Jesus’ Return ‘Left Behind’ the Environment

Conservative Christians’ treat the planet like a rental car with full insurance coverage because of their belief in the imminent “Rapture” of “Saved” Christians and the return of Jesus. Conservative Christian have “Left Behind” the Environment.

Do you see what I did there?

If you do not have an Evangelical Christian background you may not be familiar with the phenomenon that is the “Left Behind” book series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

“Left Behind” is a book series built on conservative Christian ‘end times’ theology (eschatology) that all Christian will be ‘raptured’ and disappear from the earth, the Anti-Christ will rise up and rule the one world order (possibly Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama or both) and then Jesus will return and establish his Millennial Reign on earth. This series of books sold, I am not making this up, 80 MILLION COPIES!!!!

It also spawned 4 movies. Nicolas Cage, inexplicably, chose to star in the last Left Behind movie that earned a “1%” green splat on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer.

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The success of “Left Behind” reveals the passionate commitment to a belief system about planet earth that not only causes apathy, but crusades against urgent actions needed to preserve a livable planet for our children.

Conservative Christians believe that the Earth has been Cursed

Conservative Christians believe that the earth was cursed by Adam and Eve’s rebellion and as a result the earth no longer functions as it was originally created. Global warning is inevitable Natural Evil resulting from The Fall along with tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes. Genesis 3:17-19:

“To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat from it all the days of your life. 

 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
 By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

To Conservative Christians this curse from God can only be resolved by Jesus’ return and God’s creation of the New Heaven and the New Earth.

 

The Worse the Environment Gets the More Conservative Christians believe Jesus’ Return is Imminent

The Apostle Paul taught that both humans and the planet earth are subject to frustration and in bondage to decay and that both are waiting to be liberated by God. When Conservative Christians see news reports of environmental decay it just confirms for them what the Bible describes. The Bible says that the only hope for humans and the planet earth is liberation from God. The Apostle Paul says in Romans Chapter 8:

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.”

 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?  But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

Christians believe the louder the ‘groaning’ of the “pains of childbirth”, the closer they are to the return of Jesus. Global warming and natural disasters are just the final painful contractions of the mother just before the baby emerges.

Conservative Christians believe they have Apocalyptic Insurance

The planet earth is a rental for Conservative Christians. And Jesus Christ has given them Apocalyptic Insurance so they don’t have to worry about what happens to the rental. Conservative Christians believe they have been promised Jesus Christ will return for them before the planet becomes uninhabitable.

Second Peter is a letter written to Christians who were doubting Jesus’ return over 2,000 years ago:

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.

Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.”

The Bible doesn’t instruct Christians to change the world or solve large scale problems. The Bible teaches that the world is on a Highway to Destruction with no exits. Christians must “hang on” and live “holy and godly lives” until the inevitable destruction of the cursed earth and the New and Permanent Earth replaces it.

Conservative Christians believe the Earth was intended for Consumption

Conservative Christians believe God gave the earth to humans and that humans are commanded by God to multiply and take dominion over the earth. The earth was to be exploited and consumed for the expansion of the human race. Humans were to rule the earth. Genesis 1:

“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.”

Conservative Christians continue to push for increased short term consumption at the cost of the needs of future generations. There is a Theology of Consumption and Exploitation but Theories of Preservation and Nurture are largely absent in Conservative Christianity.

Conservative Christian believe Environmental Concern is Worshiping the Environment

The Bible forbids worshiping idols and “created things”. In Romans Chapter 1 the Apostle Paul warns:

“They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.”

For Conservative Christians God is not in Nature. God is not in the created world. Nature is corrupted and separate from God. Concern for the earth looks like Pantheism to many Christians. “Tree hugging” looks like idol worship.

Instead of seeing God ‘in’ Nature.

Instead of seeing Oneness.

Christians see “Other”. “Separate”. “Temporary”.

I Have Children

I have Evangelical friends who argue there is no proof of Global Warning and/or the causes of Global Warning. Here is my bottom line. I will die before this all gets out of hand. But I have 3 beautiful kids. I don’t want them living in a Mad Max movie. We have to go with the best scientific understanding we have. There is a scientific consensus about the causes of global warning. We must move forward with them aggressively. I am sure we will discover many errors along the way but we have to more forward with what we know. There is no benefit to doing nothing and the risks of inaction are enormous.

Evangelical friends. I know you believe Jesus is coming to rescue you. But Christians have been saying that for over 2,000 years now. If Jesus comes back you can tell me “I told you so.” I am sure God will deliver a message to me in Hell. But on the possibility that God continues to delay his return, don’t you want your kids to have the best life possible?

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Why I want to believe in God.

An atheist asked me a great question:

“But anyway: if this way of thinking makes you happy, then go ahead, as this doesn’t disturb me. But you would be exactly as happy as you are if you would stop in having the need to related to something which is out of reach. What for? Why? This aspect interest me, can you comment on it?”

I love a question that cuts through the tangential and secondary obfuscations and gets to the pragmatic bottom line: Why do I want to believe in God?

