I was driving to work the other day listening to Christian radio when, as is usually the case during my drive, a John MacArthur sermon came on.
And not just any John MacArthur sermon, but a John MacArthur sermon that is part of a John MacArthur sermon series about how John MacArthur knows every detail of the pre-tribulation premillennial rapture of the church in these perilous last days.
It was absurd.
And I’m not saying that to be mean to MacArthur and his ilk. In fact, just the opposite. I’m saying it because whenever I hear things like this now, I become convinced even more that it is absurdity which divides the church. It is the pendulum swing toward stances and ideologies and dogmas that deny plain reality that then creates the swing in the opposite direction – toward hyper-criticism, cynicism, and despair with regard to everything that might actually be beautiful about the Christian faith.
That is, when John is preachsplaining in the pulpit about how a “great holocaust” is about to hit the planet led by “the Beast” who will be a leader of “a united Europe like the old Roman empire” and “will pretend to be a friend to Israel” just before he “kills most of the Jews and Christians too” in a “holocaust that is a thousand times worse than any holocaust in history,” and then tries to explain Matthew 24 in modern terms by adding “driving” to the list of ways to escape Jerusalem during this Tribulation, I start to yell. Alone. In the car. Because it’s SO EFFING CRAZY.
Likewise, when fanatics claiming to be Christian make it their mission to perpetuate Zionist propaganda that is only matched in hideousness by their anti-gay propaganda, all in the clear denial of realities staring them directly in the face (not to mention New Testament scripture that militates against their militancy), I want to rage. And when similar reality-denying groups perpetuate church-as-predator instead of church-as-protector, minimizing and covering up child abuse and institutionalizing racism and misogyny, the pendulum gets a-swingin’ all over again.
And in that process, it is very easy to lose any kind of hope in the process of protesting the absurdity.
But here’s the thing.
I think I’m starting to believe in the rapture again.
Not the one where the church gets sucked up into midair right before the Beast starts barcoding everyone’s faces, but one where we, the Body of Christ, are finally being lifted out of this morass of fundamentalist absurdity. Because if we’ve learned anything from Copernicus, or Galileo, or Luther, or King, Jr., we’ve learned that the church can’t stay trapped in darkness too long if it is really following the Light. It will kick and scream and claw on the way, but it will be dragged into the light by the Light, one way or another. And some will be left behind, to be sure – not to suffer in the Great Tribulation but to suffer the loss of any future as the church of Jesus in the world.
Yes, those who cling to absurdity will simply cease to be the church!
Which is why I am deciding. I am not going to let the absurdity swing me to despair any longer. I will prophetically provoke when I see these same injustices rearing their ugly heads in the church I love so much – count on it. But I will not provoke without hope. Instead, I will see these things as the last gasps of a dying age, with an end as inevitable as the defeat of the devil himself at Armageddon.
Thus, we may work, and preach, and serve, and write, and minister without getting sucked into the swing. We can care less about ideological politics and more about joining God’s mission and moving the whole church forward. We can be fixated on Jesus to the degree that even some of the fundies may be provoked to jealousy and want to join the party. (See what I did there?)
And, in doing so, we can spend way more time following the Light than if we’re consumed with swinging swords at a defeated Beast.
What do you think? Are the days of fundamentalism and absurd Christianity numbered? Or am I just being absurd? And should we move forward with hope in the midst of our prophetic voice?