Ohdamn. Did everybody in the world know about this except me? Chris D. casually mentions that The Rapture is scheduled for May 21. Yes, this May 21. And here I am, not ready once again.
I missed the ones in 1844, 1914,1918, 1925, and 1942. But for those, I had the excuse of not being born. I also completely blew past the Raptures of 1975, 1981, 1988, 1989, 1992 (both of them), 1993, 1994 (both of them), and 1995. I had far less excuse for missing all those, especially since they were coming at a pretty regular clip, there toward the (you’ll pardon the expression) end.
Now next month there’s another opportunity to watch all the chosen people float blissfully into the sky while we rejects get stuck here on Earth. I’ll probably end up forgetting to watch that one, too. Ah well, at least I won’t have long to regret. The same guy who says The Rapture’s due on May 21 says the world will be destroyed by fire on October 21. Hm. Maybe there’s really something to that global warming theory, after all.
But wait. Wasn’t there supposed to be a Tribulation first? Or does that come after? I get so confused, and rightly so according to Wikipedia’s Rapture entry. Turns out there are Raptures set for pretribulation, mid-tribulation, post-tribulation, and (gulp!) pre-wrath. Not to mention partial Raptures in which only certain Christians get to go while those who don’t make the cut have to stay here with us rascals. No wonder I can’t keep track!
It’s a wonder I’ve become so cavalier about The Latest Rapture. I remember the first time I ever heard of the concept. It was just about the most horrifying Truth any adult had ever told me.
My mother made me go to Sunday School every week when I was a kid. Neither she nor my father were churchgoers. Once a year on Easter for her; only once in my memory for him. But they knew how to use their bible when it came to child-rearing. I heard The One Commandment — “Honor thy Father and thy Mother” — thousands of times. I was aware that God was watching every move I made and filling an enormous book with black marks that would eventually Seal My Doom. And Mom, like millions of other parents, thought it was comforting to lead me through an every-bedtime prayer predicting I would die in my sleep.
And every Sunday morning she sent me off to serve what (she made unintentionally clear) amounted to a sentence every child had to serve. (As if 12 years in
public government school weren’t enough!) Mostly I’d just walk to whatever standard-brand Protestant church was nearby — Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, no matter. All were equally dull.
Then the year I was seven, the nice Beall family down the block offered to drive me every week to their church across town. And for the next two years, Sunday School and church ceased to be boring — and became terrifying.
If I was pretty sure I was Doomed By a Wrathful God before, between seven and nine it became A Fact. I won’t go into all that church taught. But that’s where I first learned that soon — very soon, could be any day now — all the good people would suddenly disappear, leaving only us rotters.
This was scarier than monsters in the closet. Scarier even than that book with all the black marks in it. People — including probably my own mother and father — were just going to disappear, leaving the rest of us not knowing what the heck was going on. There’s nothing more terrifying to a little kid than the thought of parents dying. Or so I thought. The notion of parents simply disappearing was way, way worse.
And God was going to do it. He couldn’t even wait until us bad people were dead before punishing us. He was going to start while we were still alive.
The day the Sunday School teacher gave us that cheery news, I felt desperate to get home. I was relieved to find my family still intact. But for years I kept expecting it to happen at any moment — whosh! — all the good ones gone. Me and the rest of the bad people left waiting for Wrath. (The concept of pre-Wrath would never have occurred to me, though; I assumed Wrath was God’s permanent state of being and he was just busy smiting elsewhere at any given moment.)
I’m sure I never told my mother what I was learning at that church or how it scared and confused me. She always thought I was “too imaginative” (as if I could simply slice my imagination out if it became inconvenient) and she usually laughed at my fears. So I just kept the constant assault of strange and scary “truths” to myself.
The torment finally ended one Sunday when the Bealls, without saying anything to my parents, decided to stay after church for a special speaker. So following Sunday School, I trooped into the sanctuary with them and sat through two hours of pure weirdness. I don’t recall the topic, but the speaker was a woman (from the mission field, I believe), and I do recall — vividly — that she ran up and down the aisles of the church screaming, screaming, screaming and literally tearing at her hair as I cowered in a pew. (I specifically remember the hair-tearing because it’s the only time in my life I ever saw anybody actually enact that old expression. And that broad did it with vigor.)
When the Bealls dropped me off at home, it was midafternoon. I had a terrible headache and an upset stomach. I don’t know whether Mom finally realized the church wasn’t quite what she imagined. Maybe she was just mad at the Bealls for not getting me home at the usual time. But after that I never had to go to the Bealls’ church again, and pretty soon Mom quit caring whether I went at all.
So that was to the good. But later I wondered, if there’s a God of Love as my more enlightened Christian friends claim, why is it perfectly okay with Him that His followers use Him to crush the spirits of little children? Well, considering some of the other things adults do to children, turning God into a boogyman is surely one of the lesser offenses — but it’s one that leaves the poor child with nowhere to turn for comfort. If adults are hostile and God a trillion times moreso, one has only the cold comfort of one’s own small self.
But that was a long time ago. Raptures now come and go without me even noticing. That’s a relief. And learning to trust myself and distrust even the Highest Authorities did turn out to be one of life’s most valuable lessons.