Fried: Why Worry About the Future if There Won't Be Any?
By Eric Fried
An Ipsos poll in December 2006 revealed that a quarter of all Americans believed it was “very likely” or “somewhat likely” that Jesus was coming back to Earth in 2007 to usher in the end of the world as we know it (to quote REM). The number expecting the Second Coming in 2007 rose to an astonishing 46 percent among white evangelical Christians, otherwise known as the Republican base.
So now we know why some people are not worried about rapidly accelerating global warming, or an unpayable $10 trillion U.S. deficit we are passing on to our children, or our economy being systematically hollowed out and sold off piecemeal to China. Why worry about the future if there won't be any?
People have been expecting Jesus to return almost from the moment he left, and they have been wrong every time. History is replete with cults whose members shed their worldly goods and went to the mountaintop to await the messiah on some prophesied date, only to return sheepishly to their normal lives, mumbling about metaphysical miscalculations. Rapture fever spiked around Y2K, while some expected the big event on June 6, 2006 (6/6/06) and others on July 7, 2007.
If you think Apocalypse Fever is confined to the lunatic fringe, think again. The “Left Behind” books by Timothy and Beverly LaHaye are the best selling works in modern American fiction, President Bush speaks openly, almost longingly, about a “Third World War” including his “crusade” to remake the Middle East, while the Web site raptureready.com (“the prophetic speedometer of end-time activity”) puts the Rapture Index currently at 159, just below the 160 level at which we are warned to “fasten our seat belts.”
Some believers are so eager for the end game, they're trying to help make it happen. (Why an all-powerful deity needs our meager assistance is beyond me.) Who cares if Saddam actually had nukes or threatened us? War with Babylon (modern-day Iraq) is one of the signs of the Apocalypse, so we needed to “bring it on,” in the words of our fearless leader. War with Iran is a prerequisite as well, which explains why some on the right were so furious when it was revealed those devious Persians gave up trying to make nuclear weapons … four years ago! Israel of course plays a crucial role, since it must retake all its Biblical lands by crushing the inconvenient Palestinians, before the final conflict can begin. Then of course we Jews will have outlived our usefulness, and we'll all burn in Hell.
By this twisted logic, global warming is a good thing, since it could lead to the kinds of famines, floods and pestilence predicted for the End Times. That explains why many fundamentalists are not only indifferent to environmental protection, but actively hostile to it. As raptureready puts it, “Satan knows that a desire to save the earth is a good distraction from the more urgent need to save one's own soul.” Our game is over, fellow greens: not only are we socialist property-stealers, we are unmasked as Beelzebub's minions.
Here's my question to any dead-enders still reading this column: What's Your Plan B? What if Jesus doesn't come, or the actual date is June 6, 6006? Wouldn't it be smarter to right our economic ship of state, stabilize the climate, peacefully resolve international disputes and act as if we intend to inhabit this precious planet for the foreseeable future?
If we're planning dinner next week, but you won't be there, you don't get to decide on the menu. So if you won't be hanging around, do us all a favor: drop out of politics. Don't vote. Leave it to those of us who plan on being here for the foreseeable future.
Eric Fried asks “If the Rapture comes, can I have your car?” at firstname.lastname@example.org