I didn’t have a succinct processed answer. I guess I thought it was self-evident. Obviously important. And my Christian friends have asked what is essentially the same question:

“Chris, why are you spending so much time trying to find answers to unanswerable questions? Just accept it on faith and quit tormenting yourself.”

So I am sitting down at my desk this Saturday morning to see if I have an answer.

ONE: Science is good for How but incompetent for Why. 

Many of my atheist friends say they believe in science as if that precludes the metaphysical and the spiritual. As if science and spirituality answer the same questions. I believe that science and the spiritual are both part of Ultimate Reality. Two sides of the same coin. One is focused on discovering Physical Reality. The other is focused on Metaphysical Reality. There are aspects of life that depend on metaphysical revelation to find the ‘good’ understanding and the ‘good’ action. Pure scientific pragmatism produces Eugenics and its moral equivalents. Even my atheists friends are ‘borrowing transcendence’ on a daily basis. Because the things that matter most to us are ‘the good things’ that are valued far beyond their material and pragmatic value.

TWO: I want to know the Best Way to Live. 

Often the wisdom and religious streams of mankind are rich sources for the best way to live. We join the ancient conversations and bring our contemporary and individual understandings to them. It doesn’t require being stuck in pagan thought and superstition. It means building upon the spiritual work that has been done just as we build on historical knowledge and experience in disciplines such as Psychology, Science, Politics, and Economics.

It is significant if there is a Higher Consciousness guiding humans to make progress in all aspects of the human experience. It is even more significant if I can make conscious contact with that Higher Consciousness and involve that Higher Consciousness in the daily experiences that add up to the sum total of my life.

THREE: I want to understand my Many Spiritual Experiences. 

Right now I am sitting at my desk in my bedroom looking out the window on the on the early November snowscape. It is a beautiful mix of fall colors and white snow. When I take a moment to be present with nature I feel my internal RPMs downshift to an idle. My breaths naturally come deeper and slower. The voice in my head becomes quiet. I feel at one with the rhythm of nature rather than my typical Race Against Time mindset. I would also say that I feel Love. And a Presence. And a Connection. And I gain Clarity. Out of this place my intuition is very powerful. I am able to reframe and find perspective.

Many would say that is simply Mindfulness. While Mindfulness does describe my experience I believe that term falls short of a full explanation. A more comprehensive and satisfying description would be a personal connection with a Higher Consciousness.

FOUR: I want to participate in a Meaningful Meta-Narrative

Of course Atheists can find meaningful ways to engage life. But then the earth will eventually be engulfed by our sun when it swells into a Red Giant. For me it would be very meaningful if our existence is more than a random occurrence. Most humans intuitively believe there is more to life and existence than that we are simply the result of a long, random chain of cause and effect that can be traced back to the Singularity. If life was created intentionally then there is some purpose to it. Maybe we can examine life and, in combination with our spiritual experiences, discern what gives life meaning.

FIVE: I want there to be Life after Death

If there is Life after Death it significantly re-frames this life.

I want to be reassured that I will see loved ones from this life in the next. And that I will see them set free from the faulty material of their bodies. Free from disease, injury, addictions and mental illness.

At nearly 54 I have entered a season of life where my chances of dropping dead significantly increase each year. Each year my body loses functionality. And I am definitely not getting better looking. My life will end before get a chance to do and to learn and to experience many meaningful and engaging experiences.

I know. I should have a bucket list.

But I am not talking about parachuting or getting a tattoo or going to see the Eiffel Tower.

I am talking about studying physics. I am talking about mastering a musical instrument. I am talking about living out entire new careers. Living lifetimes in different places.

I am also talking about my Personal Progression. At 54 I feel like I am just beginning to learn to be the person I was intended to be. I am just beginning to understand situations and circumstances and how to engage and respond.

I am just beginning to gain Wisdom.

I am just learning to Love.

I would like that progression to continue in my own life and others and experience what that life would be like.

What would I be like at 250 years old? I want to know that.

SIX: Now that I am free from the superstition, the dogma, the bigotry, the paganism, and the tribalism of Conservative Christianity I believe my new openness to follow the truth where it leads creates an opportunity to more fully experience God. 

In the Christian circles I ran in we often talked about “Defending Our Faith!”. Conservative Christians believe they are in a “Spiritual War” against the world, the flesh, and the devil. This inevitably leads to Conservative Christians living in isolated bunkers. Often these Conservative Christian will only allow Christians in their bunker who share their own very particular version of Conservative Christianity. This creates a Brainwashing Echo Chamber that few escape from.

What I would give to have escaped decades earlier!!

But my new openness combined with a lifetime of spiritual experience puts me in a good position to come to a fuller experience and understanding of God.

CONCLUSION: I want to believe in God because: I BELIEVE IN GOD. 

In the process of thinking about this I came to an important conclusion that just became obvious to me. I want to believe in God because I already believe in God. I know so many people whose lives have been positively transformed by God. People so naturally believe in God. I believe the Universe is obvious evidence of Intelligent Design. And I have a deep, unshakable belief that this life matters and is rooted in something beyond this life.

I am not a Christian.

Or any other organized religion.

I believe in God.