“End Times” prophet Ed Hindson appeared on VCY America’s Crosstalk last week to talk about the Rapture, that point in the End Times when Christians float up into the air to meet Jesus, and the United States.
This is a discussion, just to be clear, about something that doesn’t exist (the Rapture), and which is very much tied up in Christian persecution fantasies, and something that does exist (the United States), but which has nothing at all to do with the persecution of Christians.
In other words, this is like hosting a talk on the Zombie Apocalypse and the United States. But you must understand, before we go on, that in the eyes of these fake Christians, the Rapture is every bit as real as the American persecution of Christians, fake or otherwise.
Hindson claims that “The United States would be incredibly impacted by the Rapture because there are more professing Christians here than perhaps any other place on the planet.”
Well, we would be impacted by an alien visitation, too, or a zombie apocalypse. And yes, some would say that in the so-called Religious Right the United States already has a zombie problem.
But hey, as long as we are entertaining fantasies, imagine the real estate deals the rest of us will enjoy post-Rapture. I’m starting to like the sounds of this Rapture thing. I mean, more than zombies. Hard to enjoy your real estate while zombies are trying to eat your face.
So is Hindson liking it. A lot. Take a listen to what the “disappearance of millions” would entail, courtesy of Right Wing Watch:
What would happen, I think, in the United States is the sudden Rapture of believers would leave this country totally secularist, totally atheist, totally in the hands of anti-Christian forces, and it would decimate the economy, the banking system, even the military, the police system. It would throw this country into chaos overnight. Now, it would throw any country into chaos, but the larger percentage of born-again believers, the larger percentage of the chaos.
Hindson won’t share the good news with you, but I will: the crime rate would also drop, divorce rates would drop, and use of pornography would drop. You starting to feel me on this Rapture thing?
Some might say, hey, the United States isn’t even mentioned in the Book of Revelation, otherwise known as the Apocalypse of John. Why is the United States, the fruition of all God’s plans for the world, not mentioned in the Bible he wrote for white Americans?
Unless you try to view the Babylon of the End Times as America, there’s no indication that America’s there anywhere [in the Bible]. So, is she totally destroyed? Possibly, but not likely. It’s more likely that she’s decimated by the impact of the Rapture, and the power then shifts to Europe, because I think the Bible makes it clear the Antichrist will arise out of the old Roman Empire in Europe.
That’s right. America will be Raptured away. It’s like Calgon, only holy, not secular, but will presumably feel just as good.
Yes, my brain hurts too.
Honestly, this is just so painful, it makes you wish you had stayed in bed, blissfully unaware.
The reason the United States is not mentioned in Revelation is because there was no United States when the book was penned. The reason the Roman Empire figures prominently in Revelation on the other hand, is that it was written in the Roman Empire with the Pagan Romans as the bad guys.
Revelation is supposed to have been written during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, at the end of the first century CE. Domitian is supposed to have persecuted the Christians, a claim like all claims about persecution of Christians which rests on some very dubious evidence.
Historian Paul Keresztes indulges in common persecution fantasies when making the following startling assertion:
At the time of Domitian’s Terror, Asia had a sizable Christian community in the predominately Greek and Jewish population. The non-Christian mobs zealously complied with Domitian’s desire for Imperial worship. They demanded the punishment of the ‘atheist’ Christians, who abstained from the cult. Leading Christians were probably thus punished, some put to death, others, such as John, the ‘author’ of the ‘Apocalypse,’ banished.
Keresztes seems to be reading a great deal into our sparse sources by arriving at this level of detail. Keresztes is using the assumption of persecution of Christians under Domitian to date these writings and they therefore prove nothing.
W.H.C. Frend, sounding altogether too much like David Barton, also makes appeal to the Apocalypse of John, noting that it “suggests the possibility of anti-Christian outbreaks in Asia”. He sees in Rev. 13:16-17 “the existence of boycotts and trade sanctions directed against the Christians in the towns” as well as “the banishment of some of the leading Christians to penal settlements in the Aegean Islands.”
But in speaking of the The Book of Revelation and the First Epistle of Peter, to which many apologists also appeal, T.D. Barnes says that “The execution of Christians in Asia Minor, which are attested in Revelation and the so-called First Epistle of Peter need not have involved any reference to the emperor.”
