Growing Up Evangelical at the End of the World

“Dad, when do you think the rapture will happen?”

“Oh, probably in the next five or ten years.”

I was eleven. Eleven. And I trusted my dad. I respected him, a lot. He was the smartest person I knew – well read, intelligent, a thinking person. You know how doctors sometimes tell cancer patients how many years they have left to live? That’s what this felt like. I had ten years. Ten. No wonder I hoped to marry and have children early. I didn’t want to miss my chance.

Any time I saw a sentence in a news article that contained phrases like “by 2050″ or “in 2035″ or even “around 2015,” I would laugh. Sometimes it felt like I had insider knowledge. I mean, who were these crazy people? Didn’t they realize the world wouldn’t be around in fifty years??

Strangely, prospective events like the rapture or the end of the world didn’t fill me with the joy I was told they should. Wasn’t I supposed to want to be zapped into heaven to be in the presence of God? Shouldn’t I want the world to end so that all of humanity could worship at Jesus’ feet? (Well, except for the part that would be burning in hell.) The reality is that, like any other preteen, I was more concerned about actually making it to adulthood than I was about spending my days wearing a white robe and singing hymns. (Well okay, that’s simplistic, but every time heaven was discussed it always seemed to center around singing songs of worship to Jesus, and there were definitely saints in white robes in Revelation.)

And more than that, there really isn’t much to distinguish between being raptured and, well, dying. As an evangelical Christian, I believed that if the rapture came I would be beamed straight up to heaven, and I also believed that if I died my soul would immediately appear in heaven (where I would receive a new body).

Still, watching for the rapture and the end of the world was something like a sport in the evangelical world in which I grew up. Every event and news report was interpreted through this lens. Tension in the Middle East? The end of the world is nigh. Steps made in the movement for LGBTQ rights? The end of the world is nigh. Catastrophic hurricanes and earthquakes? The end of the world is nigh. Spiritual death and moral decay? The end of the world is nigh. Spiritual revival and mass conversion? The end of the world is nigh. The formation of the European Union? The end of the world is nigh. Action taken by the UN? The end of the world is nigh.

Some of the missions publications we received were especially avid in their work to bring about the end of the world. There was a Bible verse they interpreted to mean that every tribe and language group had to have the gospel preached to them before the rapture and tribulation could begin.

Matthew 24:14 – And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

Based on this verse, I was taught that once the last people group was reached, the rapture would come. This was part of what was behind attempts by various groups to translate the Bible into every distinct language (sometimes “to all nations” was interpreted to be referring to language groups).

For us, the end of the world wasn’t something that was “out there,” something that would happen “someday.” The end of the world was something that felt close, imminent. It would come, we were taught, like a thief in the night, any minute, any day. Any time I couldn’t find someone where they were supposed to be, or any time I came upon a small pile of clothing on the ground, I feared that the rapture had come and I had been left behind. That’s where my mind automatically went.

The end of the world was like a never ending drumbeat in the background that I could never quite get rid of. The end of the world foregrounded my childhood. The end of the world was etched in my soul.

Since we were living at the end of the world, there was a lot of importance placed on making every moment — and every action — count. Every year, month, and day took on an added significance, especially when it came to winning new converts. The world was ending, but it was our mission to take as many people with us to heaven as possible. Given that I was homeschooled and only associated with other evangelical Christians (all of whom I knew through church, Bible club, or homeschool groups), I didn’t know anyone who was “unsaved,” and that bothered me a lot. I felt an almost desperate need to make converts, but I was without opportunities for doing that. That created a weird sort of tension in me.

There was another tension, too, in that I sometimes wondered why the adults around me didn’t actually act like they were living at the end of the world. My dad set aside money for retirement, and the life we lived was not so unlike that of any other middle class family (well, except for homeschooling and family size). But I didn’t dwell on that tension. Instead, I brushed it aside. I absorbed all of the rhetoric about the coming end times like a sponge, and never really doubted that the end of the world was immanent.

And so, when at age eleven my father told me that the rapture would occur within the next five or ten years, I accepted that at face value and without question. The end of the world was nigh.

Growing up evangelical was like staring off the face of a cliff.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Palaverer

    Wow, your story is almost mine, word for word, if you replace “rapture” with “Armageddon.” I was looking forward to it, because instead of going to heaven, we were supposed to stay on earth and play with animals. But I was really disappointed that the world as we knew it was going to end before the Star Wars prequels came out. Later I was sorry it didn’t end before I had to watch Jar Jar Binks. But it’s hilarious to me that what you were taught sounds exactly what I was taught as a Jehovah’s Witness because the JWs think they’re so special and different from any other religion.

  • http://afterabrokenwrist.blogspot.com/ Janice

    Wow. I love reading about your childhood. I was raised without any direct religion, just loose spiritual touches and a few years when I was 6-8 where we went to a random church on Easter. Occasionally I did wish I had a strong religion when I was young so I understood that feeling of belonging… I guess now in my late thirties with young children of my own I’m glad I didn’t! We can get community, purpose and meaning from life without the brainwashing!

  • Jason Dick

    I had a very similar experience as a child. My father’s church talked very frequently about the end of the world, and my mother also talked about it all the time. I’m also mystified by the lack of congruence of action and professed belief here. Pretty much the only place their actions and beliefs seem to be in line are with respect to their opposition to action on global warming or environmentalism in general.

  • Jason Dick

    Oh, and incidentally:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_dates_predicted_for_apocalyptic_events

    Christians have been predicting the end of the world since the beginning of Christianity. A few others have as well, but Christians seem to be the most prolific.

    • Bob Jase

      SAy, I just skimmed that wiki list and didn’t see Hal Linday’s name on it – didn’t he write in his “late Great Planet Earth’ that the world would end in 1988? Until revised in later editions of course.

      • whirlwinder

        Yea, Hal sort of shot himself in the foot, didn’t he.

    • Pete again

      Jason,

      The Eastern Orthodox church has never predicted the end of the earth, or “rapture”.

      “Rapture” is an American Protestant belief that we invented in the 19th century.

      Jehovah’s Witnesses are also famous for missing “end of the world” dates but they are not Christians.

  • http://yeswesam.wordpress.com Sam

    This, all of this. I used to have Rapture nightmares. For some reason I understood that being raptured is functionally indistinguishable from death, and I was essentially being told that I was going to die any day now, without warning. I actually wrote about this in December, around the time of the supposed 2012 apocalypse: http://yeswesam.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/my-apocalypse/

  • Saraquill

    With so many failed predictions about the world’s end, I find it hard to believe any of them.

    • Kevin Alexander

      FAILED predictions are the ones in the past, TRUE predictions are the ones about the future. Simple.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia Lucreza Borgia

      What many people don’t realize, is that prophesy was the old-school version of satire in that it was a way for someone to say some really backhanded shit about a ruling people or class or whatever. Much of the prophecy in the OT of the Bible comes from eras where Israel was having troubles both internal and external.

  • Julian

    I have had conversations about this very subject with virtually everyone I know who was evangelical as a young person; we all have the exact same stories that you’ve shared. I’ve also found that people who haven’t experienced that culture have a difficult time believing how anyone could take it seriously, or how terrifying it can be. It’s one of the reasons I’m glad you’re posting on the Atheist channel– people need to understand that that culture isn’t only unsafe to the people outside of it, but for the people within it as well. “Staring off the face of a cliff” is exactly right, and no one, especially a child, should have to live with that kind of perpetual anxiety.

    • machintelligence

      But we all stare off the face of the cliff of knowing that we personally are going to die.* It strikes me as a short step from saying that “when I die the world ends” to saying “the world will end in my lifetime.” It’s not quite as solipsistic, but it’s close.

      * this knowledge is certainly the basis for much of religion.

      • http://writingawayfromgod.wordpress.com Writing

        I think the difference is that as a child growing up in the evangelical churches that preach this, you’re staring off the face of the cliff of having no life beyond childhood. Most of the world knows we’re personally going to die, but generally expect to hit the adult milestones before doing so even if we “die young” at 30 or 40.

        I was raised to think that the rapture was going to hit before the year 2000 (pre-Y2K craze). I never would have made it to high school. For much of my childhood, I didn’t have dreams of my future, because in my world, I was going to be in heaven, not an adult. It’s a serious mindfuck looking back on that.

