Left Behind in America

| March 13, 2015


As a child growing up in a Southern Baptist church, I learned my place in American culture through rapture movies. These films—based on a pop-dispensationalist reading of prophecy—pictured a time when the church would be suddenly ripped from the earth, sailing through the air to be with the invisible (to the viewer) Jesus Christ. These films would always then picture the panic of those who were “left behind” and depict the societal chaos that would emerge once the “salt and light” of the culture had disappeared. We never considered that if such a rapture were to happen, American culture might be relieved to be rid of us.

Historian Rick Perlstein notes the “culture wars” that ignited in the 1960s and 1970s were really about dueling secular prophecy charts. “What one side saw as liberation, the other side saw as apocalypse,” and vice-versa, he writes. It’s hard to argue with his thesis. The scenes of LSD-intoxicated college students frolicking nude in the mud of the Woodstock Festival in New York would seem horrifying to the salt-of-the-earth folk in Middle America for whom “the dawning of the Age of Aquarius” would seem like a threat. At the same time, Merle Haggard’s counter-revolutionary…


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