I hope you find religion

I called my mother a day after the election and this was the beginning of our conversation.

Mom: How are you?

Me: All right. Happy about the election.

Mom: I bet you are. I just hope you find religion.

Me: What do you mean by that?

Mom: Just mark my words.

Me: What?

Mom: Just remember this moment.

Me: Mmmm... Okay, but I still don't know what you mean.

Mom: This election. These wars. This financial crisis. Global warming. This crazy world. I just don't know....

Finally, I understood. The end times. My mother, like many fundamentalists, looks forward to the second coming of Christ, but she's horribly scared of herself, her kids, and her grandchildren living through the apocalyptic horrors that preclude it. In fact, despite the imaginings some outsiders have that fundamentalists have a drive to bring on Armaggedon, there are fundies who believe that we should avoid the end times, delaying the 2nd coming as much as possible to save more souls.

There is a Sodom and Gomorrah feel to it. In that story, God told Abraham that he was going to obliterate the city. Abraham first asked God, "If there are 50 souls that are good, will you avoid destroying it?" God said, "Sure". But then Abraham thought a little more realistically. "What about 45? No wait. Let's say 40.... Mmmm....How about 10?" God agreed to not destroying the city if 10 good people were found. Fact was, it was just Lot and his daughters (and for a moment his wife) who were the only good ones that escaped before God's cleansing. (Of course, "good" is a bit relative as it seems okay for Lot to have offered up his fine virgin daughters to be raped by the town instead of his male angel visitors (Genesis 19), but I digress...)

Point is, like Abraham's affection and concern for Sodom and Gomorrah, so too do a lot of Christians have concern for themselves, their children, and their children's children, and others would-be-saved, and for all of them to avoid living through the perilous end times. Think about the benefits of delaying the 2nd coming. Imagine the social network in heaven of spending a few years with some 14th generational grandchild or having someone come up to you and say, "I'm here in heaven today because you saved Joe and Joe saved Jane and Jane saved Billy...."

Those who are religious desire to make heaven on earth, but they also have the impression that without God's grace, which too many of us will be without, evil will overtake the world. When there is nothing more anybody can do to save souls, this will usher in the 2nd coming. Hopefully those in Christ will be raptured to avoid evil unhindered by God's grace, but there is a sadness to that. It's the melancholy that comes with the recognition that there are no more souls that can be saved -- not even some of our friends and children.

For my mother, while I'm still alive and this world keeps ticking, there is hope that I'll be saved. For whatever reasons, she believes John McCain can keep this ol' world from getting tired before Barack Obama can. Her vote for McCain to avoid fear cast against my vote for Obama in hope. Simple really. We each want a happy life for us and our kids. Nobody wants to see us self destruct. We're just not fully agreed on how we can accomplish this.

12 comments:

Cliff Martin said...

Tom,
Be careful that you do not cast all of Christianity into a mold invented a century and half ago, and accepted by a minority of believers.

Tom said...

Nice inference, Cliff, that my mother (and the rest of my family and the way I was raised) belongs to a fundamentalist church invented a century and a half ago! Can you guess which one?

AMW said...

Sorry you had to go through that, Tom. One of the more frustrating aspects of evangelical Christianity is the proclivity of many of its adherents to invoke the end times when they're pessimistic about the near future.

As Cliff said, don't think that all of us (evangelical or otherwise) fit into that mold.

Cliff Martin said...

Church of Christ?

Tom said...

So close, but nope! As a hint, I'll say your answer is a great disappointment.

Cliff Martin said...

Ah, the Millerites! Which branch?

Tom said...

The originators of flood geology and some of the strongest YECs out there -- the Seventh-day Adventists.

I've come a long way.

7K said...

You're talking here about futurist and often Darbyist eschatology, popular in fundamentalism. That's where you get all this negativity about the future: Great Tribulation, Antichrist, Rapture, Third Temple, 666, ect.

Have you ever heard of "preterism?" It is actually more widely believed among Christian theologians, that all those Hebrew and New Testament prophesies were basically fulfilled by 70AD, with the destruction of the Jewish Temple.
There is no need to imagine all these things (like Obama being the Antichrist - ridiculous)and the Left Behind stuff. It's not only unnecessary, it is pessimistic and a blot on the whole message that Christ came to save not condemn. The hope message of Christianity is not that Christ saves only some who come through some mysterious initiation no one fully understands, but that he is the savior of the whole world, everything.

I voted for Obama, too. Your mother was probably really voting for Palin, a fundamentalist.

Tom said...

7K,

Nice to hear from you! Actually, my mother was disappointed in the choice of Palin and thought that it hurt McCain (which I agree). While Adventists share many of the ideologies of other evangelicals, they are scared to death of the mixing of church and state -- because it brings on the end times. They are stuck in a rock and a hard spot with wanting to support the Focus-on-the-Family agenda because they really adhere to the beliefs, but they don't want them necessarily written into law and enforced by the government.

7K said...

The Palin choice brought in the Evangelical Fundie vote, because they distrusted McCain's religion, essentially. I would agree about separation of church and state, but not that it keeps off the "end times." I think of church-state sep as helpful to the cause of the church, since power tends to corrupt. Also, which "church" gets to hold the power, since there are so many variations?

In preterist terms, "end times" already happened (except for partial preterists who also think there is some kind of future ending or transformation). Preterists say the "last things" were directed at the Jewish people whose "age" came to a visible ending in 70AD, which relates to Jesus' Olivet Discourse (Matt.24).
Thus we are not, as the "church", focused on a future apocalypse. Preterists are not then "escapist" Christians. They are more hope-oriented and focused on improving the present world.

Tom said...

7K, is there a heaven and eternal life in your theology?

Mike Beidler said...

Hey, Tom. Totally off subject. Can you email me privately (via my blog profile)? I've got a request.

Feel free to delete this comment once you get it.