      • Ibis3

        Most of us picture ourselves dying (if we do at all) at some time far in the future–hopefully after we’ve lived a full life of eighty or ninety years. That’s not the same as living in constant fear that The End could come at any moment and more likely sooner than later. I expect that growing up in such an atmosphere is not unlike growing up in a war zone, where bombs and mines and bullets are liable to take you out before the end of the week.

      • Bob Jase

        Much but not all – it doesn’t explain the part about giving the church your money or else.

      • machintelligence

        Ibis3:

        living in constant fear that The End could come at any moment and more likely sooner than later.

        I was a child in the 1950′s and the duck and cover drills and fallout shelters were all too real. No one knew if WW3 was about to start. I really don’t know how close we came during the Cuban Missile Crisis, but I am glad cooler heads prevailed.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        MI —The answer is, very, very close. I recently heard a talk by several scholars on the subject, and they’ve found in their research since the opening of various archives that we came even closer than had been conventionally thought. For more info, see here. It’s fascinating!

      • Julian

        Machintelligence, as someone who experienced years of Rapture terror, I think a better analogy than knowing you’re going to die someday is knowing that you have a brain aneurysm that could kill you at any moment, without warning. As a young person, the fear was honestly that intense and all-consuming for me. I’m not surprised that anyone who has never experienced it would have difficulty comprehending it; but please do believe the reality of the fear that many of us lived with.

      • machintelligence

        Julian, that was pretty much my point in bringing up the Cuban Missile Crisis and WW3. Some of us atheists experienced the same fear, but for us it was caused by real events. Time and the fact that it didn’t happen have muted the memories, but the 50′s and 60′s were a very tense time. One of the reasons that religion is losing its grip on humanity is the long period of relative peace and prosperity since the end of WW2. Steve Pinker’s book “The Better Angels of Our Nature” is a great (but long) read.

    • Ken L.

      My church had a bit more intellectual rigor. They taught that at a minimum the gospel had to be proclaimed everywhere and that the Temple would need to be re-built in Jerusalem. Even then they made it clear it could still be thousands of years. On the other hand they also said prophecy has been mis-interpreted in the past and it could still happen NOW!

      They also presented the mid-trib and post-trib versions of things (where the “rapture” doesn’t happen until the middle or after the time of tribulations) and I got the impression our main pastor was really a post-trib guy.

      Overall I got away with minimal rapture-anxiety. I was still told I could get hit by a bus and die any day so I should always live every day like it’s my last – which meant evangelism of course.

  • dj pomegranate

    I remember a teacher in middle/high school (I must have been 14?) reading us that passage (Matt 24:14) and then saying something along the lines of, “Now that we have television, it’s easier than ever to preach to the whole world. Very soon even the most unreached peoples will have TV and be able to watch preachers give the gospel message, and then the end will come.” I was terrified–in that case, surely it would only be a matter of months before the rapture!

  • Dan Aris

    OK…I must ask: Was the reference to the Master intentional?

    • http://Patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      …maybe. :-P It’s apt, though!

  • Niemand

    FWIW, when I was about that age and through my teens, I worried that the world or at least the biosphere was going to end. But that was because I was in my tween and teen years in the 1980s and we had a president who proudly and overtly claimed that he was going to start a nuclear war to rid the world of communism. Now we’ve just got a president who proudly proclaims his right to assassinate/murder anyone he damn well pleases with drones. I guess that’s progress: from world destruction to individual murders.

  • Kaydon

    Wow! That is exactly how I grew up. For as far back as I could remember the end of the world was going to happen in the next few years (It was always closer than 10 or 11 years). And every little thing was a “sign”. I read so many books about how all the “signs” pointed towards the rapture and tribulation happening soon (after leaving I learned how often those books are revised and updated every decade or so). By the time I got to college I had severe “apocalypse fatigue” where talk of the end or the “signs” just made me so tired because my entire life I had been put through the ringer of soonsoonsoon.
    Years after leaving I still get that apocalypse fatigue, my friends will laugh and joke about 2012 or whatever and I just feel tired of it all.

  • http://truthspew.wordpress.com Truthspew

    I’m always astounded by people who claim to know when the so called rapture will occur. The Bible is specifically vague about it.

    Recall too that minister, Harold Camping. He publicly predicted the end of the world TWICE couple years back and we’re still here even after the dates (Note the plural) that he mentioned.

    The planet has been orbiting the sun for some 4.5 billion years, and it will go on doing so for several billion more years until such time as our sun goes into it’s red giant phase and consumes all the inner rocky body planets in a fiery storm.

