham and some wheat bread, Karl took a cool shower to wake up. And all the time—
through the mouthful of bread and meat, the sulking with chin in hand, the late nap, the cold water and soap—the same thought was constantly there. Tonight is the night.
Coming out of the shower, he ran his hand over his rasping
beard stubble and thought of shaving. But then, what's the use?
What's the use of anything? Tonight is the night.
In the mirror, his face, still young looking thanks to excellent health care,
nano-bot infusions, and hormone injections, looked tired. Behind
the eyes, whatever was living behind the eyes that would be
snuffed out by this time tomorrow, that person no longer felt
from "The Rapture" by C. Sanchez-Garcia
appearing in Coming Together As One Ed. Alessia Brio
The end of the world is coming this year, sometime around December 21 2012 right after the presidential elections and just before Christmas and hopefully after dinner, I suppose. This is somehow according to the Mayan calendar. Archaeologists are quick to point out the Mayans never actually said the world will end then, they just stop writing or projecting records past that point, which doesn’t make it any less amazing, oh, those cute Mayans. I guess what I wonder about is, why do so many people seem to be so thrilled at the idea?
The first time I ever came across the end of the world in fiction was in Arthur C Clarke’s Retrospective Hugo Award (who knew there was such a thing?) winning story “The Nine Billion Names of God”. There are these Tibetan monks, oh those cute Tibetans, who have this idea that the Universe was created to list the names of God and then it will come to an end. They’ve been doing it by hand for three hundred years and they’ve made some progress, but its tedious going. Then they discover computers. Computers are so much better at this and a couple of Americans come to install the operation for some good money and get it going and think the monks are crazy and bound for disappointment but when the last name of God ticks out – whoa, sonuvabitch.
So I’m wondering whether to max out my credit cards between now and December 21 and what to do about that book club. The Mayans presumably weren’t Christian, or evangelical Christians at best, but it’s the Evangelicals who seem to be the most enthusiastic in this business. Tim Lahaye’s Left Behind series of books has sold roughly fifty million copies world wide, out grossing, in many senses of the term, Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth” which was a big deal in the 70’s. It would be interesting to know how seriously Jesus’ admonitions to give all you have to the poor fit into that kind of wealth.
Along with lucrative book deals, the Rapture has provided some good side businesses as well. Worried if your pet hasn’t accepted Christ as it’s savior just yet? There are services, notably run by atheists, who will be glad to babysit your animals until they change the policy up above;
Aw shucks, everybody else got raptured and you weren’t? Are you screwed? Not necessarily, go for Plan B at:
And Mayor Bloomberg assures us that if the Rapture occurs there will be a suspension of alternate parking rules.
It’s a lovely world generally, in spite of what we’re doing to it, why do people want so badly for it to end?
Tim LaHaye explained where the idea for his million dollar book project first came to him:
"This is an idea that the Lord gave me when I was on a plane. The airline captain came out of his cave and he started flirting with the head stewardess. I noticed that he had a wedding ring on. She did not. I began to see the sparks flying between these two and as he went back into the [cockpit], I got to thinking, "What if the Rapture occurred right now? On this plane, a third of these people would be gone. It would be pandemonium." I imagined this guy, married to I assumed, a Christian, and all of the sudden it would dawn on him, "When I get home, my wife will be gone, and I have been left behind." That’s where the title came from."
I would imagine the other two thirds of surprised passengers left behind on the plane would be very grateful for the Captain’s flirting with a woman if that was all it took to land them safely on the tarmac.
According to Wikipedia, people expected the end of the world in 1844, no less than three times which inadvertantly gave rise to the Bahai movement, not a bad thing. Then 1981, 1988, 1989 and 1992, 1993, 1994, then it got a little rest and was predicted again by Harold Camping and the Family Radio ministries (they often had their cheerfully painted bus parked outside my Starbucks, which was kind of charming, in a '70s way, as if the Grateful Dead might be in town for a show) for May 21st of 2011, and when that misfired moved it up to October 21st and when that didn’t seem to go anywhere, left it alone, at least until December 21st this year. I suppose it was better than the dark paranoia of worrying if the rapture had come in May and you were one of the leftovers and didn’t know it.
Let's play a game, you and me. Listen -
You and I are talking here in my favorite Starbucks at Barnes and Noble where the cute barrista girls know me by name (a talisman against being raptured) and at this moment while you sip the White Chocolate Mocha With a Double Back Flip Espresso Shot and Macchiato Caramel Twist I’ve paid for – Oh! and also a cheesecake, some Cheesecake Factory Red Velvet cheesecake, mmm - MMM! Good! – so in this luxurious situation, which is conducive to sinful behavior later, in fact you know with certainty your house is on fire.
Your house is on fire. Seriously on fire.
You have children in the house, and the door is locked from the outside and cannot be opened, and just to be sure I boarded up the damn windows too. As we are talking and nibbling on cheesecake and woo-woo coffee, you know with a certainty your children are roasting alive and cannot be rescued, thanks to me.
But, don't worry. You're okay. You're with me. Enjoy your cheesecake.
So how are your babies doing right now? Let's get a feel for it, try this -
Turn on the burner of your stove, set it to high. Wait till the coils are nice and red. Hold your head over it and I will accommodate you by pressing the side of your head down hard on the red coils. I will hold your head down as long as it takes me to sing the first verse of “Nearer My God to Thee”. When you try to raise your head your ear and most of your face will stay behind on that burner.
That’s what’s happening to your children right now while you and I are having coffee and praising me indefinately for the nice cheesecake.
And by the way – it usually takes a long time to die by burning to death. Ask Joan of Arc.
Are you enjoying your cheesecake? Not so much? A little distracted are we?
And you'd better keep on thanking me for that cheesecake, little buddy. Or I might change my mind.
I don’t understand people who love the idea of the Rapture. Or the end of the world, because they think it won't include them. What will heaven be for people who rejoice in luxury while those they loved and brought into the world are in the worst physical and emotional misery? What does it say about you if you’re okay with that and you’re willing to spend eternity praising The Guy who locked your kids in that burning house?
To my way of thinking the rapture, or any self serving desire for the world to end for the rest of us, represents that most insidious and universal of spiritual diseases – spiritual pride. The desire to be elite and somehow superior in God’s eyes, which perhaps more than any other single idea in the Gospels was openly dispised by Jesus, who went out of his way to preach the opposite of spiritual pride. This was an idea that screwed me over for a long time, and the only cure is when you finally reach that broken place where you’re not sure what’s going on and no longer believe you know.
Before I finish, how about a Bible story, a good one from 1 Kings 19: 9-13 about the prophet Elijah. I've always liked this story. Maybe you will.
Elijah goes up on Mount Sinai, where Moses received the ten commandments and he knows, I forget how, that God is going to pass by there. It is, after all, God’s mountain. So he’s hiding in a cave. The Bible says a great strong wind passed by that split the mountains and smashed rocks, but God was not in the wind. And then there was a huge earthquake, but the Bible says God was not in the earthquake. Then there was this huge fire burning the forest, but God was not in the fire.
Then the Good Book says there was a silence. A very powerful silence. A silence so strong that Elijah threw his mantle over his face and came out of the cave. A still voice came to him from the silence. It never says God spoke to him. It says a small voice came to him how of the deep, compelling silence.
“What are you doing here, Elijah?”