Sorry, Jerry, sorry Pat. No James, Tony, Tom - and especially not you George - you're not going to be snatched up bodily to Heaven, nekkid as the day you were born, your shriveled grey Republican asses extracted by the Lord from your 1000-dollar suits, leaving them in a puddle on the drivers seat of your SUV or the pulpit of your mega-church.
You're not the elect, the just or even, we suspect, the saved, who because of your incomparable virtue will be whisked out of harms way by the aforementioned Lord when he comes to wreak genocidal revenge on billions of us unelect, unjust and unsaved. You're the latest in a millennia-long line of money-grubbing power-hungry hypocrites and hucksters who offer the lonely, threatened, frustrated, and as always, those with a limited supply of marbles, a lovely lie. Not only are they saved but those they hate, fear, envy and blame are damned! Not only will they be snatched up to heaven way ahead of schedule, but - A Special Final Days offer! - they DON'T HAVE TO DIE! That's the beauty part of the Rapture, a new American twist on an old, old Euro-scam: no massive heart attack, no terminal cancer, no being crushed by a truck on I-95. You're snatched up to heaven just the way you are.
(Though judging by my current book tour through the Bible Belt the Lord's going to get a hernia snatching up some of those Baptist babes).
The Rapture is an all-American, jumbo-colossal, Southern-style end-times racket. (Super-save me Jesus!) It makes all previous religious opiates look like Sominex.
The world's been ending ever since the Book of Revelation was penned, supposedly by the apostle John but more likely by some 1st century acid-casualty who'd eaten too much moldy bread. The Rapture however is new - dreamed up by one John Nelson Darby, an Irish lawyer turned Anglican priest, in the 1830s. His loopy biblical interpretations divide all history into seven ages or dispensations and declare - surprise surprise! - that Jesus' precepts are inoperative until he returns. This will be heralded by...the Rapture.
Darby was defrocked by the Anglican Church and most of his pals regarded him as deranged. But his ravings spread like kudzu in the fertile soil of 19th century American evangelical fundamentalism. A century and a half later the Rapture is taken as literal truth according to reliable estimates - eg Kevin Phillips - by a third of the nation, who, needless to say, will be the only Rapturees.
For two thousand years this kind of drivel stayed on the spittle-flecked straw-in-the-hair lunatic fringe but now in 21st century America, it's front and center, driving the domestic and foreign policy, the social and moral agenda, the spending power, and worst of all, the military, of the most powerful nation on earth. Just to get some idea of how it's affecting not just policy but the whole standing of the nation in the world, here's a few paltry matters seen in Rapturous light:
Since Christ is right around the corner global warming and Kyoto don't matter because the planet only has few years to go anyway. So belch out that pollution - Christ don't give a shit. Ditto drilling offshore in Virginia and Alaska, logging ancient forests, trepanning whole mountains to get at the coal. Gotta keep those SUVs and Macmansions running. Gotta have some place to be Raptured from.
A $7-trillion deficit and bankrupting the nation with debt doesn't matter either, because we'll never have to pay it down. Katrina doesn't matter because it's a biblically prophesied sign Christ is at hand. What's the point in saving lives that'll end soon anyway? Ditto eradicating AIDS. Anyway it's punishment for your vile abominations.
9/11 doesn't matter in fact it's desirable because it proves Christ is right around the corner. Ditto pitching a few nukes into the raging firestorm of the Mid-East because it will actually bring him back quicker!
As the hero of my new book (who happens to be the true Christ returned) puts it: "That's not Christianity, that's insanity."
The media-academic-publishing crowd in which I tend to move dismiss crap like the Rapture in offhand faith-bashing agnostic terms that may make them feel like pious heirs of the Enlightenment, but alienate their natural political allies, Christian moderates, or moderates of other beliefs who are as appalled by fundamentalist terror-squads as they are. People the Loyal Opposition desperately needs.
Almost as counterproductive are those who, being largely ignorant of the religious issues involved, get squeamish about coming down too hard on 'people of faith' even if they're transparently liars, killers and thieves. (Couple days ago in Huffpost Stephen Gyllenhaal in an otherwise admirable piece about the utter immorality of nukes did just this apropos Bush - being-a-man-of-faith-he-can't-be-all-bad kinda thing). Worst of all is the Fundamentalism Lite gang: add a little Baptist catnip to your left-of-center agenda and the right-of-center will desert the ship of state like rats. Forget that. You can get rid of the pandering poltroon in the Oval Office, but this behemoth is gonna sail right on.
Can it be sunk? Yeah, possibly. But I'm saving how for Part 2: When Judgment comes will The Left Be Left Behind?