The Rapture in Stereo
The mists of the Absolute were in turmoil. Lightning rent the infinite void. Shiva the Destroyer — always the flightiest of the trimurti — was divinely pissed off.
“Those wretched heathens! I can’t believe their temerity!”
“Oh,” said Brahma the Creator. “Them again.” He barely raised an eyelid.
“They’re holding an Apocalypse. Next fucking week,” said Shiva. He opened a newspaper and read:
A California-based Christian radio network is using the Internet, thousands of billboards and even RV caravans to warn of overwhelming evidence that Judgment Day will arrive May 21.
The message is being spread by Family Stations, a 53-year-old non-profit, non-commercial, Christian radio network with 66 outlets. The billboards — 1,200 in the USA and 2,000 worldwide — do not mince words, promising in splashy colors: “The Bible guarantees it!”
“That’s funny,” said Brahma. “I don’t recall reading anything of the sort.”
Shiva was in no mood for exegesis. “Do you have any idea how much work it is to put on a Christian-style Apocalypse?” he asked.
Vishnu the Sustainer set down a cup of saffron-infused tea. “Do you have any idea how much work I’m doing right this moment?” he answered. “You think it’s easy to perpetuate infinite Being?”
Truth be told, Vishnu looked the very model of vigor, virtù , vim, virility, valor, and virya. Not, in other words, tired.
“I hate it when Christians insist on doing the Apocalypse their way,” said Shiva. “All that brimstone. It’s just… nasty.”
“Maybe you’ll have better luck next age,” said Vishnu. “What did you expect from the Kali Yuga?”
“Or maybe it’s not going to happen at all,” said Brahma. “There are ample reasons to be skeptical. Remember that weird spate of reporting about mass animal deaths at the beginning of the year? Remember St. Malachy and all the doomsday nonsense when JPII kicked it? It’s just an oddity of intellectual life in Christian culture: Every age has some people saying ‘now is the time.'”
“Every age? Try every other week,” said Vishnu. “And I, of anyone, should know how foolish they’re being. I would commend to them the fine example of the Jews, who almost never panic merely for fun.”
“Panic’s only fun when it’s just for pretend,” said Brahma.
“What makes you think,” asked Vishnu, “that the Christian god is going to pull the plug this time in particular? As opposed to all the other times in Creation when he hasn’t?
“I don’t know,” said Shiva. “I guess… it was on FM radio? During the daytime?” He paused. “I mean, everybody knows you can’t trust those AM stations anymore. But this guy Harold Camping…. he was… he was in stereo.”
The saved, who are indwelt with the Spirit of God and compare Scripture with Scripture, can know things which the natural man cannot know. But the natural/unsaved man cannot know the day and hour of Christ?s return because that information is spiritually discerned.
In the Bible, the Lord divides mankind into two groups. He calls those He saves “wise” and “righteous” and those He does not save “fools” and “wicked”. The distinction has nothing to do with intelligence, human wisdom, or merit of any kind. One is wise if God has saved them and given them the Spirit of Christ. (Jesus is identified with Wisdom in the Bible) Those not saved are as fools/wicked because they do not possess Christ’s Spirit….
God is making a distinction. The wicked do not understand. The wise do understand by God’s grace and mercy.
“I see,” said Vishnu. “The information is spiritually discerned. If you want to be counted wise, then you must profess to understand and believe it. Your profession—in this case, your profession of doomsday—will be taken as proof of your wisdom. And if you can’t profess, you’re un-spiritual, un-saved, un-wise. Basically a poopyhead.”
“Very typical of religions in the West,” said Brahma. “No wonder western gods are afraid to show their faces. I would be too, with apologists like these.”
“There must be a numerology to it,” said Shiva. “Maybe that’s more reasonable?”
“Oh, there is,” said Brahma, reading further. “They reckon it’s been seven thousand years from the flood of Noah, and they’ve decided that that’s quite enough years for the story to have dragged along.”