    • Bob Jase

      No, the bible isn’t vague – Jesus will return before all of his original disciples have died, it says so clearly. Apparently Mel Brook’s character the 2000 Year Old Man is based on some surviving disciple out there.

      • Paul D.

        This is actually the origin of the Wandering Jew myth. Since Jesus said he would return before everyone with him had died, one of those guys must have been cursed to wander the earth for thousands of years without dying.

      • Uly

        Because that answer is so much more logical and reasonable than “this is not accurate.” People will believe anything….

  • Bob Jase

    “There was another tension, too, in that I sometimes wondered why the adults around me didn’t actually act like they were living at the end of the world. ”

    Because in their guts believers don’t really believe?

    Say, if there were a Rapture what happens to all the babies that aren’t old enough to have become believers? Do they fry for eternity or do they become unaging immortals in heaven who never learn to control their bowels movements?

    • OurSally

      And the unborn foetuses – think of all those zygotes

  • Niemand

    My personal fantasy theory about the Rapture is that it happened. All the sincerely believing Christians who lived according to Christ’s teaching as best they could, judging none as they are commanded to leave judgement to God, helping all, acting as good stewards to the world and not exploiting it, etc, have been taken up to Heaven. And while their families miss both of them, their disappearance made little difference to the planet’s demographics, which is why no one has yet noticed that the Rapture has occurred. (Odin sympathizes: no one believes that Ragnarok has already happened either.)

  • Lauren F

    I definitely remember thinking heaven sounded completely boring. I decided a long time ago that my heaven was going to have dinosaurs to ride on, because without dinosaurs then WHAT’S THE POINT?

    Hmmm… as I was thinking about this just now, I started wondering if that’s one of the factors behind the evangelical drum-beating about the terrors of hell? At the back of their minds, do they all *know* that telling people that when we’re in heaven we’re just going to stand around praising God for all eternity (how it was always presented to me) is going to make people go “Oooooo-kaaaaay… got anything a little less mind-numbing than a church service that never ends?” If your heaven is unappealing, you’ve got to make hell sound *really* unappealing, right?

    • machintelligence

      Even a moderately appealing heaven sounds pretty mind-numbing. Here is a musical take on it by the Talking Heads where heaven is a place where nothing ever happens. (Ballads by the Talking Heads are pretty uncommon.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zNdMc6wGtU

      • Anat

        A relatively common view of the Jewish heaven has the sages of all generations engaging in debates with God, so at least some kind of intellectual stimulation is supposed to exist. (Maybe there’s some other section of heaven where the physicists iron out their theories :) )

      • machintelligence

        I personally would like to do a grand tour of the universe. Eternity might just be long enough to do a good job of it.

      • Lauren F

        Grand tour of the universe is pretty much what I wanted. And to find out the answers to all those questions I figured I’d never get the answer to otherwise, like what is gravity? And to meet all sorts of cool historical figures.

      • Christine

        Along the lines of the physicists ironing out their theories, I’m looking for getting to learn what the RIGHT design trade-offs in any given situation are. You know – so you can actually get the PERFECT solution, rather than having to settle for good enough.

    • Hilary

      I remember hearing the joke that everybody goes to the same Never Ending Torah Study in the Sky. If you’re righteous, that’s heaven, but if you are wicked, that’s already hell enough.

      How about a grand tour of the universe riding on dinosaurs, with break rooms for Talmudists and physists? Maybe a shared cofffee lounge for them to compare notes.

      • Anat

        The joke answers for the wise son and the wicked son, but what about the simple son and the one who doesn’t know to ask?

  • Patrick

    I remember growing up with constant talk of the end times and rapture. It never stopped. As Libby Anne stated in the OP, every single natural disaster or war was a sign that it was just around the corner. As an aside, it always seemed to me that those prophecies of the end times in the New Testament were so purposefully vague as to make it seem the rapture was right around the corner (Rumors of war? Please when has there not been rumors of war.)

    I remember being a young teenager (12 or 13) and listening to this and trying to get excited about getting to “go to glory.” But, I couldn’t. I wanted to live, and learn, and fall in love. Which, in the context of being in the world and not of the world, made me feel like the worst Christian I could possibly be. This inevitably led to immense fear and apprehension about the rapture. I would hear train whistles and think it was God sounding the trumpets signaling the end and I hadn’t been taken. The nightmares weren’t fun either. That anxiety wore on me throughout my time as a believer and getting out was a huge relief.

