Friday, August 12, 2005

American apocalypse?

Last night the Bluffer's Guide did the end of the world. And in putting it together I had a close look at the theology of the Rapture - the belief that when Jesus returns Christians will be taken up into heaven and spared the messy business of God's judgement. If you want to find out what I think of that, then look at the virtual theology site which should have the sixth talk up soon(ish).

But in looking at that, I started to come up with a different take on it. Most proponents of the Rapture are American, and have a very America-centered view of the world. Take, for instance, the Rapture Index. This site is dedicated to working out how close we are to the Rapture, but looking at world affairs and putting them in Biblical categories. The role America plays in this is very odd. when talking about 'moral standards' it is very focussed on America. So the site suggests that since 'gay marry [sic.] supporters lose every major political vote', this category is down graded. This seems to have overlooked the fact that Canada and Spain have both recently voted to have gay marriage and that the Civil Partnership Act in the UK come into force in December. As I say, very America-centered.

Yet when it comes to the category of 'Beast government' it is the European Union that is in view. The FAQs at the Rapture Index say that the anti-Christ will come out of the EU: "The Bible predicts that someday a world leader will emerge from a revived Roman Empire. The European Union is clearly the fulfillment of this prophetic event." Clearly UKIP would approve!

But Rapture Index (RI) is clearly baffled by the absence of America from the Bible. More from the FAQs, this time 'Why is there no mention of America in prophecy?': "The United States is mentioned nowhere in Bible prophecy by name. However, as the greatest nation ever to exist --technologically and scientifically speaking-- and as a nation that seems to have been designed by God to act as midwife and protector of Israel in its rebirth in 1948, one has to wonder if America is referred to somewhere in God's Word." (If you want to see where RI thinks America is mentioned, check out the whole answer.)

But, in the spirit of helping the brethren, I have a suggestion. Indulge me, please. The beast of the book of Revelation is Rome because that was the world-imperial power when John the Seer was writing. Today, however, the world-imperial power is, erm, America. So the simple answer to 'where is America?' might just be 'America is the Beast!' If that is so, then who are those who subscribe to the religion of the Beast? Could they be the Rapture-bellieving Evangelical Christians who voted Bush into power? Remember it was the 'orthodox' believers of their times of whom both the prophets and Jesus were so critical.

Just a thought.

Of course, I don't believe that Revelation should be read like this (again I refer you to the talk on virtual theology). So I don't think America is (necessarily) the anti-Christ.

But it made me think!

1 comment:

Gareth said...

There is more than one kind of religion, and more than one way of reconciling the spiritual truth your heart yearns for with the empirical truth your eyes see.

I could yearn for the eternal God who, as Barth says, we blaspheme when we describe; or I could yearn for the televangelists' Jesus who asks me to show my faith by giving those folding notes that openly declare, "In God We Trust." An objective observer sees a whole world of difference - but the subjective worshipper is blindly placing every available thing they have into the hands of the God they trust. They cannot see what is only apparent from outside.

If the intermediary has misled them, then how are they different from the Catholic who bought an indulgence, the Protestant who invested in the Prosperity Gospel, or the Muslim who was never allowed to read the passage in the Qu'ran which promises eternal damnation to the mujihaddin who kills an innocent?

Their faith has been intercepted and redirected. At school, I sang "Jerusalem" and believed that England was especially blessed by God and given a place above all other nations. Only free access to information liberated me from that joke. Thankfully, I went to school at a time when young people were taught to discern the truth from a mountain of misinformation.

Can we say the same now? Can the education system in the USA?

In America today, Christianity has been purloined and turned into a civil religion. The new Gospel, rich in charisms, is filtered through Max Weber's Protestan Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. And when it works in the USA, the rewards are rich beyond the imagination.

Spiritual truth will have a hard time being heard among a cacophony of empirical wealth.

(Ooh! Hark at me! All militant anti-capitalism!)