While bandwagon end-times theorists are busy talking about next week’s end of the Mayan calendar, O.G. Christian apocalyptists are rolling their eyes: They’ve been prepping for Armageddon at least since the last major time it didn’t happen, in 2000.
Mayan calendar? They don’t need no stinkin’ Mayan calendar.
That’s because they have their own means to gauge the coming of the end of days. Fundamentally, it’s called the Christian Bible. But who has the time to sort through all that confusing prophecy these days, what with driving the kids to soccer and worrying about gay marriage? (Is the Gog/Magog war the same as Armageddon? Does the Tribulation start before or after the rise of the Anti-Christ?) That’s where the Rapture Index comes in handy—an online tool that helps you keep track of all major indicators of the Christian apocalypse in one place.
And right now it’s at an all time high.
The Rapture Index has been around, online and off, for at least 22 years, according to its online archives. At all times, the curators of the index keep track of 45 different signs of the coming Rapture—a time when many fundamentalist Christians believe God will suck the souls of the righteous into heaven to leave the rest of us behind to fight it out here on Earth in a battle of, literally, biblical proportions. Each category registers a score of 1-5, with 5 indicating the highest level of prophetic activity. At present, categories like “Wild Weather,” “Drought” and “The Economy,” all register a 5 because of events from the past year, like this summer's East Coast derecho (Superstorm Sandy is strangely absent), this summer’s Midwest drought, and the European debt crisis, respectively.
More subjective categories are also peaking: “Moral Standards” is at 5 because “a new poll finds that more couples are living together outside of marriage”; “Drug Abuse” is at 5 because “Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use of marijuana”; Liberalism is a 4 because “the News Media has reached record levels of bias in their coverage of the 2012 political season”; and “Anti-Semitism” registers a 5 because “even though terrorists in Gaza started the current conflict, Israel is the one being blamed for the civilian deaths.”
The total from all 45 categories is added, and the resulting number indicates the Rapture’s degree of imminence. A score of 100 or less, for example, indicates “slow prophetic activity”; a score of 130 to 160 is considered “heavy prophetic activity'; anything over 160 means “fasten your seatbelts.” Right now, we’re at 186.
RaptureReady.com's "Rapture Index" says the Rapture has never been more imminent. Sorry for partyin'.
The website warns that it “is by no means meant to predict the rapture,” but, rather, “is designed to measure the type of activity that could act as a precursor to the rapture.”
“You could say the Rapture index is a Dow Jones Industrial Average of end time activity, but I think it would be better if you viewed it as prophetic speedometer,” writes index-keeper Todd Strandberg, on the website. “The higher the number, the faster we're moving towards the occurrence of pre-tribulation rapture.”
Being “Rapture Ready,” then, is about preparation. It means having your house in order in time not to get left behind with Kirk Cameron.
I reached out to Strandberg, who keeps the index up to date over at RaptureReady.com. He didn’t reply to me in time for this article. But he did reply by email the last time I contacted him, in 2010, right after police arrested an apocalyptic Christian militant group in Michigan that was plotting to incite an antigovernment uprising—a precondition, in their minds, of the end times. The Index was experiencing its biggest spike in about three years. At that time, the absolute peak had been in 2001, just after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11—“a blip,” as Strandberg described it, “where everything came together for a few months.” That high point, clocked on Sept. 24, 2001, was 182.
But the blips subsided and soon enough, the Index high in 2001 had dropped back to a less terrifying level. Overall, however, there was a trend. “The Rapture Index has slowly but surely pressed higher and higher over the past few years,” Strandberg noted, adding: “The major(ity) of the index categories are simply more active more often, and I see no end to this trend.” What we’re seeing now, in other words, is a snapshot of what has, thus far, been a steady climb.
Interestingly, fundamentalist Christians aren't the only ones whose metrics indicate a slow, steady climb toward destruction. The thoroughly secular "Doomsday Clock," maintained by atomic scientists at the University of Chicago, has tracked our closeness to global disaster since 1947. Originally designed as an analogy for the threat of nuclear self-annihilation, the clock now comprises factors like the environment and global terrorism. The clock is currently set at "five minutes to midnight," the worst it's been since the mid-1980s. After a brief rally, it, like the Rapture Index, has been marching steadily toward doomsday for the several years -- since 1991, in fact.
Scientists say we're fucked, too. Above, the progress of the Doomsday Clock, kept by atomic scientists at the University of Chicago. Source, Fastfission, via Wikimedia Commons
The Doomsday Clock reflects, perhaps, a broader, mounting malaise whether you're religious or not. Things like Hurricane Sandy, fears over the fiscal cliff, fighting in Israel and Syria, and North Korea's
space program long-range rocket have simply added to the paranoia among end-times believers. For an article earlier this month, reporter Susan Snyder sat in on a college class about doomsday, taught by religion professor Stuart Charmé, at Rutgers-Camden University in New Jersey. When Charmé first offered the class, he thought the Mayan Calendar simply provided a fun hook. Now it's becoming clear a lot more people are starting to take the apocalypse semi-seriously.
“I didn't realize this was going to be the most apocalyptic semester that has ever been,” he told his students. “If you look at what's been going on in the world today … this has been a really good time. And remember that bad is good for the apocalyptically minded.”