A Heathen's Guide to the Rapture

This is an excerpt from Jim Gerard's book, Beam Me Up Jesus: A Heathen's Guide to the Rapture.

Pretend you're a Hollywood studio exec and you have a pitch meeting with a writer. He comes in and says: "O.K., let me start with a little back story. It's the twenty-first century, but still millions and millions of people believe in this invisible super-ghost who lives somewhere way, way up in space, see, and he created the entire universe and saw everything and knew everything that had ever happened or will happen -- like a super giant security camera in the sky. The people who believe in him think of him as a magic helper who protects and watches over them. It's as if Santa Claus worked for the NSA -- He sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake and engaged in suspected terrorist activities, etc.

"Yet, even though this ghost has, like, all the super powers of all the superheroes rolled into one, plus other powers that no superhero has even conceived of, and he has hundreds of millions of followers, he is so insecure and possessive that he demands everyone on Earth follow him or else he condemns them to an eternity burning in a nonstop forty-hundred-alarm fire, boiling in lava-like shit and battery acid and other really fiery stuff and being constantly stabbed by devils with pitchforks. Also, two thousand years ago, he sent his only son back to Earth to redeem humanity from their wickedness by getting hung on a Cross and, you know, the whole Mel Gibson treatment.

"Now, here's where the story takes off: After two thousand years watching humanity slaughter each other and get really shit-faced and have wild orgies and just, like, slack off, except for a few people that invented stuff or tried to urge people to follow the super-ghost, the son plans to return to Earth from outer space. But before he does, he's going to beam up to heaven all those people who believed in him, levitate them right out of their clothes, wherever they are -- on an airplane, asleep, on the toilet, in the f-ing grave!

"Yeah, corpses and cadavers and ghouls blasting out of the ground! It's Saw Meets Night of the Living Dead with a touch of Superman. I mean, throngs of people filling the sky like locusts -- it's an air traffic controller's nightmare!

"Meanwhile, the people left behind are just freaking out -- I mean, imagine you're on this airplane going to France and suddenly the pilot just disappears! Whoa! Then you look outside and you see like hundreds of naked people whooshing up past you -- I mean, we'll make most of them really bodacious babes, and then throw in an old dude going 'Whoaaaa!' for laughs. And the plane just nosedives. Boom! Planes are crashing -- trains, boats, computers -- it's complete chaos. We see another plane and the pilot suddenly sees all these naked flying people coming right at him and he has to swerve to avoid them and plow! Right into the side of a mountain!

"Cut to a scene where this Mafia wiseguy is about to hit this guy when the guy just flies up into the sky, and the wiseguy is like 'Maron! What the hell?' and he crosses himself. Huge laugh. And families are broken up and companies have to close because, like the entire sales department just took off ... right through the AC vent!

"Anyway, nobody knows what the hell's going on! We show the news reports and CNN's blaming it on the Muslims and Fox News is blaming it on the liberals. We cut to the White House and the President is chewing out his Cabinet because, like, 'Is this some secret Pentagon weapon? Why wasn't I informed?' Cut to close-up of this pious secretary, and she says, 'Sir, it's the Rapture.' And then the President is like, 'What are we going to do about it?' and some other Cabinet guy goes, 'There's nothing we can do.' And as the Secret Service sweeps the President away to an undisclosed location, where they fill him in on what the Rapture is.

"Then we cut to our hero, Bradley Dunn. He's a physicist and his wife used to believe in the super-ghost but kind of gave it up as a concession to Bradley when they got married because if it got out that she worshipped the super-ghost, Bradley's egghead friends would mock him and he would never get to work on the new super particle-accelerator that's his big dream. Now she confronts him and like a typical chick says I told you so. And she fills him in on what they're in for, and that by being such a man of science/unbeliever, he's jeopardized both of them, plus their precocious eight-year-old super-nerd son Lared -- it's a combination of Jared and Larry. Never mind. But when they go into Lared's room, they find just his clothes and realize he's been Raptured, and Bradley goes to his wife, 'You were teaching him all this time about the super-ghost?' And she's like, 'Yeah,' and they both realize they've lost their son and they're happy for him but sad and scared for themselves, and it's a big heavy drama moment where he asks her why she hasn't been Raptured and suddenly she vanishes and the audience is, like, 'Was she really there and then disappeared or was he talking to her in, like, his imagination?'

"And that is only the first 20 minutes. In the rest of the movie, the people left behind on Earth are going to suffer a seven-year nightmare of wars, plagues, attacks from supernatural creatures, asteroid collisions, and rivers of blood ..."

Would a Hollywood studio buy that pitch? Well, maybe it would, if it was the same studio that bought Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. But most studios would've probably called security and given the writer the bum's rush before he'd even gotten to page two. Still, as many as a hundred million Americans believe in this story, which is known as the Rapture, a boffo scene they've extracted from the Book of Revelations, the last book of the Bible. The crazy, hallucinogenic, paranoid part. The part with the Apocalypse and its Four Horsemen, the Whore of Babylon, a seven-headed dragon, and a panoply of fantastical creatures and cataclysmic calamities straight out of Lord of the Rings. Call it Gonzo Scripture.

But my book Beam Me Up, Jesus isn't for believers of the Rapture. It's for you. You know who you are. Doubter. Unbeliever. Heathen. Satanist. French-kissing liberal democrat. AlterNet reader. (If you're a Christian and have never heard about the Rapture, well, shame on you, you didn't read the Bible all the way to the end.) If you're curious to find out what a hundred million people find so compelling about the Rapture, the nightmare that follows it called the Tribulation and what the evangelists call "the End Times," the book will do the trick.

If you're a secular humanist who believes in reason rather than magic fixers, this book will provide that warm feeling of smug superiority. If you're a fence-sitter who likes to cover all his bases, or even a closet Christian, this book will give you some practical tips on how to survive the Rapture ... in the unlikely event that it happens and you're Left Behind. And if that happens, well, good luck to you.

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