Wednesday, August 23, 2006

At least I would buy less gifts...

I was raised in a pre-millennium, pre-tribulation Christian world.

As fundamentalists, we were not provided too many exciting topics. No drinking, no card-playing, no movies, no smoking, and certainly no controversial or spine-tingling subjects. There were two exceptions.

Once in a great while we were allowed to discuss demons and Satanists. We salivated over tales of rituals (all hinting of various stages of undress) and horror including drinking blood, cannibalism and kidnapping unknowing strangers. The other exception was discussion about end-times, and all the various sins that would be committed and the explicitly described gory judgments rendered upon those miscreants, whilst we watched from heaven, munching our popcorn.

For those that don’t know their eschatology (a word meaning, “Look at me! I use big words for ‘end-times’ that dramatically increases the listener’s respect for what I am talking about”) many Christians hold to a 1000-year period of peace, in which Jesus and various Christians run the government. Hence the word “millennium.”

As Christians seem to create more issues than resolutions among themselves, it comes as no surprise that the Millennium is no different. Some argue that Jesus will return prior to the Millennium, some argued that he would return after, and some argue that the Millennium is not an actual 1000-year period.

Those that hold to Jesus returning before (Pre-Millennium,) most often also believe that there will be seven years of very bad times immediately prior to Jesus coming, and term this “The Tribulation.” And since the Millennium has controversy, there is no reason that the Tribulation can’t have some controversy, either.

Those that hold to a Tribulation also believe there will be an event in which Jesus calls up, in some way, the then-living Christians in what is termed “The Rapture.” Some believe that The Rapture will happen right before The Tribulation, some hold it will happen in the middle of The Tribulation, and some at the end of The Tribulation.

If you followed me thus far, you may see that we believed in The Rapture, (“Pre-Tribulation”) followed by The Tribulation, then Jesus comes, (“Pre-Millennium”) then The Millennium. Since the words were too long to say (‘cept “eschatology”) we shortened them to “Pre-Trib” or “Pre-Mil.”

This allowed us to say fun sentences such as “That fellow is a Post-Mil, so they could never be a Mid-Trib, but she is a Pre-Trib, which makes her better than a Post-Trib and much better than an A-mil.” See?

(I always wondered why we didn’t shorten other words. I was a Calvinist Baptist, Nicene Creed, Inerrantist, Literalist. Or a Cal Bap Nick In Lit. I guess it does sound like a cell phone going through a tunnel, eh?)

All of which is to say I was raised in a home that thought one day all the living Christians would vanish in some way.

We did not have the particulars worked out in this regard. Although we did not need to take our clothes, the thought of any more nakedicity in the world, through God’s divine plan, was more than we could bear, so we envisioned that the clothes would go with us. Exchanged in some private changing room and discarded once we arrived, of course. (We secretly thought that Heaven was to be as modest as Earth, with an occasional guilty passing thought that it might be nudist, after which we began to confess our sins thinking about WHO might make it heaven or not.)

And, to our shame, we had little sympathy for the lives that would be impacted. In fact, we had more than a little guilty pleasure. In these rousing sessions about end-times there would always be a mention of what happens to a plane if both the pilot and co-pilot were Christians with a dismissive shrug and self-righteous justification that any passengers going down in a ball of flame shouldn’t have been non-Christians. They had their chance and biffed it.

Hey, if my car swerves off at 65 mph and slams into another car, killing a two-year-old child, she wouldn’t have BEEN in that car, if she was a Christian, right? She would have been floating up in the air with me.

Technically, we didn’t think that the Christians would actually float up in the air. That would be too-much of a give away that something was happening. We figured we would disappear and perhaps re-appear once far enough off the ground that no one could see us. Or maybe gather in space somewhere.


In the back of our mind, we were always aware that there must be some people who thought they were Christians, and were not taken up. As a child, on more than one occasion when my family was not immediately available, and I thought they should be, I was concerned that the Rapture happened without me!

And we never quite knew how those that knew of the Rapture would not be immediately convinced, and become Christians on the spot. (Too late for the Rapture, of course, but plenty of time for the return pick-up.) It was a matter of fun speculation in which numerous theories could be proposed, and who could say that it was not possible?

Take me for example. My family is all Christian. Pre-Trib, Pre-Mil. I can’t help wonder what they think I would do, if the Rapture happened like they think it would. Understand, when I say my family is ALL Christian, I mean ALL. My father and his wife are. My brothers and sister are. My step-brother and step-sisters are. All of their spouses are. All of their children, my nieces and nephews, are. All of the current boyfriends/girlfriends of the nieces and nephews are. My wife is. My children are.

At the next Christmas gathering when it is just me and more than 40 people are MIA, do ya think I [b]might[/b] just start scratching my head? I am a skeptic, remember? What tale could the government spin, what would I buy that would convince me that my entire family just disappeared? Alien invasion? I don’t believe in aliens. Skeptic, remember? Disease? I don’t trust my government’s claims NOW about disease, why would my entire family’s disappearance make any difference?

I would think, while I am looking at the ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls and pie enough to feed a troop, the thought, “Gee, I wonder if the Rapture occurred?” could possibly cross my mind.

