Friday, 20 May 2011

China wearily ignores end of world

As a Christian, though not the shiny-eyed, shouty-scary sort, I just had to get online when a friend emailed me to point out that tomorrow, if I hadn’t already realized, is the date set for the Rapture, if only to see what the Chinese have to say about the whole thing before it’s too late...
For those of you without a detailed knowledge of the nonsense which in the more conservative parts of the US passes for theology, the Rapture is understood to be the day on which all Good Believers are taken up to heaven by God while all The Bad People (i.e., anybody who doesn’t share your particular wacky brand of Biblical scholarship) are left below to fight it out. Then there’s meant to be a bit of a wait (of varying length - see above on wacky brands), after which a kingdom of Jesus’ direct rule (with varying details - see above on wackiness) is ushered in. 
An imminently-to-be-ashen-faced Californian broadcaster named Harold Camping has calculated from clues in the Bible (see also The Bible Code for similar lunacy) that Saturday, May 21st 2011 will see the Rapture, handily forgetting that he also predicted that the same thing would happen in 1994. IMHO, this kind of ignorant, literalist rubbish makes a suitable mockery of the blinkered and reductionist thinking which certain strains of American Protestant thought are all too prone to; but at the same time it makes all of Christianity a target by association. I don’t set the vaguest store by the idea of the Rapture, and neither does anybody in my local congregation. I don’t find anything Biblical in the idea, which has fear and hatred seething just below its surface and no trace of the love which should be central to any kind of Christianity. But that’s just me.
So, I had a peek at what the Chinese wangyou made of all this, and the truth is - not a lot. The cult of the Rapture, spread in the US by garbage like the Left Behind series, hasn’t found the same apocalyptic foothold. A search for tomorrow’s date and the Chinese for Rapture (被提, or ‘the being taken up’) reveals a number of mostly world-weary and cynical teenagers and just a few US-inspired evangelicals. Typical exchanges read:
“Only Christians qualify for the Rapture - you pathetic heathens are dreaming!!”
“Has whoever started this thread got an itchy arse?”
I know, I know - and I can’t fathom what that means either, but it’s typical of the mental stuff I trawl through to try to understand what’s going on in China. Elsewhere, the Christian Times website was dismissive of Camping’s claims, pointing out that they’re highly selective and scarcely even bother to mention Jesus, instead banging on about eternal damnation and judgment, and what on earth kind of twisted message is that?

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