Smile Politely

Are You Rapture-Ready?


I have bad news for just about everyone: As of Monday, May 12, 2008, the rapture index hit 170. If this seems like an arbitrary number to you, like saying the cloud index is 67 or the UFO index is 329, then it is likely you are not quite ready for the rapture, and could use a visit to Rapture Ready.

According to the folks at Rapture Ready, the rapture index is a way to gather various end-time components into one cohesive indicator, a veritable “Dow Jones Industrial Average of end time activity.” They want to introduce standardization to the wild and highly unstructured field of prophesy reporting. This is important, since rapturoligists have been known to just make stuff up to better fit their worldview.

An index of 170 is apparently bad news (if you’re not excited for the end of the world, that is), because all the other RI numbers on the site for the last three years are lower. Indeed, they have a handy chart further down the page that verifies how concerned we should be today:

100 and Below: Slow prophetic activity
100 to 130: Moderate prophetic activity
130 to 160: Heavy prophetic activity
Above 160: Fasten your seat belts

Even though it seems like the index is just some arbitrary number, it is really a compilation of arbitrary numbers from specific (but arbitrary) categories, added together and finally placed within an arbitrary range of numbers. So, it’s not arbitrary. It’s science, because there are numbers involved, very precise numbers. And numbers can determine how close we are to Jesus undermining almost everything he ever said about how to treat others in order to rain death and destruction on non-believers.

Perhaps I am being unfair. After all, not all of the 45 categories are completely arbitrary. There are the usual suspects of False Christs, Satanism, Famine, Drought and Floods, to which any self-respecting rapturoligist can assign a good, high number. It even includes some categories that I agree indicate that the end of our world is nearing, like the Oil Supply, Arms Proliferation and even Lack of Civil Rights.

But there are clues that the Rapture Ready folks were given twice the usual amount of crazy. For example, they include categories like Liberalism, The Peace Process, Ecumenism and Beast Government. If Israel signs a peace treaty, it must be with the Anti-Christ, so therefore, peace is a bad sign. Ecumenism is exactly the same as pluralism, so when a “palace of religions” is built in Italy, this tolerance for other religions must anger God. Beast Government is about a ten-headed state, so when the 27-country European Union signs any kind of accord, this is a sign that God is about to kill us all.

However, my favorite category is Date Setters: “To create confusion ahead of Christs [sic] return, Satan will likely continue to motivate people to set dates. Being exposed to date settings [sic], observably makes non-Christians hostile to the end-time message.” Yes, it’s a good thing websites like Rapture Ready exist, so that non-Christians know that not all rapturoligists are kooks.

As much fun as I like to poke at the rapture, I do understand its appeal. In my worst moments, I daydream that I will be whisked away to heaven for my beliefs, while everyone who disagrees with me must deal with seven (or a thousand) years of payback in the form of pestilence, global violence and disaster.

But when an end-times, rapture mentality morphs into abandonment of the problems of the world, or even worse, as a way to see the problems of the world as a good thing, it becomes a cowardly approach to life. Instead of doing the hard work of building a better future for everyone and of struggling to get along with people who hold very different beliefs, it becomes a way to run and hide. Or perhaps run to a safe distance and then throw rocks.

For Jesus, what mattered was not belief in this or that prophesy, but in how we treat each other. To him, all of holy law can be summed up as: 1). Love God; and 2). Love Your Neighbor As Yourself. He doesn’t say you have to agree with your neighbor to love him or her. I can be angry at the Rapture Ready folks for fostering a belief system that results in hostility towards the environment, towards peace, towards international cooperation and towards religious unity. But I must treat them as neighborly as I can, no matter how badly they mistreat others. Maybe that means thinking of them as the various scary uncles I occasionally see at family reunions. We may not agree with each other about much, but we have at least learned to smile politely at each other. I guess that’s a good start.

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