Shuck and Jive

Opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of the congregation I joyfully serve. But my congregation loves me!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Rapture Wrap-up

I am back. My character "Secretary 9B8 Gamma Sector" has returned to my closet of weird thoughts. My spoof on the Rapture has ended. Doing this Rapture spoof has been enlightening on a number of levels. I realize that a lot of people take this seriously! This blog is no powerhouse. Usually I get about 60-70 unique visitors a day on average. During these rapture posts, my site meter jumped to around 130 visitors a day, and on July 6th it was 351! Most of these visitors were searching for "rapture" or "July 7th," and somehow found me. I even had to moderate comments after one person thought a violent threat was in order.

What is it with this Rapture business? Barbara Rossing, a theologian and Lutheran minister, wrote The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation. To get an idea of where she is coming from, here is an interview with her from the Wittenberg Door. This is a snippet:
The first sentence of my book is, "The rapture is a racket," and I think it's important for your readers to know that the whole rapture is a fiction. It was invented by British preacher John Nelson Darby in the 1830s as part of his system of biblical interpretation called dispensationalism. (Read More)
When asked what she wants to expose about the Book of Revelation, she answers:

The Book of Revelation exposes the oppression and domination of the Roman Empire for first century Christians. The question for today is, "What needs exposing in our culture?" In my view, it is the violent and dangerous "gospel" of books like Left Behind that leads to war and an eagerness for Armageddon.

I applaud Rossing for this book, especially as it is from a clergy person. Sam Harris in his book End of Faith saves his harshest criticisms not for religious fundamentalists but for the mainline moderate and liberal Christians who harbor them. I think what he means by "harbor" is that the mainline congregations continue to cling to mythology without being clear that it is mythology. We don't provide nearly enough critical examination of the Bible and of the creeds. Christians across the liberal to conservative spectrum continue to be apologists for creeds that do not make sense any longer.

When we continue to mouth creeds and platitudes about incarnation, resurrection, the word of God, the last days, and so forth, without providing historical-critical evaluation of what these symbols meant to those who wrote about them, we allow the fundamentalists to take over the tradition and turn it into violent ignorance, ie. the Rapture.

When 59% of Americans believe that "the events" of the
Book of Revelation will occur in the future, the mainline church is obviously failing at providing religious literacy.

How do we begin to correct this? We need to teach people how to read the Bible critically. I have done this exercise with my previous two congregations and I am going to lead my current congregation through a Year with the Bible. I am producing a guidebook with quiz questions and everything! We will even have prizes! More details to come. I am also curious regarding the success of other clergy in introducing religious literacy to their congregations.