Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Simpsons take on Pre-millenial dispensationalism with "Left Below"

I must have missed this episode when it was first on in May but the repeat Simpsons on Sunday night was a hilarious send up of the Left Behind series and The Rapture. The episode was called "Thank God its Doomsday" and has Homer predicting the date of the end of the world with funny results.

Homer and the kids end up seeing a movie called "Left Below", a clear parody of the movie "Left Behind" based on the book of the same name. This and some more signs Homer sees on his way home inspires him to calculate the date of The Rapture. Homer gets it wrong and then he gets it right. We all know the intellectual level that the creators of the Simpsons attribute to Homer, yet the writers credit Homer with the correct calculation of the date, which is the certainly a scathing comment on calculating the date of the Rapture and those that do it.

Many a new religious sect has been formed when some leader attempted to calculate the date of the End of the World and the Second Coming, but got it wrong, recalculated and still got it wrong. Even more offshoots of the original breakaway group form from the crisis caused by date of the Rapture coming and go with nary a last trumpet to be heard. Jehovah's Witnesses have calculated it several times. Seventh Day Adventists arose from another failed attempt.

I am not going to present an even handed detailed description of pre-millenial dispensationalism and tribulationalism (a great phrase to write and say) and a breakdown of the Left Behind series. The reason I am interested in this stuff is that one of my hobbies is crazy conspiracy theories. The whole Left Behind phenomena falls squarely onto that bookshelf in my library (though I do not and never will own any of the Left Behind series, I own the debunker's books).

I have been reading the Slacktivist, who has been carefully analyzing the Left Behind book and the whole phenomena and is well worth exploring for a former insiders view. ReligiousTolerance.org presents a non-biased review of all of the data, has histories and origins of Christian groups that I have never even heard of. More fun is the Rapture Index which is kind of a speedometer showing the rate at which the rapture is approaching. We have been moving at a steady clip since the Gulf War in 1990 with an all time high shortly after 9/11 of 182, this week we are at 150. The creator has taken great pains to do many calculations based on world events and esoteric theories, which pretty much describes the whole movement in a nutshell.

I think when your movement is a parody on the Simpsons that you have officially jumped the shark. Welcome to syndication, Left Behinders, I will always think of Homer's Rapture calculation when I think of you.

No comments: