Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On the Eschatology of "Left Behind"

On a typical night at work while doing my sweeping rounds about two years ago, I noticed a little book sitting next to a garbage can. It was titled "BIBLE PROPHECY HANDBOOK" by Carol Smith, one of those books you'd find in a "Choice Books" display at a bargain store. Since it seemed that nobody was looking for it, I decided to keep the book. It was a book that covered four different eschatological views in Christianity. While I don't believe any of it, of course, I can certainly appreciate that the book simply lays out the different views in good detail for the reader to objectively study.

"JohnNelsonDarby" by Contemporary photograph - http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/texts/dispensationalism.html. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:JohnNelsonDarby.jpg#mediaviewer/File:JohnNelsonDarby.jpg
This guy invented the Rapture. I kid you not!


I mention this because after my movie review of "Left Behind", I realized there was so much material to explore, starting with the eschatology that's behind the movie, known as Dispensational Premillenialism. While the book is excellent at laying out the basic details of Dispensationalism, it did not say anything about the very human origins about it. Dispensationalism was created by John Nelson Darby in the 1830s, and later popularized by Cyrus Scofield's Reference Bible. Today it's wildly popular amongst rural Christianity, Fundamentalists and the Baptists. What's interesting about Darby's creation is that in developing this eschatology, he is the one who invented the concept of the "Rapture". However, try telling this to Dispensationalists and they'll fiercely deny it.

The basic details of Dispensationalist eschatology are these: Believers will be "taken up to heaven"(aka raptured) to be with Christ, signalling the start of a seven-year "Tribulation" in which the Antichrist will appear and reign over this period of persecution and misery until Christ returns. This, just before the Antichrist appearing, is precisely what is depicted in "Left Behind".

Somebody call Daryl Dixon

But here's the part about Dispensationalism that didn't make the cut in both film iterations of "Left Behind": As part of the Rapture, dead believers will be resurrected.

A zombie attack in the Bible. Again. Why wasn't this depicted in the film? Because in this day and age, we know that zombies are nothing more than pure fiction, like "The Walking Dead". To depict zombies, despite it being canonical to Dispensationalism, would expose it as the twisted fiction that it is.

But let's be kind and suppose for a moment that they would not be zombies but fully restored to life. Doesn't that mean that despite their belief, they've come back just to suffer the misery of Tribulation? That's a decidedly evil move by the Biblical God, and it's not the only one.

Welcome to God's Slaughterhouse of the Babes

In one scene of "Left Behind", Chloe goes to the hospital in her dire search to find her little brother, who has been raptured. She wanders into the maternity ward to discover that all the newborn babies have been taken away, too. Even worse, according to Dispensationalism and many Bible churches that believe in an "age of accountability"(which answers my earlier question about belief and babies), babies will be ripped from their mothers' wombs. Cribs emptied. Kindergartens shuttered. Would-be parents' lives are shattered in an instant. God becomes the biggest abortionist and child abductor in history. And apparently, any children conceived and born after the Rapture will suffer the same as their parents.

What about those Not Left Behind?

Everywhere in Dispensationalism, the focus is on those not taken in the Rapture and their subsequent misery from it. The film is no exception.

Yet, isn't it worth a look to ask "What would Irene Steele think of the fact that she just got ripped from her daughter and husband, and now they're caught in a meat grinder while the all-powerful, all-knowing and all-"loving" God does nothing? How about little Raymie Steele getting taken as he's hugging his big sister?"  Wouldn't they rather be there for them at the very least, to help lessen their suffering? What would they think, let's imagine, if Rayford and Chloe couldn't bring themselves to truly believe during the Tribulation? It's fully possible that they could believe that God exists, but they cannot love Him(this would be misotheism, as atheism at that point would be proven false). Would Irene and Raymie write them off and enjoy the rest of eternity in heaven?

Or would they raise hell(no pun intended) to make God get off his Almighty ass and stop the suffering?

Dispensational Politics: Poisoning the Well of Reasonable Policies

Dispensationalism is really popular in right-wing America. And it has effectively poisoned our foreign policies. Dispensationalism also has "plans" for Israel, and politicians who subscribe to it are staunch Zionists. They have effectively forced the United States government into supporting Israel no matter how brutal they treat their neighbors, the Palestinians.  Why? Because they believe that in ensuring Israel wins, no matter what, it will hasten the coming of Darby's end-times prophecies. So they lust after controlling the Middle East solely for a religious belief, not reasoned politics.

Disposing of Dispensationalism

So how do rational folks fight this toxic ideology? For politicians, force them to admit their support for Israel is not based in reason but religious fever. Let them expose how toxic they are towards rational politics. For folks in general, point out that their "right" way of interpreting the Bible didn't even exist until mid-19th century. Let them know that their beliefs have zero basis in reality and that it's all a delirious form of wish thinking that will lead to nothing more than... a Great Disappointment.