How was the end of the world for you? Were you prepared for rapture? Now that the whole Harold Camping rapture hullaballoo is over for now (hopefully) there is one aspect of it that was buried away in the later paragraphs of some newspaper articles that at the time amused me but on consideration makes me very sad and very angry: rapture insurance.
Rapture insurance – funny or tragic?
Yes, you heard me, rapture insurance. It seems even funnier when you realise that people who believe that they may be raptured are signing up to have their un-raptured pets cared for after their departure, or to have letters sent out to their friends saying final farewells. But put aside the apparent idiocy of this and try to look at it with caring eyes. This is actually heartbreakingly sad. The people doing this aren’t zealots who want to leave their un-godly friends and family behind: they are people who have been convinced that rapture will happen someday (possibly soon) and are worried at the prospect. They believe they are going to be taken away suddenly and they don’t know when, they don’t know who they are leaving behind and they don’t know exactly what is going to happen to those left behind. If I thought I was about to be raptured I would be worried about what was going to happen to those I love. That would include our guinea pigs! Would their chances be better if I left their cage door shut or open?
Now rapture isn’t a concept dreamed up in the last few years by one or two crackpots. It is based largely on 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 and has possibly been around in the background of Christian thought ever since, though firm theologies about it (which like any theology based on scant evidence are probably dodgy theology) are more recent. The importance attached to it has varied and its popularity has ebbed and flowed according to the tensions and neuroses of each century. It is not surprising that as global tensions rose during the cold war the end times became a much bigger talking point amongst Christians, and competing theologies of the end times (eschatology) became more strident and detailed and more ingrained in the faith of many. By the ‘70s rapture was a commonly discussed topic and Larry Norman’s 1969 song “I wish we’d all been ready” captured the mood:
A man and wife asleep in bed, she hears a noise and turns her head, he’s gone
I wish we’d all been ready
Two men walking up a hill, one disappears and one’s left standing still
I wish we’d all been ready
There’s no time to change your mind
The Son has come, and you’ve been left behind. (© Larry Norman)
Maggi Dawn goes into slightly more detail about the risings and fallings of rapture beliefs
So to get back to those who have bought rapture insurance. These people have been hit by a double whammy. They have been sold the belief that at any time they might get whisked away from this world leaving their loved ones behind (to suffer the carnage of a world that knows the end is coming). Then when they are good and worried they have been sold insurance to take care of things when they are gone.
Atheist pet care
Some of the pet care is quite inventive. Eternal Earth Bound Pets has as a selling point that it is run by atheists who don’t believe in the rapture, so they won’t be raptured and will be here to take care of the animals. As they put it, “Our network of animal activists are committed to step in when you step up to Jesus”. They say the price covers expenses only and they are doing this for love of the animals – but if there is no rapture, why do the animals need that love?
Now you might say this is the price for being gullible, or if you are a rapturist (I just made that word up) that it is the penalty for being too concerned about the things of this world – but either way there but for the grace of God go I. Christ never told us to laugh at those more gullible than ourselves – or more trusting or more caring. The people who have bought the insurance have tried to walk the line between their faith and their care for those around them but couldn’t square the circle. But what about those who did the selling? It would appear to be a wholly cynical act aimed at taking advantage of the worried. It would be nice to think there would be a law against selling such dubious and unmeasurable insurance and these people could be sued – but I’m not holding my breath.
Putting away childish things
For a little light relief you might want to use this flowchart to see if you will be raptured.
Meanwhile I spent some time in the week leading up to the end of the world collecting for Christian Aid, a development organisation who help some of the world’s poorest communities transform their lives. Then I spent a large part of the end of the world weekend helping renew my daughter’s bedroom as she decided which of her childhood things could be passed on to those who may have more need of them than she has. As a result her bedroom is now amazingly less cluttered and more grown-up and charities have a wooden dolls house and six sacks of loved toys, books, clothes etc. Putting away childish things – now that is far more Biblical and redemptive than any of the other nonsense.
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