Somehow, I ended up at Rapture Ready today, your one-stop guide to the apocalypse. I was particularly fascinated with the Rapture Index which purports to show in a simple 45-part calculation that…well, that the Antichrist still isn’t coming.
There’s always a particular tension in millenial movements – you’re awaiting what is sure to be the most important event of your life, just as it was sure to be the most important event of the lives of the hundreds of thousands over the past several centuries waiting for the exact same thing to happen. You’re armed with the sureness of prophecy and the vagaries of tortured and flogged metaphor, knowing full well that the keys to the dark yet promising future lay before you, if only you weren’t so weak as to keep thinking that your landlady might be the Whore of Babylon. John the Divine needs a weatherseal on his windows, by gum.
At the same time, no matter how close you get to figuring out Revelation, you can’t actually get too close to figuring it out, lest instead of becoming an agent of prophecy you actually become a causal actor in the End Times, like a pawn of the Antichrist or a character in a Left Behind novel. That pretty much leads to Fundie Nate Silver over here, coming up with an airtight statistical method of calculating how fast we’re speeding towards the prophesied End of Days.
The thing is, if you actually look at what goes into the measurement of the Rapture, it looks less like Nate Silver vs. The Beast and more like Mark Penn figuring out that the new swing constituency of the Apocalypse is Debt-Ridden Infertile Twentysomethings.
Stories of “witchcraft” have the same weight as war in Israel. Interest rates and debt levels and unemployment all make up a significant portion of the equation…but only the American kinds. In short, the apocalypse will come not because of the full weight of divine revelation bears down upon us, but instead because all the crap that some guy doesn’t like is happening at once.
It’s the main reason that the entire millenial industry (and the Christian fundamentalist sector of our culture at large) is so utterly ridiculous: a faith fundamentally about universal truth becomes a narcissistic expression of grievances against whatever’s annoying you today – it turns Jesus into your cranky old friend on the porch that hates all the same people you hate. Revelation talks about a one-world government because at the time, Rome for all intents and purposes formed a one-world government. The history of Judaism and Christianity was full of like governments or near-like governments (Persia and Egypt, to name two). Going down the line of Revelation’s “prophesies”, it becomes clear that what John the Divine did was provide Armageddon Mad Libs for centuries of self-important assholes. It’s a fine tradition Rapture Ready carries on…but about as relevant to our world’s future as your newly rolled-up D&D character. And far less creative.