Rapture and Religion
Well, you’ve all realized by now that May 21, 2011 was not the end of the world as we know it. Naturally, I thought it was bunch of bologna (primarily because I read the BIBLE), but to be totally honest, I did pause at 5:00 p.m. CST. My five month old son, Elijah, was on my lap and so I figured if he was still around at 5:01, I must not have been “left behind.” At 5:02, I started to tweet “Is everybody still here?”. . . but, common sense kicked in and I decided this whole rapture business really wasn’t that funny. Lots of you have been asking me what I think, so here are my thoughts. Again, I apologize for the poor sentences and incomplete thoughts. Just my ramblings. . .
When I think about this whole rapture thing, I feel sad, almost heavy. When a leader misleads people (deliberately or even not deliberately—I can’t get into Harold Camping’s mind), a lot of people get hurt at many different levels. Not only did the followers of Harold Camping get hurt (many of whom gave up their jobs, family relationships, and life savings), but so did countless others who have yet to come to Christ. I think for many Christians, Camping’s announcement raised their awareness of Christ’s second coming (which COULD happen today or tomorrow). That’s a good thing. But I think for many outside of Christ, his announcement (and what followed) just confirmed what many think they already know—that Christ isn’t coming back at all.
Harold Camping is just religion gone wrong. I hate religion of all kinds. Whether it’s conservative, liberal, or “centrist” (that's a buzz word right now). . . I just don’t like it.
Religion, it seems to me, comes in all shapes and sizes. For example, “conservative” Christians might have a strong point of view on certain moral issues, but at the same time may not have a heart for God or the people of this world. I’ve known so many "conservatives" who are just in Christianity for the moral stuff. My advice to them. . . join the Boy Scouts. They are very moral. Scout's honor.
"Liberal" Christians sometimes get it right on issues of poverty, for example, but, in my experience, get so focused on those social issues that they too lose sight of the heart of God, ignoring things like evangelism. God just becomes this great, fluffy social activist in the sky who sits around and listens to NPR (which by the way I listen to. . . it is very relaxing, except during the fund drives).
I’d consider myself a recovering religious person. Like many people, I first fell in love with Christ when I was 19, but then religion began to creep in little by little. I have to say, for a season of my life, I loved religion more than Christ.
Most of you know that I was partially trained in a Lutheran seminary. (I was also trained at an evangelical seminary, which explains the other side of me.) But, as you know, I’m still a Lutheran pastor. And I have to admit, during my training and early years as a pastor, I kind of got into the whole religious thing. I mean, I loved playing church. I loved the robes, the chanting, the chancel prancing, the “let us pray” (faux English accent required), and the rest. It sort of made me feel special. No one could sing the green book’s setting 1 and 2 liturgy like me. . . “THIS IS THE F-E-A-S-T!” (If you grew up Lutheran, you know exactly what I mean). Even now, I’ll confess, when I’m alone, I’ll sometime sing it. But honestly for me, over time, it just wasn’t worship. It started off as worship, but it quickly evolved into religion (for ME). And what I mean by that is I felt important doing it. . . smart, sophisticated, cerebral, churchy. I felt religious. Now some people love that stuff and they can worship to that stuff. Fine. I just can’t do it anymore. And that's why my robe and stoles sit in a crumpled up pile in my basement.
All religion is really the same, whether it’s Harold Camping or stuffy liturgical churches or crazy fundagelical Christians (and I say that as someone whose been there). I don’t know what I’m trying to say, except, I’m just burned out on religion. The world doesn’t need more Harold Camping, more snooty “liturgelicals” (I made up that word), overly pious evangelicals, or Steve Perkins, for that matter. The world doesn’t need any more religion. The world needs Jesus.
And at Northgate, we’re passionate about helping people connect with Jesus, minus all the religious stuff.
Let me know what you think. . .