Hoping for the Wrong Escape
by Katherine Britton, Crosswalk.com News & Culture Editor
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Galatians 6:9-10
Well, here we are, aren’t we? May 21 came and went without the Rapture, and we’re now two weeks closer to the new predicted date of October 21. Many of the thousands of people who spent their life savings in preparation for May 31 are now trying to hang on until fall, when everything will okay because Jesus will come back. I have a lot more sympathy for them now.
On May 22, I was scrounging around the news sites, looking for reactions from the people who had invested their time, money, and faith in forecasted Rapture. I found a quote from a truck driver name Keith Bauer, who drove his family across the country from Maryland to California, stopping at places he’d always wanted to see, like the Grand Canyon. He crystalized the appeal of end times, saying simply, “I was hoping for it because I think heaven would be a lot better than this earth.” I have to agree with him there.
You see, Keith Bauer was a man possessed of an idea. It’s the same idea that leads little children to knock their heads against the back of dark closets searching for Narnia and sci-fi addicts to write volumes of Star Wars fan fiction. It's the idea that our surroundings are too constricting, and we might experience greater freedom if we can just escape its confines. Like we could discover a world with an added dimension that would let us fly. Bauer uprooted his family in pursuit of a dream that someone else would fulfill for him. It's like someone else was winning the lottery and giving it all to him – no work, all gain.
Except, of course, that's not what happened. Bauer and his family shut their eyes against the naysayers but eventually had to peek, because May 22 dared to show its face. No magic portal to a good life opened up. They're still shackled to daily living. They haven't escaped life's consequences, nor have they escaped their earthly responsibilities. Bauer still has to figure out how to put food on the table and keep a roof over his kids' heads. He'll have to worry when they're out after curfew. He will have to deal with loss, as those he loves will move away over time and even die. Yes, I understand Bauer’s furious belief that the escape hatch is within reach, because heaven "would be a lot better than this earth."
Intersecting Faith & Life: Christian escapism appeals to our spiritual certainty of worldly unsatisfaction. After all, the great Christian quotable C.S. Lewis vouchsafed this idea. But longing for Jesus – the heart of heaven – actually leads us in the opposite direction. It demands real interaction and real living on our part. In that sense, the Kingdom of heaven primarily exists on real dirt, not a heavenly beach. We will always long for something beyond ourselves. But there's a world of difference between longing for a promise fulfilled and escaping to our happy place. When we forget that, we fall into the temptation of escapism, a temptation that stands waiting for us every time we think running away from this world is better than loving its people. We need to relearn the difference between escapism and true longing, and get back to living real life. That’s the least confining pursuit anyone can dream of.