J.E.A. Crake issues a stronger caution:
It is very precarious to try to use the Apocalypse of John for historical evidence. Apart from the difficulty of dating the book, a difficulty that applies to some other writings of this period, the nature of the work itself is to conceal any obvious reference to contemporary history. The natural procedure is to use our knowledge of history to identify allusions in the book; it is almost impossible to reverse the process without arguing in a circle.
So other than demonstrating that he has a fine imagination, Keresztes, also like Barton, proves nothing. Even Frend, who says that “Domitian was not a man to tolerate religious deviations” cannot summon up much enthusiasm for a Domitianic persecution, concluding that “the persecution of Domitian does not appear to have amounted to very much.” For Frend, “When one discounts the senatorial prejudices of Tacitus and Suetonius, the emperor stands out as a shrewd but jealous-minded ruler, a strong upholder of public right and the state religion, whose prejudices and fears for his own safety increased with age.” 
Waters also finds the evidence of persecutions less than compelling. “One cannot doubt that Christians would meet wth Domitian’s disapproval on two counts: first, he had a genuine concern for the traditional Roman religion which was regarded with intolerance by Christians (and strict Jews); second, he insisted on formal compliance with the rules of loyalty to the princes. As with the philosophers, the conflict, real or apparent, with established authority was the main point at issue.” For these reasons “both Jews and Christians found it easy to dislike Domitian” with the result, Waters says, that the “Christian writers, basing their case on a very small quantity indeed of factual evidence, proceeded to develop a tradition of a full-scale persecution.”
But persecution fantasies aside, Hindson has a bigger problem than the missing United States. There is the missing Rapture itself. The Rapture isn’t in the Bible.
In fact, in eighteen hundred years of Christianity, nobody heard of the Rapture until John Nelson Darby developed the idea in the 1830s, an idea that was then passed along to C.I. Scofield in the early 20th century. Scofield put it in the footnotes of the Scofield Reference Bible. Bible readers then read the Bible very much as they do now, which is to say, little or not at all, and assumed what they found in the footnotes to be true.
Actually reading the Bible, of course, would have proven that the Rapture is nowhere to be found in Scripture.
Seriously, we might as well talk about what would have happened at Stalingrad if the Germans had had a Balrog. Our time would be no more wasted. This obsession over the Rapture is silly but hardly surprising from a group that has weaponized the Prince of Peace, demonized the poor he embraced, and extolled the rich he condemned.
Yet it consumes the imaginations of millions of Americans who duly make cranks like Tim LaHaye (author of the Left Behind series) rich. And their fantasies affect the rest of us because these misguided fools want to redirect our lives and activities to fall into accord with a fantasy theology that would startle Jesus every bit as much as Paul or any of the early Church fathers.
And yes, these people want to run this country.
I think the one bright spot in all this, and the one thing atheists and the Religious Right have in common, is that they can both fantasize about a post-Rapture America ruled by atheists.
 Paul Keresztes The Imperial Roman Government and the Christian Church. I. From Nero to the Severi (Berlin, 1980), 272. We find Sulpicius Severus repeating this tale about John in his Chronica, ch. 31: “Then, after an interval, Domitian, the son of Vespasian, persecuted the Christians. At this date, he banished John the Apostle and Evangelist to the island of Patmos. There he, secret mysteries having been revealed to him, wrote and published his book of the holy Revelation, which indeed is either foolishly or impiously not accepted by many.” The tradition is earlier repeated by Eusebius (EH 3.18) and before him by Irenaeus, whom he cites in this regard (Against Heresies, 5.30.3).
 W.H.C. Frend, Martyrdom and Persecution in the Early Church (Oxford: Blackwell, 1965), 156-157.
 T.D. Barnes, Tertullian: A Historical and Literary Study (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), 150.
 J.E.A. Crake, “Early Christians and Roman Law” Phoenix, Vol. 19, No. 1 (Spring, 1965), 64.
 Frend, 158, 161.
 H. Waters, “The Character of Domitian,” Phoenix 18 (1964), 74-75.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.