This is the Face to Faith column in today's Guardian. I thought I'd better post it early in the day, while there's yet time ...
Hellfire and ice-cream – alternative visions of the Rapture
I don't believe the prediction that today is Judgment Day, but just in case…
by Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio
So it turns out that the Rapture is due at six o'clock this evening, which means that, according to Family Radio, there's a group of people favoured by God and known as the "elect" who will get whisked up to heaven to eat ambrosia with St Peter and find out what Jesus wrote in the sand. It also turns out that if you're "Roman Catholic, Baptist, Reformed, Presbyterian, Seventh-Day Adventist, Jehovah's Witness, Mormon, etc" then you can expect to remain with your feet solidly on this earth to suffer hellfire and brimstone until God destroys creation five months later. I, an Episcopal priest, am in the "etc"; I'm going to be left behind. I am an Et Ceteran and don't believe that Judgment Day is coming on 21 May – but I am curious. I went Googling.
I initially thought my urban apartment would be an ideal post-Rapture location, close to a grocery store that could be rampaged – since the website predicted mass chaos, violence and destruction – and across the street from a river, where I could fish if only I had a fishing pole. I also live on one of the higher floors, which makes invasion less likely.
My husband, who is visiting his farmland family today in Iowa, said he'd be in the ideal location, surrounded by corn and cows, but don't worry: he'll come back to find me. He is (or was) an actuary; but for someone who calculates risk for a living, that seemed pretty risky.
What if there was no gasoline? Maybe it would be best if I walked to Iowa. Google Maps predicted it would take 14 days and 22 hours. Maybe I would take a list of Cold Stone Creamery locations with me – nothing more calorie-rich than the commercial ice-cream with the highest fat content (I know, I used to work there) to keep you fuelled in the apocalyptic age.
Of course, all this remains a purely intellectual pursuit, given that I don't believe Judgment Day is approaching. The Family Radio folks and I have radically different ways of reading the Bible. On one of their broadcasts, they explained that they knew Judgment Day would occur on 21 May because Genesis 7:4 states that God told Noah a great flood would come in seven days. But, according to them, God's time is not the same as human time since 2 Peter 3:8 states that one God day equals 1,000 human years. From that, Harold Camping extrapolated that it would be 7,000 between the flood and Judgment Day, and since he calculated that the flood occurred in 4990 BC, the Rapture would arrive in 2011.
I, on the other hand, put a lot more stock by God's words to Noah after the flood: "I will never again curse the ground because of humankind … nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done" (Genesis 8:21).
The Family Radio folks might respond by offering forth a number of passages from Revelation about the anti-Christ and the Mark of the Beast, and the number 666. I, in turn, could present 1 John 4:16: "God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them." That God of love would not inaugurate such a violent end.
My husband teased me by asking: "What if you've committed yourself to the wrong part of God – what if God is more of a judging God than a loving one?"
"I'll print out my map to Iowa and my Cold Stone Creamery locations," I said. "It's going to be a long walk with plenty of time for prayer."
I particularly like this comment on the Guardian website, from Cordwainerbird: "So it turns out that the Rapture is due at six o'clock this evening ... A just God would have waited until after Doctor Who."