The Rapture (revised version)

Mike Clawson here again…

I’m sure many of you are familiar with 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 as a Christian it is usually pretty annoying/disturbing to read one, so I can only imagine how they must come across to atheists.

Maybe you’ve seen this one that deals with the End Times and the Rapture:

ChickTract1

ChickTract4

ChickTract2

ChickTract3

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

ChickParody_Rollins

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 my wife 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 traditional Fundamentalist doctrine, and the way he subtly points out how self-serving and uncompassionate it truly is. And I love the 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 (I, and I think Pete too, would say, in spite of whether one believes in that God or not). That reflects my own belief and what it means to me to still call myself a Christian.

Of course, I know that for the atheists here, Pete’s theology is probably still irrelevant to you (not believing in God in the first place and all ;) ). However, I wanted to share this with you guys if only because I thought you might take encouragement from seeing at least one more progressive Christian standing up to and subverting the repulsive theology of the Fundamentalists in his own way (as I know many of you are often prodding more of us to do).

I also thought it might serve as inspiration for some of your own acts of subversion and resistance. How cool would an atheist Chick Tract be?! What might it be like? What would you include? And more importantly, would you be willing to pass it out on street corners or leave in lieu of tips at restaurants in order to spread the good news of atheism? ;)

(UPDATE: After I wrote that, I did a quick google search just to see if there were any atheist Chick tracts out there. I found this one.)

P.S. Speaking of the Rapture, apparently it was supposed to happen today. I guess I missed it. Can’t say I’m exactly surprised. :)

  • Gabriel

    As a grade school kid in tiny little Byers, TX (population 500) the baptist church used to bring those comics to my school and hand them out to the students. I read them because I loved comics and reading. I would read a shampoo bottle back then. Even in grade school I thought these were pretty silly.

  • ZombieGirl

    Inspired by the words of failblog….

    Rapture fail.

  • Erp

    Rollins is a bit of an iconclast amongst Christians. I’ve seen some of his stuff before.

  • Revyloution

    Clever twist on the old joke. I enjoyed it, thanks!

    There is a Cuthulu tract out there too. Im too lazy to go digging for it now, but a quick trip down Google lane should turn it up if your curious. I remember getting a good laugh out of it.

  • ethanol

    Nice. Just last night I read revelation in the ever-awesome brick testament. First time reading it (I am an atheist of the life-long kind) and I had no idea of the craziness I was in for. I think the many bizarre and incomprehensible references were meant to be frightening, but somehow seeing them rendered in lego really ruined that effect. I also love how he manages to insert his own interpretation through dialogue not specified in the scripture, such as this awesome panel.

  • http://deleted Siamang

    Here’s that Cthulu Chick Tract:

    http://rubbersuitstudios.com/ptcct.htm

    And there’s this one which is a dubbing of one about Dungeons and Dragons. It changes it to being about a recognizable technique of evangelizing:

    http://rockstarramblings.blogspot.com/2006/03/image-dogtoring-1-christians-crusades.html

  • Miko

    I like it. But I wonder what happens next.

  • Miko

    On a slight tangent, I’m reminded of the medieval viewpoint that saying “nolo episcopari” was the best reason you could give others to make you a bishop.

  • Revyloution

    Thanks Siamang. Your skill at the intertubes is the antidote to my laziness.

    I was thinking during dinner about this phrase

    I thought you might take encouragement from seeing at least one more progressive Christian standing up to and subverting the repulsive theology of the Fundamentalists in his own way

    Im not trying to be offensive, but yes I do find encouragement when I see ‘progressive Christians’. Looking at the history of religions, I see a pattern. When they begin to accommodate, rather than dictate, they begin their decent into folklore and myth. Things held as absolute truths (Jonah in the fish, Noahs world flood, etc) become metaphor, until the entire dogma of the faith is considered fable to all but a small group of firm believers holding doggedly to the scraps of their once proud religion.

    Even today, there are some who believe in Thor, Zeus, and even followers of the Mayan gods. But we all know they are just deluded people holding on to a fantasy.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Gabriel – I used to read Chick tracts as a kid too, for the same reason. And like yourself, even back then (i.e. even as a conservative Christian kid myself) I knew there was something not quite right about those tracts.

