Rapture, ruptured

Diverse-city
By SHAY STEWART-BOULEY  |  May 25, 2011

May 21 came and went, and nobody got lifted naked skyward into Heaven. For a while afterward Harold Camping, the guy who said the Rapture would definitely occur on Saturday, was nowhere to be seen; I wondered if maybe only he was right with God.

Then he told a San Francisco Chronicle reporter from the front door of his home that "I'm looking for answers," praying and consulting with friends.

I suppose that's better than rapturing himself and the millions he's garnered in donations to some nice warm island unwilling to extradite folks to the United States. But in the end, it just means he'll be working on excuses so his flock won't flog him — although it really wouldn't have taken much Bible reading on their part to realize Jesus said no one can know the timing of the end times except God. (On Monday, Camping issued a statement saying the "real" date is October 21.)

All jokes aside, last week was interesting for me; I head a faith-based organization, am the daughter of a Baptist minister, and at one point was planning on going to seminary. Complicating things further has been the fact that my own faith beliefs are evolving, and moving ever farther from the evangelical base I started with years ago. Let me tell you, as one whose journey has been long and winding, if you want to see diversity, you need look no farther than the Christian faith.

But, sadly, it's guys like Camping who make people raise their eyebrows when people hear the word "Christian." Perhaps they shouldn't. While this nation may be one of religious diversity, our ties to Christianity run deep and even those who don't practice their faith often identify as Christian.

There are those who no longer are members of a church, but still adhere to and loosely practice Christian traditions. But it really gets fun when you look at those who do have some type of church affiliation. You can go to many different Christian churches and the only thing that ties them together sometimes is the use of the Bible and perhaps a cross on the wall. But the meat and potatoes of what's being taught varies widely.

I am a member of a Congregational church, which is nothing like my early days spent in a Baptist church. You will not hear talk of Rapture, going to Hell, or any of that at my church; instead, there exists a focus more on knowing God's love and practicing compassion. Head to your local Baptist church and it's probably a different story: You will be reminded of your need for God and to accept Jesus unless you want to put your soul in immortal peril — yet even there the extent of how deeply this is expressed depends on the specific preacher. And you may find some speaking-in-tongues and lifting-venomous-serpents crowds to really spice things up.

When non-Christians laugh at things like Camping's predictions and question the sanity of Christians, they need to understand that Christians, despite a shared belief in Jesus, are not a monolithic group. We can't even agree on whether the Bible is a literally accurate book or a mostly metaphorical one designed to give us general answers.

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