Feast of Trumpets 2009

September 19 is Rosh Hoshanah for this year, or, as Armstrongites and others like to call it, “the Feast of Trumpets.”
For Armstrongites, this festival is about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, which will occur with the blast of a trumpet (I Corinthians 15:52; I Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 9).
I was thinking about the Second Coming of Christ a few times this week. The first was when I was doing the Church of James Pate’s Brain a few nights ago. “What’s that?,” you might be asking. To help me get to sleep, I give sermons to myself in my mind. For the past few weeks, my sermons have been about Jesus Christ. I mostly try to think about cozy things because that’s what relaxes me and helps me sleep, but I was in the part of the series about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. And, to be honest, I had a hard time finding anything cozy about it. Jesus comes and slaughters most of the world’s population, which is sinful and deceived. Snuggle up, Jimmy-boy!
Not long thereafter, I read a post by Frank Schaeffer, entitled What Defines American Evangelicals These Days? Schaeffer offers a blistering critique of the Left Behind series, by Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins, which covers the rapture of the saints from earth, the Great Tribulation, and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ:

Jenkins and LaHaye (the Left Behind authors) provide the ultimate revenge fantasy for the culturally left behind against the “elite.” The Left Behind franchise holds out hope for the self-disenfranchised that at last soon everyone will know “we” were right and “they” were wrong. They’ll know because Spaceship Jesus will come back and whisk “us” away, leaving everyone else to ponder just how very lost they are because they refused to say the words, “I accept Jesus as my personal savior” and join our side while there was still time!

For Schaeffer, the Left Behind series is a Christian fantasy in which Christians will get to gloat to an elite that they’re right, and everyone else is wrong.

I heard something similar on a radio podcast that my friend Felix linked to: The God Discussion Podcast with Dakota dealing with spiritual abuse. On it, freethinker Dakota O’Leary was discussing her horrible experiences in the Worldwide Church of God, as well as critiquing conservative Christianity. In the course of the discussion, she mentioned the Left Behind series. She said that there are Christians who aren’t concerned about helping their neighbors, as much as they are about the world ending in a cosmic conflagration. They want to know how it will happen, when it will be, and how they can escape it!

When I was at Harvard Divinity School, Paul Hanson gave a speech that made a similar point about the Left Behind series. He lamented that it was popular, calling it absurd and narcissistic. He contrasted our century’s acceptance of the Left Behind series with the most popular Christian book of the previous century, Charles Sheldon’s In His Steps, in which a collapsing homeless man motivates a church to ask “What would Jesus do?” People then imitate Jesus through their deeds of compassion, and the results are amazing.

As someone who’s read the Left Behind series (or, for the later books, I listened to an audio version), I think the critiques are a little one-sided. Christians do show compassion in those books, to each other and to non-Christians. One character, Hattie Durham, is an attractive, self-centered non-Christian lady who’s thinking of having an abortion, and the Christians tell her that, even though they’d disagree with her decision, they’d always love and accept her.

But I can understand the point that apocalypticism can be about a lot of self-centered things: escape, a desire for revenge on the world, fear, looking for an “inside-track” on the future, etc.

But that’s not all it’s about. In the Bible, it’s about God’s overthrow of unjust and oppressive power structures, along with God putting an end to evil and sadness. And it’s about God’s love and desire for people to repent. When Revelation says that people did not repent of their sins in the midst of God’s plagues (Revelation 9:20-21; 16:9-11), what should be noticed is that God’s chastising those whom he loves.

Personally, apocalypticism turns me off somewhat, as much as it intrigues me, for it’s too “us vs. them” for my taste. But I hope that I can learn and appreciate the positive ideas that it communicates.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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