    Siamang – thanks for digging up those links. I remember that Cthulu tract. Hilarious! And I hadn’t seen that “dubbed” one before, but it’s great too.

  • mcbender

    Any time I see Chick Tracts mentioned, I have to plug this blog:

    http://www.enterthejabberwock.com/?cat=12

    It’s a lot easier to read them when every panel is interspersed with hilarious commentary.

  • Richard Wade

    Thank you, Mike. I do take encouragement from your efforts and those Christians with your attitude. The sheer scope of the fundamentalist lunacy can be overwhelming sometimes. I’m grateful for your courage and your willingness to take crap from two directions.

    An atheist tract is an interesting idea. I know you were kidding, but I’d never leave one in lieu of a tip. That would be too…..fundie a thing to do. :)

    Yeah, I waited for the rapture today too. Looks like the only people who disappeared were the con artists who promoted this year’s model, along with whatever money they swindled out of the child-brains who are still standing around, wondering wha’happn’? At first they may think they were “left behind.” Later they may realize they were left high and dry, but will they learn?

  • Matt Johnson

    I was walking down the street the other day where I live in the UK and some guy nearly ran me down in his car at a junction. He stuck his head out of the window and said, “Don’t worry I’ll get you next time. Haha”. Then he pulled up next to me and handed me this little book saying, “Here, I thought you might like this. It’s a comic”.

    I accepted it not knowing what it was. It turns out it was one of these little books from J.T.C all about how we’re all sinners by default because of Adam’s sin and we’re going to hell not matter what. Unless of course we embrace Jesus as our saviour then we’ll go to heaven.

    I just couldn’t believe it and I wish I’d known what he was giving me at the time so I could have given him my take on the whole affair.

    What freaks me out though, is the fact that he said he was going to ‘get’ me later. As if he was giving me one last chance to repent before he sent me on my way. Needless to say I was especially careful when crossing roads for the rest of the day.

    If I get round to it I’ll have to scan the more interesting pages of the comic in for you.

  • Jen

    Mike Clawson! Great to have you back!

    Anyway, I have a strange and slightly wrong love of Chick Tracks. I remember getting one in the park in the 7th grade with a friend. The lady invited us to a baseball game. My friend was nice but threw her track away almost immediately, but I kept mine because… I have no idea, but I got a spiritual kick out of reading it. And about a year ago I saw one (I think it was about Halloween being evil) in a public bathroom sitting on the back of the toilet, though I didn’t pick it up because that is gross. That is all I have ever seen of them in real life- which always makes me wonder who is buying them. But I enjoy Chick Tracks because Jack Trick is out of his gourd, and that is always a good time. I might be a little cynical, but I wonder if JC might not be an atheist with good business sense. Just a thought.

    As to the Rapture, I have learned from years of reading Fred Clark that it will have absolutely no impact on my day-to-day life- Real True Christians and children are apparently only worth mourning for about a week.

  • Skysinger
  • Kurt

    Speaking of the Rapture, apparently it was supposed to happen today

    Wow! What is it with nutty crackpots and web design? Do they all receive a style manual that says “put everything on one incredibly long page, and use as many colors and bold fonts as possible, to convey the urgency of your ideas”? Is WordPress fundamentally incomprehensible to paranoid schizophrenics? I’m just askin’.

  • bernerbits

    I’ve been spending a lot of time over on slacktivist, going back and reading his page-by-page deconstruction of the Left Behind series. The guy’s writing is intelligent, funny, gracious whenever he can be, poignant, and he’s careful not to bog you down too far in his own theology. While not a clever reversal like the Pete Rollins tract, this type of painstaking deconstruction serves as one more reminder that rather than slide into the temptation to make this a faith-versus-non-faith battle, we can cover a lot more ground by banding with sympathetic religious friends in our stand against rampant fundamentalism.

  • Siamang

    Jack Chick tracts used to scare the hell out of me when I was a kid.

    I’d read them. Then start sweating with fear that all the adults around me, who believed in the Bible and Jesus, didn’t seem to see the end times coming so clearly.

    My parents, credophiles themselves, didn’t have any kind of “baloney detection kit.” They didn’t have any way to tell a true theological belief from a false one… so all these horrors had exactly as much credibility as what they believed.

