It is no new observation on my part to point out http://www.youvebeenleftbehind.com, a site that promises to send out emails to the loved ones of those who disappear at the Rapture for believing properly in Jesus (for more on this go to http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/06/service-lets-yo.html). Of course, this service will cost you a nominal fee. Now, I’m guessing that those taken at the Rapture don’t just want to brag that they played the whole Jesus-card properly; they want their friends and family to take note and take this opportunity to repent and become good believing Christians so that when Jesus really comes they can bounce before things get ugly.
Okay, I classify all of this under the giant rubric of belief – and it’s totally acceptable. Who would I be to knock faith, to disagree with it or to challenge it. It’s faith: inherently, none of those things really work with faith anyway. What I do disagree with, though, are a few other things about the whole predicted Rapture/Apocalypse/Jesus’ return extravaganza. Let’s start with an example: the year 2000, what people thought was the Millennium (though it was really 2001).
People said that Jesus was coming back, that the world was going to end, and the lesser believers amongst them freaked out about the technological Y2K possibilities. What did I do at this time? I offered to take bets – as many bets as I could. You had a prediction, I said, I will bet you absolutely anything that your prediction won’t materialize. I wasn’t asking people to renounce their religions if I was right and nothing happened; I was just asking for, say, ten dollars. If someone challenged that, if he were right he could not collect (presuming of course that he would be gone or busy attending to Jesus since he would have been here), I reassured him that my eternity in Hell would be ample enough punishment (though if the Rapture ever happened I’d be one of the first on board to a life with Jesus).
So what am I driving at here because it’s not mocking Christians or mocking Jesus? In fact, I love Jesus. He’s probably my favorite historical character (tied, perhaps, with Buddha and Louis XVI). Jesus was amazing – you don’t have to believe in his divinity to know that. So, what I’m getting at is prophecy, and in particular, when prophecy fails. In fact, there’s a fascinating book called When Prophecy Fails (available now through Amazon.com by visiting http://www.thezenofsouthpark.com). It is about a modern group whose leaders make predictions that obviously prove false – they thought the group would be rescued by UFOs. The inevitability of all prophecy of this nature (end of the world) failing is obvious, but the question becomes, just like after the year 2000, what do people do when they’re proven wrong, as the passing of the predicted date obviously shows them to have been? Well, they make excuses and keep on believing. It’s a fascinating phenomenon that this book details through a case study, and Christian predictions about the Apocalypse and Jesus’ coming are the quintessential example.
People have been predicting Jesus’ second coming from the moment he ‘left.’ And guess what – they’ve always been wrong. Always. And I’ll take any bet about it. This brings me to the point of prophecy. The prophecies that predicted Jesus’ return were speaking in the immediate sense. They never expected people to reinterpret what they said to make the time longer and longer. Every reinterpretation confirms who wrong these predictions were. So what is prophecy in the Bible?
Prophecy, in the Bible, is meant for a specific time and place, and that time and place is the prophet’s time and place. When Isaiah spoke to the people about being bad and on the edge of destruction (or about wonderful futures) he did it to persuade them to change their behavior and bring a new, better situation about – or be punished. Prophets had a message for their own age. Peoples’ attempts for centuries to reinterpret those predictions for their own times are foolish and misguided. They were messages to other people. Of course, the lessons can still be valuable (i.e. be a good person) and transcend time and place – that’s what’s made them continually applicable – but that doesn’t mean that the prophetic prediction was really talking about now – it was a threat to the people back then.
I look at the messages of South Park in a similar way. Though they will resonate as true for generations to come, they are messages for the people of our time, exhorting us to change our ways, think differently or behave differently – just like those biblical prophets delivered. To call Trey and Matt prophets would be ridiculous, but I am drawing a comparison between who their message was for and what can be done with it. It is for us now, to change our ways, but it can be used later as a means of saying, South Park said the Vatican would be destroyed if priests didn’t stop molesting children (last night’s episode – 608, Red Hot Catholic Love) and I’m still waiting for it to happen. They didn’t say it would be destroyed – they just created a wild scenario to demonstrate how important change right now is. Prophecy worked the same way. If you’d like to read more on this check out my essay under Bonus Material at http://www.thezenofsouthpark.com.
In short, when someone tells you that the world is ending and Jesus is coming, ask what they’ll give you if they’re wrong – maybe they’ll sing a different tune or at least you can get a free meal out of it.
Do you think that the Rapture is coming? When? Do you believe in prophecy or think I’m an idiot for what I’ve said? Tell me why – I’d love to hear and know what you think and why.
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Enjoy some Fun with the Bible posts and start to learn for yourself what’s really going on in the book of Revelation.
Filed under: Bible, Catholicism, Christianity, History, Reading, Religion, South Park, The Zen of South Park | Tagged: Apocalypse, Bible, Catholic Church, Christians, Jesus, millennium, Prophecy, Rapture, South Park, The Zen of South Park, UFO, Vatican |