[2 November 2009]
As a non-believer who is nevertheless endlessly fascinated with the concept of the pre-tribulation Rapture, I have to confess to having gone to some trouble to view the movie Left Behind. This film, based on the popular series of Christian books of the same name, stars none other than Kirk Cameron as a character named “Buck Henry”, a cynical journalist who eventually finds redemption in the End Times.
The Rapture, by way of introduction, is an eschatological belief held by some Christians, in which believers will be physically whisked off to Heaven prior to the horrifying events of the Apocalypse. Given this fascinating topic, you’d think the movie would be marginally interesting, at least in a campy, facetious way. Nope. Watching it, I found myself thinking that the end of the world would be a small price to pay for the end of the movie. I ended up turning it off prior to its undoubtedly ‘apocalicious’ conclusion, but I did manage to watch enough of it to accumulate a few questions.
Not all of these questions pertained to the obvious, overarching issue of what it takes to make one’s self believe that in the near future, “Jesus will come in the air, catch up the Church from the Earth, and then return to Heaven with the Church.” No, those questions are not for me to decide; time will tell, certainly, whether or not heathens like me will be left here to suffer the fury of “fearsome locust-like creatures” or the “army of 200 million horselike creatures” which will unleashed upon the godless pagans. (Both of these images, by the way, are courtesy of the Web site Rapture Ready, which, in addition to being amazingly insane and entertaining, serves as an extensive resource for all things Rapturous. I especially recommend the article, “Oprah Winfrey: Billionaire Blasphemer”).
But as previously stated, I found that my more burning questions about the movie were pragmatic in nature. For example, why was the clothing of all of the believers left on this earthly plane? Perhaps the ritual close ups of these unoccupied clothes were meant to underscore the dramatic abruptness of the wearer’s disappearance, but it started to seem a bit like a Gap commercial to me. And then there was the creepy implication that these good folks were showing up in heaven nude, which, given the person, could be thoroughly upsetting to Jesus.
While an online search actually yielded some interesting explanations for this (one writer suggested that the raptured will receive ‘spiritual clothing’, another stated that receiving a white robe is customary, “like going to a real nice hotel”), I couldn’t help thinking about the perfectly good clothes left on earth. And while I was at it, I wondered about the unmanned cars of the chosen ones, those that didn’t immediately veer off the road and self-destruct. And their houses, their pools, their furniture! Surely these good people would want these items donated to a worthy charity, although technically, the godless ones remaining would deserve nothing but hellfire and unrelenting torment.
But the believers won’t be around to decide, will they? They will be parted forever from the trappings of this mortal coil. What will that mean for the leftover sinners? I have two words: business opportunity.
I’m not going to pretend that this brilliant idea was mine, although like most brilliant business ideas, it feels like it almost could have been mine. No, somebody (quite a few people, actually) has already seized on Rapture as an excellent means of improving the economy, such as it will be. for the damned. According to a Web site detailing “After Rapture Services”, this opportunity is currently at its apex, since many believers anticipate that the End Times are near. “The Rapture is a remarkable business opportunity for heathens, atheists, secular humanists and other entrepreneurs to make a fast buck off the faithful, who believe that they will be taken bodily into heaven at the beginning of the end of the world,” the Web site states.
While much of this appears to be tongue-in cheek, some of these services are presented as credible businesses with professional-looking Web sites. Take, for instance, Eternal Earthbound Pets, a service in the US which bills itself as “the next-best thing to pet salvation in a post-rapture world.”
The service, operated by atheists, offers care for the soulless and therefore un-rapturable pets of those who have been saved. The Web site for this service states that it is not a joke, but “a serious offer to our Christian friends who believe in the Second Coming and honestly care about the future of their pets after the Rapture occurs.”
Eternal Earthbound Pets is currently offered in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Carolina and Georgia. The cost of the service is $110, with an additional $15 fee for each additional rescued pet per household. The site states that this cost is not for the lifelong care of the animal, but for the time and travel required for the initial rescue, adding that “the rescuers have agreed to adopt your pet as their own and care for them as they do their own pets, at their own expense.” The service wisely anticipates possible chaos and end-time confusion, and therefore aims for 18-24 hours maximum to rescue the pets of the saved.
A similar service in the UK, Post Rapture Pet Care, has pet rescue representatives in the Southeast of England and the Northeast of Scotland, “so we can accommodate for most areas of the country, giving you peace of mind where ever you are.” This company charges £69.99, and appears to accept Paypal. “We will make sure your pets are well fed and taken care of long after you and your family have been taken up,” the site states.
Of course, there will also likely be unfinished business between humans after the righteous have been spirited away. For this, there is Post Rapture Post, which describes itself as “the postal service of the saved.” This service promises to deliver letters written to those left behind after the day of reckoning.
The letters could express words of reassurance to damned loved ones, or could possibly plant the seeds of redemption (apparently, there is the chance to repent and be saved post-rapture): “It could be that your message is the light that opens a sinner’s eyes to the Glory of God and allows them entrance to Heaven during the trials before the Second Coming,” this service’s Web site states. There are various types of letter lengths and styles available, and the prices range from $4.99 to a whopping $799.
There’s a certain irony – and more than a touch of snarky insincerity – implied in these services, since the atheists offering to provide them do not, by definition, believe their services will ever be needed. Yet they claim to provide and sell these services with the open-mindedness of the capitalist spirit. After all, people make and sell products and services all the time that they themselves may not use, value or even believe in. And really, should the rapture occur, post-rapture entrepreneurs are very unlikely to get the best of this bargain. They’re like an insurance company hoping to never have to pay out. But if it doesn’t occur, they’ll have made some of the fastest, easiest money ever.
Such a transaction hinges on an unspoken deadlock of beliefs; really, it’s the ultimate bet. The post-rapture business people are saying, “We’re betting this won’t happen, but if it does, we’ll feed your dog and deliver your letters,” while the believers are saying, “We’re so sure this will happen that we’re willing to give you our money – enjoy it while you still can, devil spawn.”
Really, this could be an excellent way of improving this troublesome economy while simultaneously bridging a cultural divide. Just imagine: the religious right and the liberal elite working together, agreeing to disagree, and exchanging money and services across the lines of hellfire.
Conservatives could help boost a free-market economy, allowing for a strong, competitive market to emerge and thrive without interference. Liberals could expect to fulfill their bleeding heart do-gooder instincts (assuming that they are without religion, which, of course, is not unequivocally true) in the End Times while also making a pretty penny in the interim.
In such a time of profound cultural divide, where movies like Left Behind coexist with movies like Religulous, it’s nice to see that there could be an area of common ground, in which people can suspend disbelief – or belief – and enjoy an equitable business exchange.
My personal Rapture business plan entails finding a super-rich televangelist preacher who hasn’t yet found a post-apocalypse house-sitter for his earthbound mansion.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/column/114591-pop-osmosis/