    What is truly bothersome though is how this plays out. I remember sermons with the pastor shouting how great it will be heaven and how ready he was to go. It just seemed so…morbid. Their minds were so focused on dying and getting to heaven. How could they focus on the living world around them? That drove me up the wall.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    I was never explicitly taught about what the end of the world would supposedly be like, but I picked up on what Christian culture had to say about it, and interpreted the “end of the world” parts of the bible through that lens.

    But I also wondered “what’s the big deal?” and at times I explicitly stated that I didn’t care about Jesus coming back. Because if it hasn’t happened in the past 2000 years, then odds are it’s not happening in my lifetime either. And if we’re supposed to “be ready”, what does that mean anyway? Do good things so when Jesus comes he won’t catch you being a jerk? Aren’t we supposed to not be a jerk anyway?

    So I never got why it mattered. (And now I’m thinking maybe those passages supposedly about “the rapture” and “the end of the world” weren’t intended to mean that at all.)

  • MM

    The principal of my Christian school always taught that he was certain the rapture would happen during his lifetime. In all fairness, he’s still alive, but he’s almost 60, so shit better happen real quick.

    We should also remember that this mentality is the real reason why so many of our political leaders kowtow to the Israel lobby…it has nothing to do with democracy or terrorism or Iran; it’s all about making sure Jerusalem goes to Israel and the temple gets rebuilt so jeebus can come back.

    • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

      It’s also got nothing to do with love for Jews or Israelis (still less the Palestinians) as people — everyone in the Middle East are just cyphers in the Big Eschatology Game. If (in whichever scenario some ranting preacher’s latest book is claiming to be the TRVTH) 90% of them die horribly, well that’s just what prophecy said would happen, so hallelujah!

  • sezit

    I think that Rapture obsession can sometimes be classified as emotional child abuse. It was terrifying for me at age 7 when my dad and another (male) church elder were openly and almost excitedly speculating that the world would end (in gruesomedetail) before the end of the decade (in 2 years). This was the first time I remember, but it was discussed over and over. It made me totally insecure with life. I was obsessive for years in my praying to be saved, because I was so frightened of going to hell when the world ended. In my recall, this rapture porn seems heavily skewed toward male interest. It just scared the shit out of me, to the point of making me shake. It took me 20 years to (mostly) remove that terror from my thinking. I look back and cannot understand how these men could be so uncaring and completely insensitive to my fear, or why the concept turned them on so much. I wonder if this perversion is an outlet for forbidden normal sexual behavior that they would consider perverse, or if it is just entertainment violence that is not fully real to them.

  • Rod

    This seems like child abuse…. allowing (or almost forcing) a young child to think they will never see (or have) their kids or grandkids, never realise their own potential or fulfil their own dreams, never see the wonders of the world however those may be imagined, never meet the millions of people out there, some of whom will change your life….

    This world, the one we can see, touch, smell, taste, hear….. let’s enjoy it in all its messiness and humanity while we can!

  • Hilary

    Ye-ouch, that’s horrible. The only message I got as a Jewish kid about the Messiah comming, is that if I’m in the middle of planting a new tree and someone says that the Messiah has come, I should finish planting the tree before going to check for myself if the messiah has actually come or not.

    No, my childhood apocolypic horror and nightmare was the ozone layer and acid rain. Now we’re up to global climate change, drought and floods. Terrifying, and very measureably real, unfortuatly.

    Hilary

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

      Same here. Also that lots of people had claimed to be the Messiah and all been wrong, so anyone making that claim had a giant hurdle of credibility to overcome.

      I was taught that we had to make the world a fit place for the Messiah. In other words, he (always male) wouldn’t fix things we broke. Instead it was our responsibility to create a world of peace and plenty fit for him to show up. Did you get that too?

      • Hilary

        Yeah, the whole Tikkun Olam thing, I’m Reform and my temple’s pretty big on ethics and social action. I didn’t learn much growing up, just a general hope that someday we’d have a ‘messianic era’ when things would be better. Personally, I’d rather a messiah that expects us to do something to improve conditions in the world here and now instead of ‘save’ us from sin. Even if they are both whistful fallacies, at least the first one will have some benefit now.

