Not the End Times I Prepared For

Not the End Times I Prepared For June 4, 2020

I was struck recently by this tweet by blogger Darcy:

“White American Christians as a whole turning into mindless robots, becoming anti-mask Nazis, & worshiping the literal anti-christ whom they elected was definitely not in any Left Behind movies I ever watched,” Darcy wrote. “Kirk Cameron did not prepare me for this.” I feel this. I so, so feel this.

Like Darcy, I was raised on a steady diet of end times—how shall I describe it? Propaganda? Paranoia? All of these words have such negative connotations. I’ll put it like this: I used to worry that I would not have a chance to get married and have sex (the one followed the other) before being raptured. That’s how close the end times was made to feel. Any day now the faithful would be raptured (their bodies disappearing from the earth) and seven years of tribulation would begin.

Of course, there were some schools of thought that held that the rapture would not occur until the end of the tribulation, meaning that we Christians would be on earth facing growing persecution, war, famine, and conflict. I went to an anti-UN summer camp one year; afterwards, my parents had a conference with several other parents to discuss what they saw as problematic end times theology by the camp organizers. Would the rapture be pre-trib? Or post-trib?

Our current moment does not fit in any way within the end times theology I placed such importance on as a teen. White American Christians weren’t supposed to end up in charge; they were supposed to be persecuted. Chaos was not supposed to result from white evangelicals’ suppression of minority groups’ protests against police violence and strong-arm government tactics; absent a pre-tribulation rapture, chaos was supposed to erupt as white evangelicals found themselves herded into camps in the face of emerging new dictatorial and oppressive government regimes.

The story as I was told it, growing up, was a continuing descent into secularism and lawlessness, with a continued mocking and deriding of white evangelical Christianity, followed by increased godlessness and, ultimately, persecution.

For many of us who grew up hearing about the coming end times, this moment in our history is evoking very strong feelings. The rapid change, novel catastrophe, and descent into chaos and militarism feels to us like what we were taught to expect growing up. We even have a growing surveillance state to boot—something else we were taught to expect. We have all of this, but it is the Christians who are in charge. It is the Christians who are rolling out the tanks.

I cannot overemphasize how weird this moment feels to those of us who grew on a very strong dose of premillennial end times theology only to later leave the church and watch the exact opposite of everything we were told would happen unfold.

It is weird.

The stockpiling months of food part still feels the same though. Oh, and the Russians being involved, that too. The Russians were definitely supposed to be involved. They were just supposed to be powering tanks, not computers.

Note: It is perhaps worth mentioning that there is a third strain of thought on the end times: the idea that Christians must remake this nation and the world into a theocracy, and that only then will Christ return. This is not the native view of American evangelicals, however, and is not the view portrayed in the extremely popular Left Behind novels. Rather, this view of the end times has historically been held by Reformed Calvinists. This group has sought to make inroads within evangelicals and bring them over to their way of thinking; they have had success in convincing some evangelical Christians to push for a theocracy, but without changing their end times theology, creating a very strange amalgam indeed.

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