    As such, I wasn’t raised with any skeptical tools to guard from this stuff. So I feared it greatly. All this stuff tormented me, and I found that they only defense I had to it was to believe in it secretly. That calmed the fear, but then I was really really worried about my mother’s soul. For awhile I started looking for the rapture every day, and fantasizing about it. Then I started making lists of who I thought would be raptured and who wouldn’t. I made sure the bullies at my school were on the list of those who would suffer untold torments, but always held out hope they’d turn to Jesus once the locusts arrived.

    These things could have really fucked me up for life, which is why I hate them with such a passion. It’s why I refer to fundamentalist preachers as “people who frighten children for a living.”

  • Chris Jones

    That “THE RAPTURE – Fall 2009″ page has apparently changed his date from Sept 22 to 23. This is the standard procedure for failed rapture predictions, to keep moving the date out and dreaming up excuses for why your previous guess was wrong.

    Too bad it isn’t apparent how to contact him. I’d like for him to put his money where his mouth is. If he’s so sure this is going to happen in 2009, he’s welcome to write a check to me for everything in his bank account, postdate it to January 2010, and sign over all of his tangible possessions effective January 2010. They won’t do him any good in heaven, I’m guessing. I’m also guessing that he’s probably not as confident in his prediction as he would seem.

  • Shannon

    I like chick tracts too. They’re so over the top crazy, they make me laugh. But I’ve only read them as an adult.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    From what I understand, the early Christians (1st and 2nd century) really did think the world was soon coming to an end. That is why they had all this talk of giving up your earthly possessions, and walking away from your family. Now 2000 years later, only the extremely deluded (fundamentalists) still talk like that. Mainstream Christianity has kind-of morphed into something the early Christians wouldn’t even recognize. Rapture. Ha.

  • CatBallou

    What this revised version of the rapture signifies to me is the power of interpretation. Same story, different outlook.
    I once wrote a paper arguing that the message in “Romeo and Juliet” was the danger of lying to your parents and being disobedient. (Just an exercise, folks—not my actual take on the story.) This doesn’t mean that there are no accurate interpretations, but when there’s no supporting evidence, interpretation is futile.
    The problem with the new rapture, however, is the same as with the old one: it claims to interpret the attitudes and reactions of an entity that isn’t actually communicating with us. Clearly a work of speculative fiction. It reminds me of all those church signs that purport to be quoting God. Just a little presumptious, aren’t they?

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    From what I understand, the early Christians (1st and 2nd century) really did think the world was soon coming to an end.

    Depends on which set of scholars you listen to, and what you think the early Christians meant by “the end of the world”.

    As for the Rapture, no one believed in that until about 180 years ago when the doctrine was invented by John Nelson Darby.

    And I’m pretty sure Pete doesn’t believe in it either. He’s just using it as a story device to make his point.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Depends on which set of scholars you listen to, and what you think the early Christians meant by “the end of the world”.

    Mike,

    I’d be very interested (and others might also) to learn about what other scholars think the early Christian’s believed. I always kind of thought the early Christians were like modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses running around with all kinds of End-of-Days predictions. Perhaps you could educate us with a quick summary of the different scholarly viewpoints in a dedicated post sometime.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Jeff,

    I don’t know that I’ll have time for a dedicated post on that topic anytime soon. However let me give you a real quick overview.

    For the past century or so (at least since Albert Schweitzer) liberal scholarship has assumed that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher who taught that the end of the world (i.e. the end of all human history) was imminent. For liberals Jesus said the end was coming soon, and when it didn’t, the early Christians had to adjust their theology and eventually give up their apocalyptic expectations.

    Most conservative (i.e. fundamentalist and evangelical) scholars likewise agreed that Jesus preached about the end of human history, but they differed in that they didn’t think Jesus taught it was imminent. For conservatives, the end is still yet to come.

    More recently a new perspective has emerged among both liberal and conservative scholars that what Jesus and the apostles preached was not the “end of history” per se, but rather the “end of the age”, i.e. the end of a particular era of history and the beginning of a new way of God working in the world – what Jesus called “the Kingdom of God”. In this view, what Jesus was talking about when he warned of the imminent “end of the age” was in fact the end of the Jewish Temple system and the exclusivity of the Mosaic covenant, and the judgment and destruction he predicted were the consequences he foresaw if the Jews continued to pursue their path of violent rebellion against the Roman Empire. In this sense the “end of the age” did in fact happen, in 70 CE when the Romans crushed the First Jewish Revolt and destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem. But it was followed not by the end of all history, but by beginning of a new age, the age of the Kingdom.