        Ok, stop me if you’ve heard this one:
        One day some nobles rode up to the gates of a Jewish villiage. Siting outside the gates was an old man dozing in the sun.
        “What are you doing just sitting there?” They asked.
        “I’m waiting for the Messiah.” he replied.
        “You’re what? Just sitting here waiting for the Messiah? Why aren’t you working?’
        “I am working, this is my job. It’s my job to wait for when the Messiah comes, so when he does I can go around and tell everybody.”
        “Your job? You mean you get paid for this?”
        “Oh yes, one kopek a week. It’s not much, but at least I’m in no danger of losing my job any time soon!”

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ M

        Lol! Nope, that one I hadn’t heard. I’ll have to add it to my repertoire of fun Jewish jokes :)

  • Jack

    I also grew up surrounded by pre-tribbie Rapture stupidity (although I didn’t realize it as such at the time – I was a devoted teenage Jack Van Impe fan). No future on earth, no need for college, no use dreaming about growing old with a future spouse. It wasn’t just a form of child abuse, but teen abuse, grown-up abuse, elderly abuse and sanity-abuse as well. It did have one positive effect, however. Convinced that ‘His glorious shout from Heaven’ was due any day now, the first chance I had to lose my virginity (age 13), I took it.
    I sure as hell wasn’t leaving the late great planet earth without experiencing some joy in life.
    Thanks Dr. Van Impe!!!

  • Meleah

    Weird. I have a hard time understanding Evangelical culture since I was never a part of it (I’m Catholic), so hearing personal experiences about it is interesting. I had a much different experience- once I asked my mom if the end of the world would happen and she explained that the sun wouldn’t burn out for billions of years and until then we would have to work together to take care of the planet. A lot more reassuring.

  • Susan

    My sister and I where homeschooled, for secular reasons, but we did meet a lot of kids who where homeschooled for religious reasons. I remember my sister coming home from a theater group and describing a conversation that confused her. One girl said to the other, ‘do you think the rapture will come in our lifetime?’ The other girl said, ‘oh yes, but I hope it doesn’t come to soon I want to do something good in the world.’ My sister wondered why the girls was was worried about getting a chance to do something in the world when it was all going to be destroyed. I still don’t know the answer to that one.

  • rumitoid

    Very odd obsession. Why would knowing the end was near change how we are in the world? Is this kind of fear-mongering common among Evangelicals? If we truly love our neighbor, why would we want to desert them at the hour of their greatest need by taking the last train out of Dodge? I think the part about the Rapture was a test to see the depth of our compassion and love for others. We were meant to plead with God to instead stay. It also shows a form of disdain for life on earth that cannot help but bleed through into how we live and work with others. Very sad. Sorry for this terrible abuse.

  • Judith

    I was always taught that the Matthew verse plus the rise of TV and the Internet meant that the end times were coming very soon. But I also knew about the Sentinel Islanders, who tend to kill anyone who comes near their island. So my (very scared) teenage mind decided that until the Sentinelese accepted outsiders, I would be safe. I don’t know why I was so afraid of the Rapture – I think I felt that I wasn’t a good enough Christian to be caught up, and so I would be left behind. Incidentally, the ‘Left Behind’ books terrified me, because if those Sentinelese let missionaries in, I would have to live through all that.

  • J-Rex

    This was a pretty common line of thought among the teens and young adults: “I hope the rapture comes soon, but not before I get married and have sex.”

  • BeamMeUp

    The Jewish belief in a messiah (“anointed one”) and an end of the world that eventually led to the rise of Christianity grew out of times when the ancient Jews (the “chosen people” as they saw themselves) felt that their very existence as a people was about to end. It first occurred during the Babylonian exile, but re-emerged in earnest after Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes tried to ban the Jewish religion and again with the Roman occupation.

    Had in not been for Paul, who was well versed in Greek and Latin, the international languages of the day, and who spread Christianity beyond the Jewish communities, the Jesus movement could have ended up being just another branch of Judaism.

    The center piece of the Christian belief in the end of the world is the Book of Revelations. It was written in the late First Century C.E. (Common Era) at a time when things weren’t going well for Jews or Christians. Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Romans in response to the Jewish revolt, while Christians were being persecuted by Emperors Nero and Domitian.

