Check out Fred Clark’s piece titled “A death bet is morally repugnant. So is a ‘Rapture’ bet.”
Donald Trump is making a death bet on climate change. The president is 70 years old and he just doesn’t care about what the world will be like three decades from now. By 2050 he, personally, will be gone, so why should he care about anyone or anything in a future that he will not, personally, live to see?
The idea of a death bet is as vile as it is simple. Live large and indulge yourself, free of all responsibility, paying for it all with debt that won’t come due until after you, personally, are dead. This screws over your heirs, and your creditors, and everyone else who is not you. But, hey, what do you care? You’ll be dead…
But it’s not just Donald Trump making the death bet of climate-change denial. He has the support on this of millions of white evangelical Christians. They don’t care about climate change because they believe the world is about to end anyway. They’re not making a death bet so much as, in their minds, a “Rapture” bet: Can you imagine, Rayford? Jesus coming back to get us before we die!
This isn’t quite as brazenly immoral and selfish as Trump’s death bet. He doesn’t care about what the world will be like in 50 years because he doesn’t care about anything he does not personally experience. These Rapture-Christians don’t care about what the world will be like in 50 years because they don’t believe the world will still be here then. They’re sure it won’t. They’re sure the Rapture is imminent — that it will occur any day, any moment, maybe even before you finish reading this…
Ask them about climate change and they’ll assure you there’s no need to worry about famine and flood in 2050, because they’re “certain” that Jesus is coming back before then. Ask them about their teenage child’s plans to major in art history or theater arts and they’ll give you a very different outlook.
Or just consider the way, say, Rapture-preacher John Hagee is grooming his son to take over his family ministry to ensure that it continues for another generation. Or, more cynically, look at the way these Rapture-preachers and Rapture-believers invest for their own retirements. They’re hedging their Rapture bet when it comes to their own future, but not when it comes to a future they imagine will only affect the lives of other people they don’t personally know.
Read the entire post at Clark’s blog Slacktivist.
Historically, things are a bit complicated. Of course there is a longstanding history of rapture thinking in modern American evangelicalism. This is part of the reason why some early 20th-century fundamentalists did not like the Social Gospel. Why work for social reform when Jesus would be coming back soon? But to be fair to the historical record, many fundamentalists also combined rapture-longing with social action.
A belief in the end times was also the reason why some premillennialists did not initially support U.S. involvement in World War I. Why fight a war to “make the world safe for democracy” when Jesus would be coming back soon?
And we could go on. Not all rapture Christians broke with the social demands of Christian faith that their 19th-century Second Great Awakening ancestors championed, but some did.
There is also some question about whether the general failure of evangelicals to support environmental causes today is directly related to their views of the “end times.” In 2012, political scientists David Barker and David Bearce argued in an article titled “End-Times Theology, the Shadow of the Future, and Public Resistance to Addressing Global Climate Change” that “believers in Christian end-times theology are less likely to support policies designed to curb global warming than are other Americans.” Religion scholar Robin Globus Veldman challenged their findings in a piece at Religion Dispatches.
This all reminds me of when PBS host Bill Moyers accused James Watt, the Secretary of the Interior in the early years of the Reagan administration, of arguing that there was no need for Congress to pass legislation protecting the environment because Jesus Christ would soon be returning. Moyer quoted Watt as saying “After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.” In 2005, Watt wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post claiming that he never said these things. He wrote: “I know no Christian who believes or preaches such error.” Moyer apologized, but Watt wanted to make sure, over twenty years after he left office, that Americans understood that evangelical belief was not incompatible with environmental reform.
In the end, I am sure there are evangelicals out there who believe that the environment is unimportant because the rapture is coming soon. Clark is right when he says that these rapture Christians are inconsistent. They plan for the future when it comes to their own retirements and inheritances, but they do not plan for the future when it comes to the fate of the planet.
I will end with a tweet from conservative pundit Erick Erickson. Not sure if it fits into the “rapture Christian” category, but it is certainly revealing.
I worship Jesus, not Mother Earth. He calls us all to be good stewards of the planet, but doesn’t mean I have to care about global warming.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) May 31, 2017