Monday, September 21, 2009
The Rapture (revised version)
As a kid I used to read those horrendous/disturbing/hilarious "Chick Tracts" - those, little cartoon tracts that express some of the most extreme Fundamentalist theology out there; e.g. Catholics aren't really Christians and the Pope is the Anti-Christ, role-playing games are a recruiting tool for full blown witchcraft and Satan worship, "Christian" rock musicians have sold their soul to Lucifer, STDs are God's punishment for having sex outside of marriage, etc. Even back then I knew there was something not quite right about their theology.

Anyhow, maybe you've seen this one that deals with the End Times and the Rapture:

Well postmodern philosopher/writer/iconoclast Pete Rollins just recently took this whole theme and created a parody version of a Chick Tract, but with a very different message.

Unfortunately the whole tract is not up online yet (though you can see a few panels here), and currently the only way to get a copy is in person from Pete (which Julie managed to do this past weekend at a conference they were both speaking at). However Pete did post the basic text of it online and I've copied it below. Read it all the way through to get to the twist at the end.

The Rapture

by Peter Rollins

Just as it was written by those prophets of old, the last days of the Earth overflowed with suffering and pain. In those dark days a huge pale horse rode through the Earth with Death upon its back and Hell in its wake. During this great tribulation the Earth was scorched with the fires of war, rivers ran red with blood, the soil withheld its fruit and disease descended like a mist. One by one all the nations of the Earth were brought to their knees.

Far from all the suffering, high up in the heavenly realm, God watched the events unfold with a heavy heart. An ominous silence had descended upon heaven as the angels witnessed the Earth being plunged into darkness and despair. But this could only continue for so long for, at the designated time, God stood upright, breathed deeply and addressed the angels,

"The time has now come for me to separate the sheep from the goats, the healthy wheat from the inedible chaff"

Having spoken these words God slowly turned to face the world and called forth to the church with a booming voice,

"Rise up and ascend to heaven all of you who have who have sought to escape the horrors of this world by sheltering beneath my wing. Come to me all who have turned from this suffering world by calling out 'Lord, Lord'".

In an instant millions where caught up in the clouds and ascended into the heavenly realm. Leaving the suffering world behind them.

Once this great rapture had taken place God paused for a moment and then addressed the angels, saying,

"It is done, I have separated the people born of my spirit from those who have turned from me. It is time now for us leave this place and take up residence in the Earth, for it is there that we shall find our people. The ones who would forsake heaven in order to embrace the earth. The few who would turn away from eternity itself to serve at the feet of a fragile, broken life that passes from existence in but an instant."

And so it was that God and the heavenly host left that place to dwell among those who had rooted themselves upon the earth. Quietly supporting the ones who had forsaken God for the world and thus who bore the mark God. The few who had discovered heaven in the very act of forsaking it.

Just speaking personally, I love Pete's twist on this dispensationalist doctrine. I grew up with this kind of eschatology - indeed, until I got to college I had never even heard there were any other beliefs about the end times, nor that "the Rapture" was an extra-biblical concept invented by an English sectarian in the mid-1800s - and while it's been a long time since I've held to those beliefs (not since a former pastor introduced me to preterism), I don't think I realized until reading Pete's tract just how self-serving and uncompassionate the theology of Rapture truly is. It's all about escape - about leaving behind a world of suffering people so that all us Christians can go relax and party in heaven while our friends and neighbors and loved ones are stuck down here to endure hell on earth. But what in the world could that sort of message have to do with the Christian gospel about a Suffering Servant who came down from heaven to live among us and offer to help bear our burdens? What does it have to do with the message this Suffering Servant proclaimed about God's will being done "on earth as it is in heaven", and NOT "may we escape this earth to go live with God in heaven"? I love Pete's message that it is those who care more about the suffering and injustice in this world than they do about escaping it to be with God that are actually closest to God's own heart. To me that's what it really means to be a follower of Jesus, the Suffering Servant.

Anyhow, I hope these tracts become available for bulk-order soon. I think it's a message that needs to get out there, and I for one will be more than willing to hand them out on street corners or leave them at restaurants in lieu of a tip in order to help spread the good news. (Just kidding about that last bit though. I would be willing to take them around to a few fundamentalist churches though and slip them into the tract rack when they're not looking. ;)

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posted by Mike Clawson at 11:44 PM | Permalink |


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