Rapture index rides a bull market

Rev. Jack Van Ens

Former Southern Baptist preacher Bill Moyers has cashed out of a rising market appealing to gullible Christians. Moyers knows that the Southern Baptist Convention embraces a scurrilous theology of what’s going to happen next before Christ returns. Once Israel has a hammerlock on “biblical lands,” so the story goes, murderous hordes led by the Antichrist will attack Israel, pitching the world towards a final showdown between good and evil at Armageddon, outside Jerusalem. This scenario gets less baffling to those who realize that the Bible can be made to say whatever satisfies our fears. For Christ’s believers, the future scenario is bliss. Jews who scorn conversion to Jesus after Armageddon will be dispatched to outer darkness. When Christ returns for the Rapture, he will swoop believers out of their cars and clothes into the heavens, showing the world whose boss, as he sits at God’s right hand. From on high, raptured believers will look down upon their ungodly opponents suffering from boils, pussy sores, and an invasion of locusts and slimy frogs that infest their lives.Bill Moyers knows a false prophet when he sees one. This creator of many splendid PBS specials realizes how right Jesus was when teaching about the end of the world. Jesus warned that during the last days “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray,” Matthew 24:11. They run around in pious sheep’s clothing, evidently, among Southern Baptist circles and within a Religious Right that buys into a fanciful theology of the Left Behind series.False prophets like lucrative deals, especially the kind of cash the Left Behind series rakes in, detailing events surrounding the supposedly biblical Rapture. Of course, God gets credit for publishing blockbusters. Tyndal House’s Mike Morrison, who pedals the Left Behind series, exclaims, “We believe God is ultimately driving this more than we are… The bottom line is, we give all the credit to the Lord.” Sure, God gets the credit, but Morrison and his hucksters keep the cash.Bill Moyers shutters at the gullibility of millions of evangelical Christians who invest in a boom market for end of the world predictions. A 2002 Time magazine/CNN poll found that, among one-third of Americans, a whopping 59 percent say they believe the events in Revelation are literally coming true, and nearly one-quarter think the Bible predicted the Sept. 11 attack.Last December Moyers received the Global Environment Citizen Award from Harvard Medical School. Accepting this award, he sniffed out religious pollution casting a haze over our nation. “One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal,” said a disgusted Moyers. “It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the oval office and in Congress.”What raises Moyer’s ire is that the Religious Right, which embraces the errant theology of the Left Behind series, shapes some of our nation’s Middle East foreign policy. As they incorrectly read the Bible, these politicians believe that God wants Israel to have Jerusalem and West Bank. This leaves no territory for a Palestinian state. What God demands, our foreign policy favoring Israel better bow down to, these politicians figure.Moyers in his acceptance remarks was really rankled over the popularity of the Rapture Index. Aping Wall Street, Left Behind Christians who carry lots of weight in the White House invest in the Rapture Index which reports a boom market for end of the world chaos. Left Behind believers welcome the war in Iraq. It fits their end of the world predictions and makes the Rapture Index soar. “The last time I Googled it,” said Moyers, “the Rapture Index stood at 144 – just one point below the critical threshold when the whole thing will blow, the Son of God will return, the righteous will enter heaven, and sinners will be condemned to eternal hellfire.”Virtually within shouting distance of where I live stands a prosperous evangelical powerhouse church that invests heavily in the Rapture Index. Each May for over a quarter century Faith Bible Chapel sponsors an Israel Awareness Day. Bigwigs from Israel are featured speakers, as well as local officials who give the key to the city. Faith Bible Chapel has a partnering relationship with Ariel, an Israeli settlement on the West Bank. Such chumminess stems from believing that Israel ranks as God’s favorite. So Palestinians always lose out. This win/lose mentality enthralls thousands of worshippers, commandeers blessings from city officials and sponsors a militant theology that keeps fires raging in Middle East wars. Our sons and daughters will needlessly die in Iraq, our troops will not come home soon, and our national respect will nosedive as long as those in power influencing the White House believe God likes Israel but abhors the Palestinians.One dynamic I know for sure about the future: Faith Bible Chapel will never ask Bill Moyers to give the keynote address at the annual spring Israel Awareness Day.The Rapture Index, founded in 1995 by Todd Strandberg, monitors forty-five biblically prophetic categories such as earthquakes (Yikes! California survived 5 in a recent week), mark of the beast computer technology, wars and rumors of wars, the Common Market, religious apostasy, biblical forecasts of the End, and the like. Strandberg ranks each category one to five. A lower score signals a Bear Market when the world is not rushing to meet its Maker. Higher scores indicate a Bear market with the world racing towards its demise. Strandberg warns that anything higher than 145 means “Fasten your seatbelt, it will be a rough ride.” Of course, believers should unfasten their seatbelts to make it easier for Jesus to rapture them into the sky. This Rapture Index catapulted to 174 when the United States attacked Baghdad at Gulf War II’s start. The all-time high mark of 182 came with 9/11. Bill Moyers’ blood pressure beats this score, I surmise, as Americans’ gullibility skyrockets. The Rev. Jack R. Van Ens is a Presbyterian minister who heads the nonprofit, tax-exempt Creative Growth Ministries, enhancing Christian worship through storytelling and dramatic presentations. Van Ens’ book, “How Jefferson Made the Best of Bad Messes,” is available at local bookstores for $7.95.Vail, Colorado

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