I spent last Saturday, what could have been my last afternoon on earth (had I led a blameless life and believed in the Apocalypse), leading a workshop geared toward those who are painfully aware of the world’s wounds and of their own responsibility to contribute to its healing. The experience was a highlight for me personally and professionally and I got onto the 405 Freeway toward Santa Monica with a renewed sense of appreciation for the gifts of passion, honesty, humility and stick-to-it-ness that we religious liberals bring to one another and the world.
The sensationalized “hour of doom” (6 pm) came and went with nary a hitch, and I wondered how those who had banked on their rapture were integrating that reality into their faith lives.
That, and the query of a young Unitarian Universalist writing a paper on “The Apocalypse”, prompted some thought fragments:
1. Those who awaited Saturday’s rapture did so because they believed it would set them apart from others in a radical way – that the pure of heart would be rewarded with an eternity of bliss and the rest would be doomed to suffer the torments of life on this earth before being relegated to those of hell.
–> Within Unitarian Universalist cosmology all of life is affirmed as interconnected. As such, it is inconceivable to think of some as saved and others as damned. We sink or swim together!
2. The Book of Revelations describes in gory details the sufferings humanity will be forced to endure before a glorious new age can begin. Why?
–> If there is a God, S/he is likely to have reasons we cannot anticipate. But I’m thinking that it is part of human nature that we test boundaries. We do tend to push the limits (“hit rock bottom” or get to the “tipping point”) before picking ourselves up and getting sober (literally and metaphorically). This tendency is exacerbated in a culture fostering a very weak communal identity. It makes it that much harder to shift consciousness and bring about the new.
But it does happen. And when it does, we benefit from the wisdom, insight, creativity, commitment of multitudes! Think of all the social change created in this country by UUs committed to healing the wounds of slavery, to equality for all races and genders, for people with physical or mental disabilities, for those suffering oppression and injustice. Think of all those enraged today by the families not granted legal protection under law or being torn apart by unjust laws. We are working together on our collective recovery. One step at a time.
3. The Apocalypse is spoken of a manifestation of God’s wrath.
–> Universalist tradition envisions God as ever-loving, not as wrathful. So that can be a difficult concept to swallow. However, there are those among us who envision/experience God as “collective consciousness” – in which case “God’s wrath” can be understood as our collective fury over the many errors/sins we have committed, the greed and small-mindedness that has made a toxic soup of our oceans, that has enslaved millions of our brothers and sisters in poverty of body and spirit, etc. That collective (human) wrath, when channeled through love, is what is needed to save us. All of us.
Maybe we’re just not angry enough yet, or loving enough…
Soon, I hope.