There are days when, I swear, I’m almost embarrassed to be a Christian! Name any natural occurrence or disaster and preachers come crawling out of the woodwork with conspiracy theories. This past week it was disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker who claimed that the solar eclipse was “God’s punishment for the Obama years!” I receive texts and emails almost every week warning me about the next insidious plot that we must not fall for. Most recently it was a bold report about a NASA led project called “Project Blue Beam” that will fake the return of Christ and set up a new age one world religion led by the AntiChrist. I had a few moments to kill so I clicked on the link and went down the rabbit hole of paranoia. Not only is the earth flat there and the moon landing staged to one up the Russians, but evidently the US government possesses technology to project holograms that can be, not only seen and heard, but touched! The video warned that this technology would be unleashed during the solar eclipse to simulate the return of Christ, fooling the faithful into abandoning the one true God. I was warned! The person who sent the message demanded to know why I wasn’t preaching about this from my pulpit every weekend!
The eclipse has come and gone, and there was no fake Rapture. It reminds me of the global effort by doomsday preacher Harold Camping to prepare us for the end of the world in 2011. Remember that one? Millions of dollars were spent on billboards around the globe that could’ve been spent to feed the poor and care for the vulnerable, which are the kinds of things Jesus actually did. There is a strain within Christ’s Church that is obsessed by secret codes embedded in the scriptures that absolutely predict cataclysmic disasters in the future. There are congregations that live or die by concrete end time predictions in Revelation. How many times have we heard the bold proclamation that whatever unpopular president of the day was the antiChrist rising! Let’s pump the brakes. It wasn’t President Nixon. It wasn’t President Bill Clinton. It wasn’t President Obama. It’s not President Trump or Vladimir Putin. (It’s not Pope Francis either, so please no more links to You Tube videos claiming he is!) Every generation is convinced it has the inside track to the end of the world. The more we cry wolf, the less the unbelieving world will listen to us on the things that really matter. Rather than pointing to Satan behind every eclipse and hurricane, let’s accurately point him out where he has truly taken root in every human heart. Let us also point out the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus that casts him out and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that transforms us to become more like Christ. These speak of a future to look forward to rather than one to be afraid of.
Why so paranoid? Why so afraid? Why so gullible? It seems to me that we may be indulging in these persecution fantasies because we do not want to admit the real truth. There is no vast government conspiracy to destroy and deceive Christian faith. Why? Because the rest of the world doesn’t give us a second thought. We are not the threat keeping the government up at night. We are harmless. Now, if we were to truly make disciples and follow Christ with everything we’ve got, it would threaten the very fabric of our culture. Obsessing over timelines, dates, and threats keeps us huddled in the corner of our bomb shelters hiding from our enemies rather than loving our enemies into Christ’s Kingdom. Making disciples is about becoming more like Christ, learning what he said, doing what he did, and imitating his life and character. Discipleship is about loving enemies rather than exposing secret plots. “Perfect love casts out all fear” (1 John 4:18). If our faith is driven by fear and paranoia, it is lacking in Christ-like love.
You are free to practice your faith any way you please. That is between you and God. I’m personally not all that interested in how much North Korea looks like something in Revelation. I’m not interested in reading the tea leaves to predict the exact moment Christ will arrive. I’m not interested in making a spectacle of myself at a school board meeting because Creation is not included in the science book. I want to make disciples. I want to help God change lives and make the world a little bit better. Don’t you?