Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Grab your Snuggies and run!

The end is near, you guys. I know, I know. Somebody's been saying that for the last 2,000 years, but now there's a new fiction series out about it, and that MAKES IT TRUE.

If any of you, like me, were blessed and cursed to grow up surrounded by Christian commercial culture in the 90s, you probably remember the "Left Behind" book series. For the unfamiliar, the 264 or so books (I think there were actually 12) chronicled a fictionalized account of the time described Revelation from the Rapture, through the tribulation to the second coming of Christ on earth. When I was in junior high or high school, I read the first four or five books and then gave up (or grew up... I think the two went together). 

Maybe you've been thinking, Gee, I wish there was a new series of fear-mongering, dread-inducing but creatively-bland and therefore Christian bookseller-approved books I could jump into for the summer. You're in luck! Tim LaHaye has returned, and they made a preview for the series! 

Please, please watch the trailer on YouTube. Shame his publisher couldn't get his name right.

We're living in the end times, also frequently called last days! Yes. this is true. People in the 1960s lived in the end times, too. As did people in the 1860s, the 1200s and the disciples, one week after Jesus took off back to heaven. The end times are nothing new. 

Don't get me wrong. I love Jesus. I believe in the truth of the Bible. I went to an evangelical seminary, for crying out loud. But these "prophetic" novels drive me nuts. Jesus could return at any moment! But probably not before you have a chance to pick up LaHaye's latest book. Still, you never know. Better get it soon, just in case. 

But what concerns me most about this is when LaHaye says, 'People intuitively believe the Bible...when push comes to shove, like it did on 9/11, people en masse turned to God.'

I have a few problems with this. One, I don't think people intuitively believe the Bible. I do believe that people intuitively believe in God, or at least often want to, but the Bible is another matter. Maybe it's just that I'm too cynical--maybe I've been in Portland too long. (Evidence of this: Portlanders, remember the PDXBoom last month? Classic tweet from that night, via @msfour: "best #pdxboom theory: it was the Rapture, which is why all of PDX is still here")

Two, I am really tired of 9/11 getting invoked for absolutely everything. 

Two-b)(or not two-b, haha) the fact that people turned to something en masse is not an evidence of its validity. 

To wit, here are some other things people have turned to en masse, just in the past, oh, century or so:
  • the Macarena
  • pet rocks
  • sea monkeys
  • goldfish swallowing
  • bowler hats
  • the Twilight saga 
  • perms
I don't offer up this list to mock God. But what I do offer it for is to show that the fact that people can turn to something in large numbers doesn't mean anything if it doesn't last. I'm sure some people had life-changing spiritual experiences on 9/11/01. Others prayed because they panicked. And a week later, when their city wasn't attacked, they forgot the prayers. 

We don't pray to sea monkeys for protection, and we don't carry pet rocks as talismans to predict the future. Yet, if this video is to be believed, we can treat God that way. 

Third and final thing: LaHaye has built a career based on fictional stories about future events, and, again, from what I see in the video and my knowledge of the Left Behind series alone, has built a theology around a very difficult and obtuse section of the biblical text--a theology that states that your fear is warranted, and that God exists to pluck us all from peril. 

Time and time again, the Bible showcases stories of people who are in terrible shape.Their lives are falling apart, sometimes as consequences of their actions, and sometimes by no fault of their own. And what we see time and time again is not a God who raptures His people away to set them on streets of gold, but a God who refuses to abandon them, even when they have cursed and denied Him with every breath they have been given. And we have. People don't intuitively believe the Bible, they don't run to God instinctively. They (we) run away, and because He's good, He pursues us.

Whew! That got a bit more preachy than I had intended, but like everything, I think it's all connected. Please don't be sucked in by end times paranoia. It's unnecessary, it's typically commercial, and it's designed to frighten you into belief, which is no belief at all. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this, especially if you come from a different background than I do. What do these kinds of stories do for (or to) you?


  1. I agree with you Heather. I don't like it when people try and scare people into faith. I dont think faith comes from fear. Sometimes maybe hope comes from fear (as in people who hope there in an afterlife, but dont really have faith that there is).
    Books, movies and sermons that cause people to act like fearful sheep make me a little angry. I think a lot of the hate and ignorance in this world comes from people who prey on people's fears. I'm not at all familiar with the books you reference- so I'm not implying they do that at all- I'm just saying you look at some of the "crazy" people in the world and you often find scared people.
    The scripture stories that mean the most to me are the ones that show that even in the face of adversity, people's faith (and resulting strength) can get them through it. Not that God saves people from their problems- that faith in Him helps them to endure.
    Hope that makes sense! I enjoy your blog!

  2. Turned onto en masse? TWITTER!

  3. I love a believer with a sense of humor!

  4. I remember growing up and my mom and dad made me watch those cheesy 70's movies about the rapture that scared the living bejeepers out of me and still does. I find your blog interesting for this morning while I was taking a shower, the song, "I wish we'd all been ready" by D.C. Talk was in my head. I agree that people shouldn't be "feared" into believing in the bible and God. However... we know that God should be feared. Maybe that's the message that gets lost in translation.
    Awesome blog Miss Heather.

  5. "fear-mongering, dread-inducing" Love that phrase. That immediately made me think of the measures people were taking to prepare for the total collapse of civilization as we know it -- the moment the clock struck 12:01 on January 1, 2000.