Thursday before Epiphany 3A. January 23, 2014. 1 Samuel 1:1-20; Psalm 27:1-6; Galatians 1:11-24.
I am usually informed of new “Christian” movies by people who assume that I would want to know about them or do already know about them, what with my being ordained. Somehow, I missed the initial word on Final: The Rapture, a low budget horror flick aimed at drawing the like-to-be-scared crowd and then winning them for Christ. The Guardian article linked here suggests that the movie is dreadful. (I did not need to be told that.) However, if that crowd sourced final movie authority Rotten Tomatoes is to be trusted, this film is 88% fresh. (Or at least it was on January 23 when I linked to it.) Someone is enjoying it. The Guardian notes that this is, possibly, the first time that the horror movie and evangelism have been married so explicitly. The producer calls the film a “Trojan Horse” (interesting to choose a pagan symbol?), hoping that people will be sucked in to watch the horror, but leave believing in Christ. (Note: this is not what the Trojan Horse did, or really even close to it. But it’s not in Revelation.)
Can such a thing convert people to Christ? I mean, “the rapture” is attested as doctrine in many Christian denominations. It is not, however, in mine. Nor in any of the so called mainline Churches. The notion doesn’t even exist until modern times, when various passages such as God’s blessing of Abraham, Daniel’s visions, a couple isolated places in Ezekiel, a short passage in 1 Thessalonians, and a couple of one-liners from Jesus are pulled out of their place–their place being either a) the Bible, or b) their use in the worship and life of the Church. These passages are then combined with a very inventive reading of Revelation (again, not read in the context of the Bible or the Church) to provide a sort of script to the End Times. The rapture happens when, according to this peculiar reading of that 1 Thessalonians passage I mentioned and those one-liners from Jesus, all the good people get sucked into heaven, leaving everyone else to suffer through the tribulation.
This completely contradicts the Bible and the life of the Church.
In the Bible, Revelation is the happy ending to the story. What started well (God made everything, and saw that it was exceedingly good) then went wrong (people debated God’s authority for, oh, 65+ books), finally gets reversed by God. Instead of God whisking away the good people (there aren’t any), God purifies the whole creation, and then comes down to rule in it. The happy ending is that instead of us expelled from Eden, God makes the whole world into God’s house (and we are in it, forever).
In the Church and the Church Year, Revelation speaks of hope. We read it at times such as remembrances of the dead, either at All Saints or at funerals. We read it in Sundays in Easter (Year C) to speak of the hope we have now, in this place, that we are in some imperfect way worshiping around the throne of God just as the people in Revelation are. We sing of the power of the slaughtered lamb, Jesus, to heal and forgive.
Neither of these stories has anything to do with rapturing.
I cannot easily dismiss Final: The Rapture, though. Today, I read the beginning of 1 Samuel. Hannah, the childless (though favorite) of Elkanah’s two wives, goes to Shiloh (there’s no Jerusalem, yet), and prays for a baby. Eli sees her. He assumes she is up to no good. (Yes, why would a woman be praying? Obviously she is drunk or crazy or escaped from her husband. Good job, Eli.) Without asking her what she is praying for, he tells her the prayer will be granted, and then shoos her. We learn about Eli in the ensuing scenes. He is a lousy leader. His sons are corrupt and abusive. He does nothing to stop them. God tells Samuel, the night he calls Samuel, that God is going to destroy Eli. Eli dies when he learns of the death of his sons and falls off of his seat due to being morbidly obese. (Eli is the Bible’s PSA against obesity.) The word of Eli is not something I trust. Yet he tells the truth. God has heard Hannah. Hannah and Elkanah conceive a son, and he is named Samuel, and he goes on to be a super badass prophet. Eli, for all his faults, tells the truth (perhaps unwittingly).
So I have no idea what Final: The Rapture will do. I am pretty sure that if it actually convinces people that the rapture is going to happen and that they should believe that, it will not have done much to produce something I recognize as Christian. However, if it draws to Christ people who go on to love God and neighbor, it will have pulled an Eli.
Just remember: God is not too fond of Eli.