Part one: Your Kingdom, come…
After about the eighteenth rapture joke on Saturday I started praying for Harold Camping’s doomsday calculations to have been right after all. Truth is, I kind of miss being stalked by the fear that the all-out, blood and guts End of Days was coming, and soon. I miss the creeping terror between my shoulder blades and the haunting, arcane language of scripture. As a kid, I would wrap my blanket around myself and sneak to the crack of my bedroom door to listen to Jack Van Impe or John Hagee speak in sepulchral, sanctified tones about the armies of Gog and Magog, about the Antichrist and the computer chip implants he was developing, in California, with a government grant. I read The Late, Great Planet Earth in a dark room after midnight, unable to tear myself away from the pornographic thrill of biblical prophecy and its spooky, forbidden knowledge.
The rapture was like Freddy Krueger, only unlike the razor-fingered sadist of the dreamworld, every adult I knew assured me that the rapture was real. This was the nineties, so we were also taught that an honest-to-God, baby-sacrificing Satanist cult operated in every small town, and that there were mind-controlling messages and demonic incantations hidden in pop music. Being a Christian back then was such horrible, blood-curdling fun that we didn’t mind giving up Halloween.
So, whether it’s an obvious false trumpet sounded by some addled crank out of California or a new Kirk Cameron movie hitting the box office, Armageddon talk tends to fill me with the sort of giddy exhilaration that I’m given to understand accompanies giving a rat’s ass about soccer. It’s like the biggest World Cup ever, only with blood up to a horse’s shoulders. Which is why this weekend seemed so godawful boring. There were no candlelight vigils, no petrified believers trembling before their God. Camping’s rapture scare failed to generate even a small fraction of the lukewarm paranoid stir that greeted the turning of the millennium or the inauguration of Obama. It was a big hipster joke. A hundred lame reposts on Facebook.
Maybe what I miss the most about preparing for the End Times is the sense of order and meaning that it imposed on life. I’ll admit to spending more than my fair share of time wistfully daydreaming about the zombie apocalypse. If only life could be as simple as bludgeoning the undead and surviving on a doomed, capricious society’s leftover caches of canned corn beef hash. Burying stockpiles of guns and waiting for the Big One is fun, but it’s escapism. In real life, the government doesn’t come for your gun; you end up pawning it to keep the electricity on. That’s the sort of dystopian nightmare we actually face, one where the world never ends. The Four Horsemen continue to gallop across the backs of working people, spurred on by an ideology of greed and an irrational system that turns abundance of resources into famine and spreads mechanized death across the planet.
We can’t count on the trumpet to call us home to the conquering savior who meets us in the sky. This is America. We got bills to pay.