    Personally, growing up a Lutheran, I never heard too much preaching about the end of the world or fire and brimstone. At the height of the Cold War, a major worry of my generation was the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. Some Christian Armageddonists (Pat Robertson, Tim LaHage, et al.) kept on preaching that this war would come. They lost their #1 boogey man with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    P.S. As science started to make more sense than religion with all its supernatural explanations for everything, I eventually became an atheist. Armageddonists are probably preaching that us secular-minded folks (a growing bunch according to recent polls) will perish in the gay-lesbian apocalypse (LOL).

  • Paul R. Cooper

    Most comments plus article are convincing about the power of early indoctrination. I was lucky to have a “healthily skeptical” father who let me grow old enough to weigh broadly these serious questions. I think there is tragedy in adults crippled by embarrassing notions based totally on faith unleavened by fact and reason.

  • EVA-04

    The Rapture is not biblical, and in fact wasn’t in the purview of what is now Evangelical Christianity until the turn of the 20th century. The change in belief came mostly from the advent of the Schofield Bible, which helpfully provided liner notes after the scriptures that gave their own interpretations and the rapture was one of these.

    Unfortunately Schofield became a standard among many Evangelical clergy and led to widespread belief in the event of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture, which is now gospel today for most Evangelicals (who are never told how this came about) and serves among other things as a “boogeyman” to scare children.

    After doing my own research I found that belief in the rapture actually contradicted scripture and my faith in Christ. As a Christian one should not worry about such things: you’re here on Earth to live and serve and you should be focused entirely on that, and not about some sort of cosmological event or “escape hatch”.

    The Rapture is also bad for the Church in that members are being told to “prepare” and are so focused on supposed prophecies and interpretations, mostly from theological snake-oil salesmen like Lindsey and LaHay, that core missions such as reinforcing the faith of believers or caring for the world around them are abandoned in favor of an obsession with the end-times. Churches become withdrawn and insular over time, believing that they’re only there for a little bit more time and any impact they make on the world is meaningless, as the end is coming and they’re only existing to rack up the total numbers of members before it hits.

    The end’s going to come, make no doubt, but it’s not going to be in a way that any one suspects. You can’t really prepare for it, other than focusing on what’s really important and your own particular calling. I find the Rapture to be a deadly distraction that’s ushered many out of the faith, tired of being frightened and pushed to the limits.

  • http://lapalma-island.com Sheila Crosby

    This fixation with the end of the world does rather explain the fundamentalist attitude to ecology: “Loot the entire planet NOW!” Although I suspect that some of the people benefiting most from wrecking the ecosystem don’t believe that the end is nigh, they just want the cash.

    I’ve rather got anti-ecology on the brain after reading this article in the Guardian about the way that anonymous billionaires donated $120m to discredit climate change science. The donors obviously don’t expect the world to end soon, or they’d just take their billions and relax. I reckon they regard donations to groups lying about the climate as a medium-term investment.

    • AnyBeth

      A subset of Christian fundamentalists intend to destroy the environment in order to bring about the end of the world. The idea is that God wouldn’t let things get too bad before the rapture, so if they make the world worse, God will come back sooner. So they ignore all that “good steward” stuff and set about “doing the Lord’s work” by destroying the planet. Those people scare me.

  • Dave77

    All these beliefs, like end-of-the-world, ‘rapture’ have some element of truth in the them. We are indeed coming to a point of crisis when the world is radically change for the better or get much worse and eventually destroy itself (but not in our lifetime). From what I told, there is an excellent chance that world will become a much better place and that the Christ will indeed return. But those who are waiting of the ‘end’ or the saving of a ‘chosen’ few will be disappointed. See christmaitreya.org for more info.

  • Pingback: This week in the End of the World

  • Amy

    I can relate.
    Every time I had to use the bathroom I prayed to Jesus, begging him to wait until I was done before he called us up to meet him in the air because I didn’t want to be literally caught with my pants down.

    We had books on our coffee table with titles like “The Late Great Planet Earth.”
    I never would’ve admitted it back then, but I was angry and resentful toward God for depriving me of the chance to grow up and fall in love, go to college, etc. I secretly dreamed of doing those things (and DID, eventually) but somehow I knew better than to talk about it.


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