Rapture Fever: How Religious Beliefs Can Divide Families
If civil engineer turned self-taught biblical scholar Harold Camping’s predictions are correct, the end of the world is about two hours away (depending on your time zone) and anything I have to say about the purported “rapture” will be lost on the faithful, or those that are already en route to heaven (does Care2 transmit in heaven? I need to ask my editors). According to Camping’s camp, Judgment Day is upon us (May 21st, 2011) and through a series of bible-based calculations (7000 years after Noah and the flood) it is predicted that “believers” will be lifted up to the celestial plain, while the rest of us are left behind to endure five months of plagues, quakes, spotty 3G coverage, famine, Republican primaries, the upcoming season of Dancing With The Stars, and the burden of having to take care of all the pets left behind by the faithful.
Over the past few weeks, hoards of “believers” have taken to the street and populated the Internet with their conviction and their tearful goodbyes, as the heathen majority looks on with comical disdain, or just bafflement. While some are dutifully preparing for the biggest airlift since post-war Berlin, others are enjoying the hullabaloo and making feigned commitments to attend post-rapture looting parties. Whether the world ends today or moves forward business as usual is not the point. The point is that often times a particular heart-felt faith can divide a population just as easily as it can divide a community or a family even.
The New York Times reported this week on how families following Camping’s doomsday predictions are contending, not only with end of the world scenarios, but also great tension within the family when not everyone can get on board with all that fire and brimstone talk. ” With their doomsday T-shirts, placards and leaflets, followers — often clutching Bibles — are typically viewed as harmless proselytizers from outside mainstream religion. But their convictions have frequently created the most tension within their own families, particularly with relatives whose main concern about the weekend is whether it will rain.” It is not uncommon for religious beliefs to divide loved ones or families even, especially when children grow into adulthood and define their own system of faith (or not), and each family contends with these ripples in their own way. Granted, having half your family convinced that they will be residing in the clouds by Sunday morning presents its own distinct challenges of familial acceptance and respect. Still, faith divides us as much as it brings us together, and finding a balance of spiritual belief and general acceptance is an exceedingly tricky endeavor.
I have no answers on this one, other than to try to reign in the more erratic behavior with love and compassion, but that doesn’t always do the trick. I wanted to reach out to Care2 readers (those not presently busy hurdling through the stratosphere toward the ultimate skybox) and ask how you contend with strong religious, or faith, differences among family members and loved ones? Is it something that is addressed early on and never to be spoken of again, or is an ongoing issue? Have you ever ended relationships or friendships over conflicting issues around faith and religion? Do you have parents and/or children who don’t follow your belief system? If so, how do you smooth out the ripples?
And as a parting note: Just in case this is my last post, I thought I would pay tribute with a beloved song that references this day. Enjoy: