Are you still there? Please check.
The fact that you are reading this indicates either that you and I did not get beamed up, or nobody did. Bummer.
As we discuss it, let me introduce myself. Some people call me Maurice. That's because I speak of the pompatus of love. Unfortunately, nobody knows what a pompatus is.
Turns out, it's an old Shakespearian carnie term for those thickly padded pretend-thingies that you whomp your buddies with when you're on that log over the bed of hay. Fun. But the whole point of it is that you're not actually going to hurt anyone because it really doesn't make a very good weapon.
Today's confusion over the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine) makes me see that religion doesn't make a very good weapon, either.
It is powerful, yes. Certainly folks should try helping one another, in honest and loving exchange of ideas and feelings, how to better understand life, the universe, and everything.
Nevertheless, nobody benefits when some of us claim that we have the inside scoop on some kind of religious super secret that we can use to bolster our prejudices and insecurities.
Faith is not a weapon. It's a gift. Those two things can get mixed up sometimes, like when the CIA sent Castro those exploding cigars. But it's better if we don't confuse them.
Let's face it: The bottom line is that Jesus said unambiguously that nobody, including himself, gets to know when the end will come.
We don't know how much time is left. It could be a week, or it could be umpteen thousands of years. Jesus taught us to try to be prepared by constantly living better lives. Seems to me that humankind may see centuries or even millennia, explore strange new worlds and new civilizations, as we boldly go where no one has gone before. Some people call me the space cowboy.
We also don't know that the end, when it comes, will be scary or violent. The Scripture passages that depict it in those terms were written during times of horrible tumult, when fighting fire with fire was what folks could understand and use, emotionally. God's message of strong hope and dramatic redemption comforted them. We must strive to comprehend their inspired spiritual truth and wisdom; however, there is a difference between taking Scriptures literally and taking them seriously.
Perhaps Jesus, when he comes again, will set things right with healing love rather than with retributive mayhem. That makes sense when we consider how he dealt with people in the first century.
He did get upset sometimes, as with the money changers in the temple; he is both human and divine, and sometimes we have to see his human side. More often than not, he forgave people, healed them, and lovingly helped them improve.
Likewise, we too have mighty concerns that demand our attention meanwhile, like human rights, better government, the economy and the environment. Working on those issues shows that we are committed to using our time here wisely, building up the kingdom of God.
It behooves us to spend less energy thinking about whom we can leave behind, and more about who we can bring with us.
* Father Bruce Chabot is a retired Episcopal priest who lives in College Station.