Wednesday, November 25, 2009

fear redux

of course I'm still dealing with fear. That should be obvious from the end of that last one. I've talked about fear before (here and here that I can remember, there are probably more, too), and it still comes up. The classes I'm taking this semester haven't helped any. There's nothing to bring up the fear of eternal damnation like reading a 3,500-line poem about a journey through Hell (Dante's Inferno). And then in my other class, we were reading the Old Testament, with all those rules to follow, and the God who is occasionally quite wrathful when the rules are not followed. The thing that strikes me about fear this time is how irrational it is. Because even at the height of my Evangelicalism, those are not things that I should have been afraid of. The Inferno is Catholic, not protestant, and even my most conservative relatives would be able to brush it off on that basis. The Old Testament is the "old law." Paul, in his letters to the early church, spends a great deal of energy explaining why Christians are no longer required to keep the law. Therefore, even based on my history as an Evangelical, there is no rational reason why either of those readings should bother me. But they did. Proving (to me, anyway) that my fears are more about what is going on in my own head than about anything real.

But even irrational fears are still scary. (wait. are all fears irrational? no, of course not. But probably the scariest ones are.) All of this reminds me of an experience from childhood, when I was probably about ten. We were at a bible conference that was being held at a university, and my family and I were staying in one of the dorms. I took a nap one afternoon. When I went to sleep, the door to our room was open, and there were lots of people around, walking up and down the hallways, talking, etc. When I woke up, there was no one and it was utterly silent. Our room was deserted, the hallway was deserted. I remember walking down the hall and then down the stairs and not seeing anyone anywhere. I finally decided that the Rapture must have occurred and I'd been left behind. I was one part terrified, but another part resigned. I had finally been called to account, I figured; I had always suspected I wasn't quite good enough to qualify for salvation. But then my parents came back from wherever they were, and everybody else showed up, and life went on. I forgot about it for years, but it came to mind recently. I still remember that stark feeling: this is it.

The Rapture, for those of you who weren't raised with it, is the apocalyptic moment when Christ returns with a blast of trumpets, and those who are saved will be caught up in the air to be with Him and taken to Heaven forever, while those who are unsaved are left behind-- what happens to them is a matter of great theological debate, which I will spare you. Just let it be said that depending on whether you are pre-mill, post-mill, or a-mill, you will have a different opinion.

Oh, the joys of theology.

(who is feeling a bit queasy at the moment)

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