For the most part, I try to remain respectful when discussing Christian doctrine, and I especially make it a point to be kind to others, regardless of religious beliefs, assuming reciprocation. At the same time, I have poked fun of various Christian beliefs and practices on this blog, and other places on the internet. Heck, I've even participated in such mockery in "real" life.
Lately, I've noticed a trend regarding the doctrines I mock off-screen. In general, I don't bother with sentimental platitudes about Jesus, or the virgin birth, or transubstantiation. Instead I direct my smart-assery towards the doctrines that flooded my life with fear as a Christian--Hell and end times eschatology.
Hell before, but I haven't discussed the fear I had about the end times. I'm sure many of my readers will remember the hype and fervor surrounding the Left Behind series during the 90s and early 2000s. I was in junior high when the first book was published, and my mother slowly began collecting the series, purchasing the books in hardcover, often during the first sales week.
At the time I didn't know good literature from trash, but I had complete access to my parents' library. I knew that the Left Behind series was popular among many people at my church and with a lot of "good Christians." I wanted to be a good Christian, myself, and I looked to others in my community as roll models in this area. I copied them by talking politely, learning Scripture, and reading the recommended reading material.
I devoured each book as it came out, up until I started questioning my faith in high school. I found a frightening world in which Christians were forced to take the "Mark of the Beast" or die, a one world government seeking to control humanity, and people dying in the streets fighting for Jesus. Those who had been ruptured were spared the fate of living in such a world, but those who remained were in a constant spiritual and physical battle for their lives and souls. I knew I didn't want to be left behind, and since I had doubts about the sincerity of my salvation, rapture eschatology provided another source of anxiety in my childhood.
I rode the bus home from school, talking with friends or reading a book during the ride, but my family lived in a suburban cul-da-sac where the bus lacked maneuverability. Each day, I got off the bus at the end of my street, and passed four houses on my walk home. The walk, itself, was pretty short, but I always worried what I would find when I got home. Would my mother's clothes be in a pile on the floor with dinner burning on the stove? Would I have to live in a post-rapture apocalyptic nightmare without adult guidance in my life or the company of my little sister? Sometimes these thoughts made me sick to my stomach.
Later I learned to distract myself during the walk by listening to Christian music on my portable CD player. But, even this couldn't protect me from my fears, as songs like this took on my very nightmares as their theme. (If you want to understand the sort of fear I'm describing, just watch the video in the previous link, and try to filter these images through the mind of a fourteen year old.) These fears slowly faded but remained present until I discovered the Calvinist tradtion.
There is much I now dislike about Calvinism, but I am grateful for discovering it when I did because it provided an alternative way to think about eschatology. Most Calvinists, at least the Presbyterian sort, are amillinialists, meaning they believe that the events referred to in Revelation were discussing the fall of Rome, an event that had already occurred. There would be no rapture or post-apocalyptic nightmare world.
I even found a book called Right Behind by N.D. Wilson (son of Doug Wilson), which makes fun of the Left Behind fervor and nonsense. This book provided a "safe" (read: Christian) source to mock a fear that once paralyzed me. And this is why I mock rapture theology today. By mocking it, I am showing the world and myself that I have conquered these fears--that I will no longer be held down by childhood fears stemming from Christian indoctrination. I also seek to tame these fears for others, which means I mock some Christian doctrines in front of my children. There are plenty of people in my life and theirs that still believe in the pre-tribulation rapture, and children have vivid imaginations. I do not want these fears to cloud my children's childhood the way they did mine, so I de-fang this nonsense whenever I can.
* Image Credit