In reading across the internet, there are 1000’s, maybe 10’s of 1000’s of deconverts from Christianity, just like me. Who have heard of the rapture, just like me. Who would become believers on the spot, just like me. It would make Christianity the No. 1 religion overnight!

I would pity the fool who attempted to consolidate this religion or a government after that!

“I will lead the Christians into a unified one-world church.”
“Ahhhh! The Anti-Christ! The Anti-Christ! Kill! Kill! Kill! We don’t want to have THE TRIBULATION.”

“I want you to have this mark on your hand—“
“Or my forehead! Oh, oh! You are the Beast! Come everybody, see the Beast! See the mark! Avoid it at all costs. Kill! Kill! Kill! We don’t want to have THE TRIBULATION.”

The only way that I could see for the Tribulation to occur, what with the proliferation of the Bible, and the belief of the Rapture expounded in numerous media forums, is for God to deliberate deceive those that are left. Even LaHaye’s “Left Behind” series would have to disappear off the shelves. Too many secrets revealed.

Is that what my family proposes? That God must deceive me, so that in some way I believe they all disappeared and it makes perfectly logical sense?

Funny, at the moment they propose that Satan is deceiving me by logic and reason, and that is a bad thing. Apparently when God does it after the Rapture, it will be a good thing.

Frankly, I would prefer they both be more up-front and stop playing these games. Or perhaps neither exists, and this is one more item in a long laundry list that, upon inspection, makes no sense.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Fishy Smell

As I got to wander through our state this past week, I passed (and was passed) by many automobiles. Many of them had….”the fish.” You know what I am taking about—a chrome set of crossed parenthesis. No eyes. No mouth. No upper or lower or side fins. In fact, the tail is not even quite finished.

All proudly proclaiming the heightened state of spirituality which I presume the driver has obtained, and the intense state of evangelism dispensed at 80 mph. Never fear, I know I was just passed by a Christian in a Ford F-350, towing a boat, two Jet skis, four bikes and a fish.

People revolt from placing an “I Found It” or “God is my Co-Pilot” on their bright, shiny Black Cadillac. But chrome it up, make it subtle and they smack it on with glee.

In case some of you lunkheads are a bit thick, a few of the fish include the word “Jesus” inside. I am uncertain whether that is a lower spirituality (because it has to be spelled out) or a higher spirituality (because it is spelled out) or simply an option the no-“Jesus” fishes couldn’t afford.

And after seeing so many, I did notice that they are a bit drab. Oh, they are chrome, but the same thing over and over and over. No colors; no cute little sayings. (I started making them up—“O-Fish-all symbol of Jesus” and “Christian Carp-ful” and “My sole is heaven bound” or “Hooked on Jesus” and my favorite, “I’d go to halibut I got Jesus.”)

Seriously—what are we non-fishes supposed to do?

Is it THAT important we know you are some type of Christian, merely by the ornament on your automobile? Clearly by taking the necessary steps to go out of your way, use funds normally designated for your own personal treat (since I am certain you would NEVER take it from the funds you designate for the poor), picking the choicest spot on your vehicle and carefully placing it, you must hope for some reaction from others.

Is it so we know there are Christians out there?

“Honey, look at that. I thought the last Christians had disappeared, but there’s a car with a fish. Must be still around. Oh! And over there, a plate from Vermont…”

Or are we to see how well God has blessed you? I am sure many a family stretching their dollars to take a vacation in their ‘94 Geo Prism are suitably impressed by seeing an RV larger than their neighborhood passing them with a fish firmly affixed.

“Gee, honey. If only we were Christians, we could have camper that requires us to back-and-fill three times to take a turn. Sigh.”

Or are you sending secret signals to other fishes and, not unlike a traveling motorcycle group, plan to meet up at the next good restaurant? After having attended church for 38 years, I can assure you that any restaurant with a parking-lot of fishes is a good place to eat!

Christians may not know what the Synoptic Problem is, but they sure know how to find a tasty affordable buffet when necessary.

‘Course in this day and age, with the varying belief systems within fish world itself, it may be a bit tricky to catch up with the right fish.

“Hey, I see you have a fish on your car, too!”
”Yep. What parish do you belong to?”
“’Parish?’ Yipes! Bad Fish! Bad Fish!”

I presume mostly it comes from a sense of self-pride that one has from being a Christian that makes them want to show it in some way. There is nothing wrong with that, on some levels. I can understand where being a member of a select group causes one to desire that others recognize the difference.

But is putting a trinket on your automobile, when there are so many people in the world who are starving, that much of a symbol of Christianity? Or is it more a mark of shame? Honestly, if Jesus owned a car today, and He had $9.95 in his pocket, do you REALLY see Him using it toward a chrome fish?

Or do you see Jesus pointing out the exemplary widow who used her last two mites to buy a fish to stick on the back of her dress? Christians tell me they believe in heaven. Do they think once there they will heave a sigh of relief for having purchased a plastic fish, rather than using those few dollars toward the local soup kitchen?

As I passed fish after fish, I started to long for something different—a homemade sign that said, “Rather than buy a plastic fish for my car, I bought a real fish for a family.” That would be a fish that sent a much different message to us non-fishes.