Fear of the Rapture: Testimonials
As a child, three or four times when I came home from school and found an empty house, I had a moment of panic where I thought, “Oh my god! Everyone’s been raptured!” I think most normal kids in this situation simply think, “Huh. Mom and dad must be out somewhere. I’ll just watch TV till they return.” Only evangelicals—about 28% of the U.S. population—tend to think, “Oh, no! The Lord has taken all the Christians, I’ve been found wanting and left behind, and soon the Antichrist will declare war on Christians and I’ll starve to death because I can’t buy food unless I accept the Mark of the Beast!” And then mom comes home and everything makes sense again. It’s a very strange emotional roller coaster to be on.
Since The Rapture is pretty much the same thing as evangelicalism (I don't know of anyone outside of evangelicalism who believes in it, and never met an evangelical who doubted it would happen), and since evangelicals make up around 28% of the U.S., this must be an extremely common experience (though admittedly I was on the nervous end of the scale), it’s obviously very interesting, and yet no one ever talks about it!
At any rate, precisely because I suspected no one would believe me that this was a common experience, I did some digging (and got some emails) and here's what I came up with. I reprint them here for general interest:
From a friend of mine back in Tallahassee:
hey dude, I mentioned your story about the Rapture to my new girlfriend (...coming home and findings your parents gone and wondering if you had been 'left behind' .....She knew EXACTLY what you meant. She went to a small fundamentalist church in Monticello, FL [rednecksville] all her life as well as a very small Christian school. She has all your issues when it comes to religion and then some...
From a colleague on an ex-fundy Yahoo! group:
My story is very similar to yours. Became frightened but when someone showed up I was relieved. This went on into much of my adult life. The rapture mindset was so ingrained into me from such a young age that even as an adult, I’d get those moments of uncomfortable feelings when someone was missing…I don't quite have the story you wanted, but the other day, I had an interesting experience. I met an atheist friend at a health food/coffee shop for some conversation. We ordered our coffee and while theywere fixing it, I ran off to the bathroom. When I returned, she was nowhere in sight….My very first thought was, “I wonder where she ran off to?” My second thought was, “In the past, I would have assumed that the rapture had taken place.” So I took the coffees to a table and sat down and waited….I think this shows how far I have come. I have gotten past a lot of the religious brainwashing that I grew up with. Sure, it will always be a part of me, but I’m so happy that I don’t’ have to live in fear of being left behind.
From the introduction to The Rapture Exposed by Barbara Rossing:
TEN-YEAR-OLD "JOSH" CAME HOME from school to an empty house. His mother, normally at home to greet him, was nowhere to be found. She might have been at the store or at a neighbor's, but Josh was terrified. His immediate response was a terrible fear that all his family had been "Raptured" without him. Josh was sure he had been left behind.Now a grown-up in my seminary class on the book of Revelation, Josh told this story of his boyhood experience. Others consistently echo his story of childhood fear of the Rapture. These born-again Christian children were exhorted to be good so that they would be sure to be snatched up to heaven with Jesus when he returned. Raised on a daily diet of fear, their view of God resembled the song about Santa Claus coming to town: "You'd better watch out, you'd better not cry." Only it was Jesus, not Santa, who was "coming to town" at an unexpected hour: "He knows when you've been sleeping. He knows when you're awake. He knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake."Christian camp songs taught children to count down to the Rapture like a space launch:Ten and nine, eight and seven, six and five and four;/Call upon the Savior while you may./ Three and two, coming through the clouds in bright array./The countdown's getting closer every day.The Presbyterian pastor who shared this song with me experienced an unexpected and disturbing flashback to his childhood fears even as he sang the words. Visibly shaken after one of my talks on the Rapture, he was experiencing real panic: "I thought I was over the Rapture trauma, but I guess I'm not."…All this fervor and fear over the Rapture--a principle invented only 170 years ago--for a word that cannot even be found in the Bible.
This relates to another anxiety I shared with many of my fundamentalist friends. We sometimes feared that the rapture would occur before something really good happened in our lives. So if my family was planning a big trip to Disney World, I might fear that Christ would decide to split the Eastern sky before my big day with Mickey Mouse. Oh the horror that time would end before I got ride Space Mountain.Of course rapture fears penetrated more than just vacations. On more than one occasion, my folks came to pick me up late from school, and I was certain that Christ had raptured his church, the tribulation was now underway, and I was most definitely “left behind.” With an overactive imagination, I could easily envision multiple terrors unfolding before my very eyes.
…and here, finally, are two other odd rapture-related pop culture objects. The first is a prevalent urban myth about pilots and the rapture, and the second is an entire website dedicated to figuring out when the Rapture will happen, by tracking world events on a “Rapture Index.” We’re at 165 right now—hang on to your seatbelts!