Vishnu snorted. “If the beginning of the tale is self-evidently fictional, why are we supposed to believe the end? Seldom has anything more preposterous ever been committed to parchment than the story of Noah.”
“If you want more preposterous, I’d grant it’s hard to come by. But there’s always the Christian creation story,” said Brahma. “That one flatly contradicts itself. In chapter one, God creates plants on day three, man and woman on day six. In chapter two, God creates man first, then plants, then woman. But you can’t have it both ways.”
“You can if you’re a god,” said Shiva. “And that’s why I’m still worried. I may soon have a whole lot of very disagreeable work to do.”
“Mr. Camping would also have us believe, my dear Shiva, that we’re living in the Great Tribulation right this moment,” said Brahma. “And that it’s been going on since 1994. I mean, who knew? You’d think that if a god held a Tribulation, he could have made a better show of it.”
“He might have called us. Or at least sent a card,” said Shiva. “It seems very ill-mannered, doesn’t it?”
The trimurti browsed the Internet for a while in silence. Then Vishnu spotted something still more bizarre than anything they had heretofore uncovered.
“So why would Doomsday begin at the International Date Line? And why would it work its way around the planet, hour by hour, on a schedule set by Victorian astronomers?”
“Apparently God hates observatories,” said Brahma. “Or perhaps he hates the Maori, but I kind of doubt that one.”
“You know,” said Vishnu, “We’re overthinking this. At some point, every successful ideology just tidies up all the loose ends by thinking less about them. Everyone does it, and, sad to say, it works. Need to justify X? Find someone who believed it. Mutter something about your own human fallibility. Defer. Think less. And think it good and hard. And you’re done!”
“So that’s what Camping’s followers are doing?” asked Shiva. He looked worried again.
“They’re doing it harder than anyone now living,” said Vishnu.
“In other words, they really, really have faith,” said Shiva. “A faith to move mountains.” He paused. “And you know what that can do.”
“Indeed I know,” said Vishnu. Now he looked worried too.
“You’re not saying it’s going to happen after all,” said Brahma.
“Well, yes. Unless we do something to stop it,” said Vishnu. “But fortunately, I have a plan.”
He unrolled a giant map of the world. As in, really, really giant. The Sanskrit legend at the top, in characters a hundred miles high, read “THE MAP IS TOO THE TERRITORY.”
On it, he erased a single manmade line, first traced in 1884. Across the Pacific, the days bled into one another like ink in water. The International Date Line was no more.
“What now?” asked Shiva.
“Oh, it’ll be a fairly typical disconfirmation event,” said Vishnu. “Several things are possible. First, Family Radio may say they erred in their calculation — if so, they might reschedule the Rapture. They did it once before, when Camping said we’d go in 1994. Obviously we didn’t, hence May 21, 2011.
“They’re hardly the first sect to have such a problem, or to reschedule. The Millerites endured at least four reschedulings in a single two-year period. But that didn’t stop them. Oh no — they live on as the Seventh-Day Adventists.
“Second, Family Radio might try saying that the Rapture really did happen, and that believers are now in heaven. Just spiritually, not literally. This sounds silly, until you realize that the Jehovah’s Witnesses preach something very similar. They had their disconfirmation event in 1914, and to them that year marks the beginning of God’s kingdom on earth. Not the most auspicious year if you ask me, but it’s not my faith, as you both know.
“Third, they might try saying that God has spared the world from destruction, thanks to the faith of the true believers. Don’t laugh; that too has happened before.
“And fourth — I hear that not everyone at the Family Radio network is quite on board with their leader. A leadership coup could be imminent. Listening to the station is already a headbender of cognitive dissonance: They give advice about how to raise your kids. They talk openly about the future of the station. They ask for money. And they preach that the Rapture’s coming next week. It’s entirely possible they’ll simply ignore the big fat mistake they’ve just made.”
“Easily done, that last,” said Shiva. “Thanks to the format.”
“Stereo makes everything sound good,” said Brahma.