    Hope that helps to clarify the differences. If you haven’t noticed already, I tend to affirm the third option.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Thanks Mike. I hope you can find time to stop by more often. I really enjoy your posts and comments. That third option does sound more plausible. Perhaps sometime you can explain what exactly is meant by “the Kingdom of God”… Although, I presume it is not something that can be condensed into a quick paragraph or two. :)

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    Perhaps sometime you can explain what exactly is meant by “the Kingdom of God”… Although, I presume it is not something that can be condensed into a quick paragraph or two. :)

    Well, again, it depends on who you ask… ;)

    In terms of the third view I mentioned, it generally refers to the new way of life and alternative social order taught and modeled by Jesus. It is a “realm” in which people do the will of God by pursing his way of non-violent peacemaking, social justice, compassion, radical inclusiveness, inward transformation, communal sharing, and self-sacrificial love. In this view Jesus came to inaugurate this kingdom (e.g. his prayer “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heave”) and his followers were called to form a new community (i.e. the church) that would begin to live into this new way of life and act as heralds of the kingdom. (Obviously we haven’t always done a very good job of it over the intervening centuries.) In this way the Kingdom was and remains both a present and future reality. It is already here, but it is not fully realized, and Christians are called to help participate in its fulfillment by living into it in the here and now – not just waiting to go there someday when we die… or after the Rapture. :)

    Does that make sense? Hope it wasn’t too “theological” or jargony.

  • aphanes

    I often wonder why people want to go to heaven when we’re already here paradise in the environment we were designed for. It’s just a pity that humanity as a whole doesn’t realise this and clean up their act.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    Mike,

    Thanks for the explanation. If all Christians subscribed to these principles, there probably wouldn’t be a “new atheistic” movement.

    The Kingdom of God sounds like divinely inspired social liberalism as opposed to divinely inspired social conservatism.

    It seems that God inspires different groups of people to different conclusions.

    This discrepancy is one reason why many people conclude that there probably really isn’t a God. It is all just different groups of people saying what they believe and attributing and escalating their beliefs to a divinity.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike Clawson

    The Kingdom of God sounds like divinely inspired social liberalism as opposed to divinely inspired social conservatism.

    Maybe, if “social liberalism” itself actually practiced (or even preached) most of the things I mentioned above. These days I’m not so hopeful about that. The “liberals” in this country sometimes seem just as petty and self-serving as anyone else most of the time. What I’m talking about is quite a bit more radical than the “liberalism” I see around me today.

    (Though I will admit that modern liberalism does have many of its roots in this “Kingdom” gospel reading of the Bible… for instance look into the “Social Gospel” movement of a century ago.)

    This discrepancy is one reason why many people conclude that there probably really isn’t a God. It is all just different groups of people saying what they believe and attributing and escalating their beliefs to a divinity.

    Perhaps for some. Though in my case, and I’m just speaking personally here, I didn’t actually believe any of that stuff I mentioned above until I started reading the Bible in this new way. In other words, I wasn’t a “social liberal” (far from it!) that adjusted my religious views to fit those beliefs. Rather I was a hardcore social conservative, and it was the Bible that changed me. Honestly. All of those values I mentioned (“non-violent peacemaking, social justice, compassion, radical inclusiveness, inward transformation, communal sharing, and self-sacrificial love”) are things that I learned from the gospels, not from “social liberalism”. Again, just speaking of my own experience. I’m sure others may hold their beliefs for the reasons you suggest.

  • Lilith

    That “THE RAPTURE – Fall 2009? page has apparently changed his date from Sept 22 to 23.

    I’m chuckling at the idea of how many fundies in Canberra, Sydney & Brisbane fell on their knees, thinking the Rapture was at hand, when the east coast of Australia was blanketed in red dust over the last 2 days. And we’ve had golf ball-sized hail, gale-force winds, bushfires, and and tornado, too.

    Of course, there is a rational scientific explanation for all this.

    For some cool pix and a discussion as to why the dust storm happened, see the AV at:

    http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1096897/Dust-shroud-diverts-Sydney-bound-flights


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