... should it matter?
Yesterday I threw out a few points against the idea of the Rapture. To reiterate, I consider it a heresy because it's an alternative eschatology that stands over against the biblical story of God saving and redeeming his world, and using his church as a major instrument of this. I believe that if a church does not understand itself to be cooperating in the redemption of the whole creation, it's going to tell a story that's very different from the biblical one, and we're going to have a lot of Christians running around believing that their jobs and hobbies and interests and loves and hates don't matter, 'cause God's gonna burn the whole thing up anyway. Oh, wait, we do!
Of course I believe in the literal second coming of Jesus, at which point he will raise folk up and judge the living and the dead - finish the job of putting the whole cosmos to rights. What I (and many of my friends) deny is that God is going to pull all the Christians off the planet and screw around with everybody left for seven years and leave them in the hands of some critter called the Anti-Christ. That's literalism ad absurdum, baby. Hit up yesterday's post if you want to debate or contribute that argument.
Today's question: if the Rapture (and the whole project of premillenial dispensationalism) is a heresy, how much should it matter to us that it is?
Point One. I have encountered many Christians in recent years who, when asked to tell the Christian story, will spend a good deal of time talking about the Rapture. Haha, not even "justification by faith," but the Rapture. It's not a story about God creating and loving the world and working for its redemption, but his angry destruction of it. Christians have actually said to me that if they did not believe in the Rapture, there doesn't seem to be any point to Christianity, and that losing the doctrine would destroy their faith. For me, that's a big red flag that suggests we should actually work pretty hard to beat that stuff down.
Point Two. I have met some Christians who believe that a Rapture-less Christianity is an entirely different kind of faith than "Rapture Christianity." On that, we are clearly agreed. For some of them, Christians who are not awaiting the Rapture are at least very nearly heretics. Should I issue the anathema right back? I have moved from the position I used to hold, which was that Rapture Christians were part of a different religion altogether. It was reactionary and uncharitable, and not really true. I don't want to be so quick to issue anathemas (anymore).
Rapture Christians might be heterodox, but I'm not ready to label them heretics as such and put them on the level of Arians, but it's not nothing, either.
One friend has suggested that since so many Christians hold so tightly to the idea of the Rapture, that fighting them over it would be a losing battle - there might be a more serious imperative to unity and fraternal love in all of this. It's hard enough to navigate what ecumenism and striving for Christian can look like in the post-denominational, Christendom-in-its-death-throes Bible Belt without making the Rapture even bigger than it already seems to be.
So what do I do? What do you do? Should I pretend I believe in the Rapture for the sake of peace? For Christians who do believe in the Rapture, and for those who do not, how do we behave when folks on either side want to make the Rapture a litmus test for "true" Christian faith? Or should I devise strategies to fight the good fight?
I do even wonder that the whole thing might be so incendiary that I shouldn't even wrote blog posts about it. Frankly.